A scale is merely a collection pitches placed in ascending or descending order. The word scale comes from the Latin word scala, meaning “ladder.” Composers will often use the notes of a specific scale as the basis for a composition. This lesson introduces various scales that are used in much of the music we encounter.
A diatonic scale is the most commonly used scale in the Western world. It consists of seven notes (the eighth note being the octave) and contains five whole steps and two half steps. Diatonic scales can be played on the white notes of the piano beginning with any pitch. Depending on which note the scale begins, the pattern of whole and half steps varies. Notice that a diatonic scale beginning on ‘A’ has half steps between 2-3 and 5-6.
diatonic scale from A to A
The diatonic scale beginning on ‘F,’ on the other hand, has half steps between 4-5 and 7-8.
diatonic scale from F to F