Types of musical scales

Musical scales are present in all the music we listen to, as they are part of the harmony and melody in a song. In fact, there are different scales; for example, major, harmonic minor, chromatic, major pentatonic, among others. Each of them fulfill their role in Western music.

What is a musical scale?

The musical scale is a set of notes organized from low to high or vice versa, starting with the tonic and commonly ending with the octave. In this way, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si would be the Do scale, which is the most basic of the major mode. Also, it is the easiest when you are learning piano scales, since you have to play only the white keys of the piano.

We have mentioned the word “octave” earlier and you should understand this term before continuing. The octave is the interval of 8 degrees between tonic and tonic. For example, from Do to Do there is an octave, that is, 8 consecutive notes. When we get to the second C, the sound is higher, but it harmonizes perfectly with the frequency in Hz of the lower C. This is because low C is 130.81 Hz and high C is 261.63 Hz, just twice the frequency. The same happens with the scales of Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, etc. That is, from D to D the frequency is doubled, which makes the last D sound very well.  

The origin of musical scales

Just like classical harmony and other elements of music, scales have their origin in mathematical calculations. The Pythagoreans discovered that a string could change its sound if they shortened or lengthened its distance. This is how they discovered various intervals, those of octave, fifth and fourth, because it seemed to them that these frequencies were pleasant to the human ear.

Over time, music evolved and major, minor, Doric, pentatonic, diatonic, chromatic scales, etc. appeared.

major musical scales

The major scales are made up of various intervals, we will talk about the latter in another article. This is a table with the intervals of the major scale:

C major intervals
Tonic: C

Major 2nd: D

Major 3rd: E

4th fair: F

5th fair: Sun

Major 6th: A

Major 7th: Yes

Octave: C high

The other major scales are composed in the same way, however, to make it easier for you to understand the subject, we present a table with all the major scales. Note that these are the most common scales in Western music. Most of the songs we listen to are made up of major harmonic circles, since this type of musical structure is happier than those with minor keys. Also, we inform you that these are the first scales you should learn on classical guitars (if you click here, you will find several purchase options).

Name of the scales I II III IV v SAW 7th
C major scale Do Re Me Fa Sun The Yes
D major scale Re Me Fa# Sun The Yes Do#
E major scale Me Fa# Sun# The Yes Do# Re#
F major scale Fa Sun The Bb Do Re Me
G major scale Sun The Yes Do Re Me Fa#
A major scale The Yes Do# Re Me Fa# Sun#
B major scale Yes Do# Re# Me Fa# Sun# The#

musical minor scales

These scales differ from the major ones by some intervals, especially thanks to the minor third and the sensitive one. Likewise, there are various types of minor scales, but harmonics are the most used in commercial or popular music.

A minor scale has whole steps and half steps. For example, from degree I to II there is 1 tone, but from II to III it has 1 semitone. Likewise, the last semitone in the harmonic minor scales, from the seventh to the eighth degree, is very characteristic.

The minors can be wind, melodic and harmonic. Next, we show you a practical table with the harmonic minor scales.

Name of the scales I II III IV v SAW 7th
C minor scale Do Re My b Fa Sun Laboratory Yes
D minor scale Re Me Fa Sun The Bb Do#
E minor scale Me Fa# Sun The Yes Do Re#
F minor scale Fa Sun Laboratory Bb Do Reb Me
G minor scale Sun The Bb Do Re My b Fa#
A minor scale The Yes Do Re Me Fa Sun#
B minor scale Yes Do# Re Me Fa# Sun The#

What is the diatonic scale?

It is one of the most common scales, because it is made up of 8 main notes, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La and Si, in the case of C major. The eighth note would be the Do that represents the rest of the sensitive (Si). Also, that C is the same as the first, but higher.

The major and minor scales that we explained to you earlier are diatonic, so they are not difficult to learn, since they do not have many notes.

chromatic scale

It is the one that is made up of the 12 sounds (semitones) organized from low to high. If you play the black and white keys of the piano starting with low C and ending with the octave (high C), you will be performing a chromatic scale. Of course, you must play the notes from low to high consecutively to make a chromatic scale correctly. Similarly, you can play the chromatic scales of D, Mi, Fa, etc. This is an example of the C chromatic scale:

# Grades
1 Do
two Do#
3 Re
4 Re#
5 Me
6 Fa
7 Fa#
8 Sun
9 Sun#
10 The
eleven The#
12 Yes

major pentatonic scale

If you want to learn guitar scales, this is one of the favorites for musicians, since it is made up of 5 notes and is used for improvisations, riffs or solos. This type of scale is made up of 3 tones + 1 tone and a half, organized as follows: Do – Re – Mi – Sol – La.  

Finally, to comfortably practice all the scales that we explain here, we recommend doing it in a warm and relaxing place. If you have a cassette fireplace, or some other similar device, it will be very useful to create a comfortable room, especially if you are in winter.

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