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Degrees of the scale Tutorial

The very name of this site should remind you how many notes there are in the standard major or minor scale. What you may not know is that in music theory there is a name given to each position within the scale.

Take our friend the C major scale:

The first and last notes of the scale are both C - this is the root note of the scale is known as the TONIC.

Similarly, the C in a C minor scale is still called the tonic, as is the D in a D minor (or major) scale - and so on.

Here is the list of names for the other degrees of the scale:

Note Position Technical name

What's the point?

You may wonder why we need to have these confusing sounding names at all - why not just call the note by its note name?

Well these technical names tell us about the position of a note within a scale and therefore something about its function.

For example, as its name suggests, the leading tone tends to 'lead' the melody upwards towards the tonic (a process known as resolving the leading note.) The note B takes on this function in a C major scale, whereas in D major, the leading note would be C sharp.

To describe a note by its position within the scale therefore tells us something useful about its purpose.


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