What is a scale?

Scales involve playing a sequence of notes (in order) within an octave, starting on the tonic (or key note) after which the scale is named, which also signifies the key of the scale. For example, the C Major scale is: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, with each note played in turn.


What are the different types of scale?

The C Major scale is an example of a heptatonic (seven-note) scale, but there are other types of scales that contain fewer or more notes than this, such as pentatonic scales and chromatic scales.

C Major is also an example of a diatonic scale, which is a particular type of heptatonic scale that conforms to a certain sequence. To be classed as diatonic, a scale must include five whole tones and two semitones, without any chromatic additions.

Scales can be in major or minor keys and can be played as ascending or descending versions. When learning a new instrument, most musicians will be given a set of scales to play, as they can help musicians practise a wide range of notes in one go, as well as transitioning between different ones.


Scales are also included within compositions, to generate a fluid sound. Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C Major and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee are just two examples of classical pieces that use runs of scales in this way.

More like this