Talk:Scale (music)

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New intro[edit]

Just re-wrote the intro. Expect it to be instantly reverted, but hope the article can be rewritten in this spirit, to make it comprehensible to non-geeks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:30, 24 March 2014 (UTC)


I deleted this

"More generally, a scale is a division of an acoustic frequency range in an interval [f,2*f] with a finite number of steps which are defined by their relation to the root of the scale, the note with frequency f."


  • a.) it doesn't make a whole lot of sense


  • b.) it holds to an incorrect (and now deleted) idea that integral to the idea of a scale is whether it ascends or descends by steps, and this is not true in the most general case.


Your rewrite is a lot clearer. Big improvement! -- Tarquin


I deleted an 'Indian musical scale' section that, at one point, had a one-sentence reference to melakartha. I'm happy to have someone rewrite the sentence in non-Western scales that currently talks about raga, but I don't think this article needs its own section about raga, melakartha, or any other Carnatic music concepts. jp2 07:04, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Western bias[edit]


to me, many of the "music concept" pages read as if the author assumes that the Western European art music model is normative; i would like to reduce the presence of that bias, but only after some dialogue about the merits of more inclusive definitions.

this page, scale, seemed a good launch pad for the discussion, since in some traditions, it is possible to discuss scales and melodies without requiring that pitches are fixed--see the discussion of chunings in The Soul of Mbira, Paul Berliner, for an example from Shona mbira music of Zimbabwe. Therefore, a more abstract introduction to scale--collection of pitches, usually bounded by octaves, directional (melodic minor, raga in Hindustani music) or nondirectional, ordered--might be useful before a discussion of intervals; half steps and whole steps could be gently introduced here but more in-depth in an idiom-specific page.

what do more long-time contributors think?

I think that if any article is too European-classical-centric, you should certainly stamp on it - there's a fair amount of it around, and I try to correct it when I see it, but it's tricky, and it has to be balanced against the fact that most people reading these articles are going to be most familiar (in many cases, exclusively familiar) with western music. Of course, that doesn't mean that we should only discuss western music, but it does mean that if one starts on raags and whatnot too soon you're going to turn readers off. I certainly think that we should give the widest and most inclusive definition possible, but the initial definition should also be as simple as possible. Later on in the article, the gory details can be revealed, and we can get more complicated. This is just my opinion, of course.
In general, the best thing you can do, I think, is edit things as you see best (be bold in updating pages), and I'm sure people will let you know if they disagree with what you're doing! --Camembert
This problem, treating the music of a specific economic class of a specific geo-political location during a specific time period as Music or the normative standard, is, unfortunately, not wikipedia specific.
Wikipedians are expected to cite sources, and English sources are inevitably biased towards European influence music. Unfortunately one does not always have the knowledge one needs to correct this, whether or not one feels musically knowledgable, and thus one often has trouble providing examples.
Perhaps we need a 'WikiProject:Clarify and explain musical terminology' and 'WikiProject:Give non-Classical era music a fair shake'?
Hyacinth 20:46, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Indeed the template can be added to articles as I have done for Chord (music) Andeggs 07:55, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

Some changes[edit]


(1) i moved the math-y discussion of scale degree out of the first paragraph and into the scale degree section;

(2) a scale is indeed an ordered series of notes, but that order is not just by pitch/frequency. in western music, think melodic minor scale: the scale is ordered by pitch and direction (asc/desc).

(3) i switched the frequency link to pitch, since frequency is very math-y, while pitch links to frequency in its first sentence.

(4) i removed the brief discussion of pentatonic and chromatic that preceded the scale list, as pentatonic scale includes scales that are not subsets of the chromatic scale: pelog, etc.

(5) i added pentatonic to the list of scale types, so it wouldn't get lost after the preceding edit. jp2 21:16 Apr 16, 2003 (UTC)

Hijaz scale[edit]

Isn't the Hijaz scale the same as the Spanish and Jewish scale? (GCarty 18:04, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC))

Scales = or ≠[edit]

Scales and intervals are not equivalent to their pitches or exact frequencies. There is no "the chromatic scale", but many chromatic scales. The most common one is the equal tempered chromatic scale, which would include only an approximate of a pelog scale or pelog scales. There are many tunings of pelog scales, with each ensemble having a different tuning, and there also exist justly tuned chromatic scales, and there are or could be chromatic scales which contain the exact intervals of a specific tuning of a pelog scale. A major third (just) is a ditone (pythagorean) is 4-semitones (equal temperament), but luckily each can serve as the other. My point in all this is that scales are the same or different depending on context, on what you need the scales to do. The Hijaz scale, if not simply another or the real name for the Spanish scale, may seemingly be identical but still be a seperate thing (that may nonetheless substitute for the other). Does I mean that we shouldn't make connections or redirects? I mean that we should be both more flexible and do more research. Hyacinth 20:37, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

