What is a musical scale in music?

Musical Scales

A musical scale is a set of pitches (or a group of notes) that are arranged and played by increasing pitch (ascending) or decreasing pitch (descending) order.

Musical Scales and Emotions

There are many different types of musical scales. The major scales and the minor scales are the two most commonly used musical scales. Different scales may evoke certain emotions or moods. For example, the major scales feel happy and bright. Music in the major keys have an excited and cheerful sound. The minor scales, on the other hand, feel sad and have a dark and serious atmosphere.

Piano chords (or music chords) are formed from musical scales. It’s ideal that you understand how to build major and minor scales before learning to build triads and seventh chords. 

Other musical scales include the blue scales, pentatonic (major and minor), chromatic and whole tone scales. 

The Blues Scales

The blues scale on piano consists of six notes: The root, flat 3rd, 4th, flat 5th, 5th and flat 7th notes of the major scale.

There are twelve blues scales: C, C♯, D, E♭, E, F, F♯, G, A♭, A, B♭, B:

C blues scale: C – E♭ – F – G♭ – G – B♭ – C
C Sharp blues scale: C♯ – E – F♯ – G – G♯ – B – C♯
D blues scale: D – F – G – A♭- A – C – D
E Flat blues scale: E♭- G♭- A♭- A – B♭- D♭- E♭
E blues scale: E – G – A – B♭- B – D – E
F blues scale: F – A♭ – B♭ – B – C – E♭- F
F Sharp blues scale: F♯ – A – B – C – C♯ – E – F♯
G blues scale: G – B♭- C – D♭- D – F – G
A Flat blues scale: A♭ – B – D♭- D – E♭- G♭- A♭
A blues scale: A – C – D – E♭- E – G – A
B Flat blues scale: B♭- D♭- E♭- E – F – A♭- B♭
B blues scale: B – D – E – F – F♯ – A – B

Major Pentatonic Scales

The pentatonic scale has the least number of notes, it has only five notes per octave.

The major pentatonic scale: The root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th notes of the major scale. (The 4th and 7th notes are removed.)

The major pentatonic scale formula: W – W – W+H – W – W+H

There are twelve major pentatonic scales: C, C♯, D, E♭, E, F, F♯, G, A♭, A, B♭, B:

C major pentatonic scale: C – D – E  – G – A  – C
C Sharp major pentatonic scale: C♯ – D♯ – E♯  – G♯ – A♯ – C♯
D major pentatonic scale: D – E – F♯  – A – B  – D
E Flat major pentatonic scale: E♭ – F – G – B♭ – C – E♭
E major pentatonic scale: E – F♯ – G♯ – B – C♯  – E
F major pentatonic scale: F – G – A – C – D – F
F Sharp major pentatonic scale: F♯ – G♯ – A♯ – C♯ – D♯  – F♯
G major pentatonic scale: G – A – B  – D – E  – G
A Flat major pentatonic scale: A♭ – B♭ – C  – E♭ – F – A♭
A major pentatonic scale: A – B – C♯  – E – F♯ – A
B Flat major pentatonic scale: B♭ – C – D  – F – G – B♭
B major pentatonic scale: B – C♯ – D♯ – F♯  – G♯  – B

Minor Pentatonic Scales

The minor pentatonic scale: The root, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th and flat 7th notes of the major scale. (The blues scale is the minor pentatonic plus the flat 5th.)

The minor pentatonic scale formula: W+H – W – W – W+H – W

There are twelve minor pentatonic scales: C, C♯, D, E♭, E, F, F♯, G, A♭, A, B♭, B:

C minor pentatonic scale: C – E♭ – F  – G – B♭ – C
C Sharp minor pentatonic scale: C♯ – E – F♯ – G♯ – B – C♯
D minor pentatonic scale: D – F – G – A – C – D
E Flat minor pentatonic scale: E♭- G♭- A♭ – B♭- D♭- E♭
E minor pentatonic scale: E – G – A – B – D – E
F minor pentatonic scale: F – A♭ – B♭ – C – E♭- F
F Sharp minor pentatonic scale: F♯ – A – B – C♯ – E – F♯
G minor pentatonic scale: G – B♭- C – D – F – G
A Flat minor pentatonic scale: A♭ – B – D♭ – E♭- G♭- A♭
A minor pentatonic scale: A – C – D – E – G – A
B Flat minor pentatonic scale: B♭- D♭- E♭ – F – A♭- B♭
B minor pentatonic scale: B – D – E – F♯ – A – B

The Chromatic Scale

The chromatic scale is made up twelve notes, each note is a half step away from the other note.

The chromatic scale formula: H – H – H – H – H – H – H – H – H – H – H – H

Whole Tone Scales

The whole tone scale has six notes. It is often used in romantic and jazz music.

The whole tone scale formula: W – W – W – W – W – W

There are only 2 whole tone scales: C, D♭:

C whole tone scale: C – D – E – F♯ – G♯ – A♯
D Flat whole tone scale: D♭ – E♭ – F – G – A – B