Introduction to diatonic scales

  • Post comments:0 Comments
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Diatonic scales are scales that have 5 whole steps and 2 half steps. In other words, it is a 7 note scale consisting of 5 whole steps and 2 half steps. The most common diatonic scale is the major scale. We will be talking about major scales in this article, but you can apply all of these concepts to modes as well (more on that later).

The most common way of counting the half steps and whole steps in between each note of a major scale is called the W-W-H-W-W-W-H method. Let’s use a C major scale to explain how this works:

We start with C, that’s our first note. Next we go up a whole step. A whole step is equal to 2 half steps, so we count out 2 half steps from C to D, which is our second note of the scale. From D we go up another whole step to E, which is our third note in the scale. Next we go up a half step from E to F, which gives us our fourth note in the scale. From F we go up another whole step to G, our fifth note in the scale. Next we go up another whole step from G to A, our sixth note in

What is a Diatonic Scale?

A diatonic scale is a scale that consists of seven notes, five whole steps and two half steps. The notes in these scales are found on the white keys of a piano from C major to B major. To build this scale, start on any note and follow the pattern w-w-h-w-w-w-h. For example, if you start on A, your scale will be A B C

Diatonic scale refers to a group of notes that includes 7 different pitches. These notes can be arranged in steps to create a full octave. The notes of the scale can be arranged in a series of whole and half steps, also known as tones and semitones, respectively. The pattern for the whole and half step arrangement is as follows: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half. There are only two arrangements of whole and half steps that will create this interval pattern; all diatonic scales will use one of these two arrangements.

In western music there are 7 different diatonic scales: major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, ionian mode, dorian mode and mixolydian mode. The first three scales are referred to as the common diatonic scales while the last four are referred to as modes. All these scales will have their root note at the first degree (the first note of the scale) with the exception of melodic minor which may have its root note at either degree 1 or 7.

To find a major diatonic scale simply start with any note on a piano. The next note up in pitch is a half step away from that note; play

A diatonic scale is a musical scale that contains 5 whole tones and 2 semi tones within an octave. It is this structure that gives the scale its tonal quality.

A diatonic scale can move in two directions. Ascending or descending. When the notes of the scale are listed in order, they can be played in both of these directions to create the same tonal quality (or key).

In Western music there are 7 major scales which are made up of 7 notes each. These seven scales use 7 different combinations of tones and semitones. The following chart shows all seven major scales with their respective intervals:

The first thing to know about diatonic scales is that they consist of seven notes. These notes are arranged as a series of whole and half steps. Nowadays, the most common diatonic scale is the major scale, which is what we will be talking about here.

Below is an example of how you would arrange a major scale:


This means that the distance between each note in the scale is either a whole step (W) or a half step (H).

To better understand this concept, let’s look at what the C major scale looks like on piano:


The next thing you need to know about diatonic scales is that they have five different types of chords that go with them. These chords include a tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant and dominant chord. In a major key, these chords are built on the first, second, third, fifth and sixth degrees of the scale. The chords are also named after their degree in the scale. I’ll give you an example:

If we were to build a chord based on the first degree of a major scale we would get:

1 3 5

This would give us the

Diagram 1 shows the C major (or Ionian) scale with its 7 degrees I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi and vii. It is important to remember that these are not the names of notes. The names of notes are what you see in the black dots on the stave (i.e. C D E F G A B). The Roman numerals are a way of describing the chords built on each degree of the scale and will be discussed in more detail later.

The first thing to note is that all triads built on the scale degrees of this scale contain only notes which are also in the scale. Because there are no sharps or flats in this particular key signature it is what is known as a natural scale. Other major scales use sharps or flats to give them their characteristic sound but they are still called major because their intervals from root note to third and fifth degrees are major thirds.

Diatonic Scale Tones

The term diatonic comes from Greek diatonikos meaning “thorough” or “complete”. In relation to harmony it means using all the tones available in a particular key signature without chromatic alteration. Scale tones are therefore either tones in the original key signature or accidentals added later for

Did you know that when you play chords for a song in the key of C major, you are playing chords from the C major scale? The reason this is true is because the key of C major contains no sharps or flats. In other words, there are no black keys between any of the white keys.

In order to determine what chords are in any given key, we need to first look at diatonic scales (scales that contain 5 whole steps and 2 half steps). Let’s take a look at the scale of C major:


There are 8 notes in this scale. To find out what chords are in the C major scale, we need to build triads on each note of the scale. A triad is three notes played at once. We will be building triads by playing every other note in the scale.

In order to build our triads, we will start with C as our root note. Then we skip over D and build a triad on E by playing E, G and B. Then skip over F and make a triad on G using G, B and D. The pattern continues as shown below:

C -> E -> G -> B -> D -> F ->

Leave a Reply