New Term, it's my own, can I introduce it?[edit]

I would like some feedback on how other contributors to the music theory sections of wikipedia would feel about my introducing a new piece of terminology which you may agree is potentially very useful. I realised several years ago that it would be possible to categorise different scales (I have described Just or 12 tone as "Tunings" not scales)with regard to how many notes they can share in common if their root notes are moved to the point where they have their maximum number of notes in common. For two modes of the same scale (e.g. Ionian ("Major") and Aeolian ("Minor") this value would be equal to the number of notes in each scale (7, not counting the octave of the root note) but for different "parent scales" (i.e. the orders of intervals from which modes can be chosen) these values are less. The size of this number (which I propose to call a "scale affinity" value) is a very simple numerical measure of similarity between scales. Generally speaking the changes of scale which are most appealing cut down on the number of different notes introduced each time, hence, in theory tables of scale affinities could provide paths between different scales which minimise dissonances. Also they would alert a musician to the fact that changing only one note from their current scale may lead them to another scale with which they may only have been within their grasp in another context. This could help a musician learn to learn how to improvise in novel ways. I have been using such tables for years and have a piece on my brother's website regarding the principle. Recently I've just learned how to use spreadsheets to enumerate similarities between scales in all possible alignments and intend to make the macros involved widely available, for free, through the internet. So my quandries are:

  • I'm no expert on music theory and a term may already exist for this property, I would like to know if this is the case.
  • If an amateur like myself introduces a new term and attaches a link to my scale theory website it may be regarded as a vain piece of self-aggrandisement. It is true that I wish to popularise this concept but is this the forum by which to do it?

My website is very, very ancient and needs updating, something I would have to consider doing before attaching such a scruffy thing to a major portal of communication like Wikipedia. I would welcome suggestions. Nonetheless you may wish to check it out by going to my brother's website and then clicking on the links "Friends" (left hand side)and then "Andrew F." and then "scales resources". I expect that there are errors with some of the values but my MS Excel based method makes this process far more reliable.

I would be grateful for your comments.

you can email me if you wish:

Thanks.--U10ajf 00:25, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

To give you quick answers: Sorry, no, it's not a new, it's not your own, and if it was you could not add it.
See the recently created common tone and modulation (music) for the first, and Wikipedia:No original research for the latter. Hyacinth 01:13, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Thank you for your comments. Nonetheless it seems to me that the common tone concept exclusively regards keys built from the same parent scale (the major scale and its modes) and isn't the same as the scale affnity concept which I introduced to compare different scale forms. (Major and Harmonic minor scales cohabit a group roughly similar to the closely related key group with only one note different). However I do acknowledge your point that wikipedia does not allow original research to be included and shall refrain from doing so. I should still be interested to hear from other wikipedia users if they have found the idea elsewhere since then I could reference their site instead of my own. I am new to Wikipedia, are there any more widely viewed noticeboards for peer review than the individual "discussion" postings which pertain - for my present purpose - too specifically to previous entries? Whether the concept is new or not I think that the enumeration of all the possible overlaps (12 each!) between the 47 different scale forms catalogued and where their constituent arpeggios lie may be of use to jazz musicians. Thanks for your time. Andrew --U10ajf 03:16, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

You're welcome, your discovery is insightful and I think your lists would be useful. Hyacinth 05:11, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)
See also: L'Isle Joyeuse. Hyacinth 16:27, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Writing for the lay reader[edit]

I reverted the page to (the last version by me) before the anonymous "Clarified and reorganized technical material" changes. The "technical material" may be clarified and reorganized, but also added was an inappropriate "Physical roots of scales" section. Hyacinth 21:21, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Hi there, the "clarified and reorganized" edits were mine. Forgot to log in for the first one, then logged in for the second one. I realize now that I should have posted here to explain the rationale behind the changes -- my apologies.
I'm a classically trained musician, and I found this page a difficult read. It strikes me that the page would be nearly impossible to understand for anyone who didn't already know all the material. The opening sentence alone is, I think, enough to make a non-musician run for cover. To compound the problem, many of the other articles linked to are also ambiguous or confusing.
I added the "Physical roots" section to explain why so many of the ideas that surround scales are vague or undefinable -- often described in terms of "feel" or "impression". I suspect that this may seem willfully obfuscatory to a beginner. However, the vagueness is indeed necessary... in many cases there simply is no clear technical explanation for what makes a particular scale or mode "feel" a certain way, since the perception of music is rooted in psychoacoustics. Perhaps it was not the best way to do it. However, I still think this point needs to be addressed somehow. If that section alone was the problem, could it not simply have been pasted here for improvement?
That would have allowed the rest of the changes to remain, which I think drastically simplified the article without sacrificing technical depth. It seems that those changes have now vanished into the ether, and I'm afraid I don't have time to take another stab at it. I would be grateful if someone else could attempt this again. Wordie 13:30, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)

You're heading title is right. Though Wikipedia guideline includes Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles#Think of the reader and Wikipedia:Explain jargon, many many articles on math, science, philosophy, and a host of other topics are not understandable to a lay reader. Just because an article is about music I do not see why it should be held to a higher standard; we'll get there, like everyone else, it will just take time. See Wikipedia:WikiProject Music.

