Basic Scales in Music Theory, the Musicians Playground

scale-c-major-halfLet’s explore the element of music theory scales. This is where the great musicians understand and know what music scale is being used is how the really neat sounds can occur.

Music scales are the structures that make up which notes are used and how chords are constructed within all the key signatures. 

Now that sounds like a lot of things to consider. It is! Yet it can be conquered with ease.

By taking a step through the process of how various scale systems are built you will have the fundamental knowledge necessary to work with any key signature and any chord you want to use. 

Let’s dig into types of scales.

Types of Scales

There are several types of music scales they are listed here with basic definitions. 

  • Chromatic Scale

  • Major Scale
  • Minor Scale (harmonic, natural or relative, and melodic)

  • Diminished and Polytonal Scale

  • Whole tone and Pentatonic
  • Blues and Gospel Scale

  • There are others but that’s for advanced theory we will wait to explore those.

Constructing Music Theory Scales

We use the 12 notes with their corresponding sharps and flats to build a music scale. Using the keyboard section below and we will touch on two scales quickly before diving into the other scale types.

The music theory scales are developed mathematically using whole, half and minor third steps.

If we assign a numeric value to each note, each music scale will use the numbers 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 and you will have one of each in the music scale.

Here is the example of a C Major Scale using each note. The 8 represents the octave or our tonic tone repeated an eighth interval up.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8
C + D + E + F + G + A + B + C

Notation for exploring scales.

W = whole step: such as C to D

H = Half Step: as in C to C#

m3 = minor 3rd which is a whole and a half step together: C to Eb

We will use the S to indicate the ‘Start’ position or tonic root, then add the steps to construct a scale.


Chromatic Scale:

The Chromatic scale is produced using all half steps and uses all 12 notes. This is the most basic of all scales. It is Used to make a type of fill in special applications to move from one point to another.

S - H - H - H - H - H - H - H - H - H - H - H - H
C -C# - D -D# - E - F -F# - G -G# - A - A# - B - C

Exploring more Music Theory Scales

This intro gets you started and primed to study the scales.

Learning Resources