The Scale Degrees


Before you move to more complex music theory concepts your must first learn some terminology.  This lesson will make you familiar with the scale degree names so we can progress further later.A major or minor scale has seven degrees or notes.  Each degree has a name (see chart below).

Degree Name Example in C minor
I Tonic C
II Supertonic D
III Mediant E
IV Subdominant F
V Dominant G
VI Submediant A
VII Leading Tone B

Now you might be asking yourself why they are named that.  Well I have the answers here for you with a diagram to help:

TONIC is the tone where every thing else is derived

DOMINANT is a fifth above tonic; most important pitch after tonic

SUBDOMINANT is as far below the tonic as dominant is above tonic

MEDIANT is in the middle of the tonic and dominant

SUBMEDIANT is in the middle of the tonic and subdominant

SUPERTONIC is whole step above the tonic

LEADING TONE is half step below the tonic

Note that when I say “higher” or “in the middle” I am refering to the chart below and not the notes in the scale itself.

sd

Also note that a leading tone is found in the major and harmonic minor scales. In the natural minor scale, where the seventh degree is a whole step below the tonic, it is refered to as a subtonic.  A leading tone must be a half-step below.

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