Fundamentals of

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9. Scale Degree Names for Major Scales. "Scale tone," "scale step," and "scale degree" all mean the same thing. Each scale tone, step, or degree is also known by a more formal musical term (Figure 2-19).

Figure 2-19: Names of Scale Degrees.

a. Tonic. The tonic is the beginning scale degree (the first scale step) of a scale. It is the most important scale degree. The tonic gives the scale its identity. In a C Major scale, C is the tonic scale degree (Figure 2-20).

Figure 2-20: Tonic Scale Degree.

b. Dominant. The next most important scale degree is the dominant. The dominant is the fifth scale degree. In a C Major scale, G is the dominant scale degree (Figure 2-21).

Figure 2-21: The Dominant Scale Degree.

c. Subdominant. The scale degree five steps (fifth) below the tonic is the subdominant. It is the fourth scale degree. The subdominant scale degree is the dominant under (sub) the tonic. It is next in importance to the dominant. In a C Major scale, the subdominant is F (Figure 2-22).

Figure 2-22: Subdominant Scale Degree.

d. Mediant. Midway between the tonic and the dominant is the third scale degree. It is called the mediant. In a C Major scale, E is the mediant scale degree (Figure 2-23).

Figure 2-23: Mediant Scale Degree.

e. Submediant. The sixth scale degree, midway between the upper tonic and the subdominant, is the submediant. In a C Major scale, A is the submediant scale degree (Figure 2-24).

Figure 2-24: Submediant Scale Degree.

f. Supertonic. The tone above (super) the tonic, or the second scale degree, is called the supertonic. In a C Major scale, D is the supertonic scale degree (Figure 2-25).

Figure 2-25: Supertonic Scale Degree.

g. Leading tone. The seventh scale degree is the leading tone. It has a strong tendency to push upward (lead) to the tonic. In a C Major scale, B is the leading tone (Figure 2-26).

Figure 2-26: Leading Tone.

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Last Updated: March 31, 2012