I object to the "Physical roots" section because it is information currently found or needed at Musical tuning and the various articles about types of tuning. I also do not believe that claims about the origins of scales are NPOV unless backed by citation and references, and then a great deal of care is needed to provide balance between the many and usually opposing theories on tuning and scale origins. More importantly, physics tells lay readers little about scales, for the same scale may be tuned in different ways, and different tunings may be considered the same scale, and some scales may have social or other non-physical origins. The main objection, however, is that the section was to large a summary of musical tuning and related articles.

Regarding the "Clarified and reorganized" section, since we're here, let's talk about it. What is unclear about the article as it now stands? How is it hard to read? Do you have a source which may suggest a better organization of the information, or provide definitions and clarification? Hyacinth 04:38, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Your reverted edits shouldn't have vanished into the ether, you should be able to view them from (for instance Hyacinth 09:40, 4 December 2005 (UTC)


Anyone know anything about derived scales formerly mentioned in the article? Looking around I find mention of modes being derived from the major scale but no mention of "derived scale" as a term. Hyacinth 09:43, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

See for one (jazz) usage of the term. yoyo 07:44, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

I associate the term "derived scale". with the term "synthetic scale." Examples of synthetic scales are anhemitonic pentatonic (aka "black keys" pentatonic), whole tone, hexatonic, and octatonic--all scales that are not found in common-practice tonal repertoire. It may be that "derived" and "synthetic" scales are related--yoyo's link makes me think so.Blap Splapf (talk) 00:12, 14 November 2012 (UTC)

Major Revisions[edit]

I'm trying to bring Wikipedia's music theory articles up to a more professional standard. I've tried to rewrite this one to be more accurate and consistent. I hope I don't offend anyone.

The main change is to be consistent about the distinction between "scale' and "mode." There is admittedly some inconsistency in the way musicians use these terms, but that's no reason for the Wikipedia article to be inconsistent.

I've also removed the section that refers to Bob Fink's website. This material was controversial and non-peer-reviewed. If someone wanted to add a section on scales and acoustics, that would be great, but it should refer to more reputable sources -- for instance William Sethares "Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale."

Tymoczko 15:56, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes good work Tymoczko. I also think some of the revisions made by Wordie last year should also be incorporated where possible. They make the article easier to read IMHO. These are here. Bear in mind Hyacinth's point about the "Physical roots" section above. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Andeggs (talkcontribs)

I'm curious about this definition:

Scales differ from modes in that scales do not have a primary or "tonic" pitch.

So you're saying the C major scale has no tonic pitch? That'll be a surprise to many musicians.

I think the difference is much deeper than this. Scales are collections of pitches put in (ascending or descending) order. Modes are much more than pitch collections: they are patterns of use. The Phrygian mode is established by the conventional use of particular melodic patterns which surround the final (and in some cases the dominant) -- that's the only way you know which is the final. When we speak of "major mode" or "minor mode" we aren't referring to scales but to key centers established via harmonic progressions. That's why a piece in Aeolian mode is different from one in the minor mode -- the latter is established by its cadential chord progressions, notably including the major V chord and its sharpened leading tone. —Wahoofive (talk) 05:11, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

Good points! I think the first point is covered in the "Terminological note." (" However, the term is sometimes used to mean "mode," indicating that an element of the scale has been chosen as most important.") When musicians talk about the "C major scale" they're talking about what the article calls a mode. When they talk about "the octatonic scale" they're talking about what the article calls a scale. The problem is that there are many conflicting usages.
About your second point: it's true that, within a style, modes involve specific patterns of use. But I don't really think that there are many patterns that remain the same across styles. Josquin's use of the phrygian mode is very different from Stravinsky's, or John Coltrane's. There are many, many different ways to make a note sound "central" or "tonic," and it's really not clear that there are any "patterns of use" common to all pieces in phrygian mode. What's common to all E-phrygian pieces, however, is the use of the white notes, and that E is felt as central or primary.
About the third point: I agree completely. A major key is different from the Ionian mode, largely because of conventional harmonic and cadential patterns. I suppose I might be willing to consider the idea that major-mode music uses the Ionian mode, but adds on an extra set of harmonic progressions. In any case, this seems like material that should be covered in the article on "key" rather than the article on "scale." Tymoczko 15:19, 15 April 2006 (UTC)
Even if different composers have different patterns, I still think that a mode only exists in the context of a composition, whereas a scale is a list of pitches in order. Do you agree there's such as thing as a "Phrygian scale"? If I play a major scale, that's going to end after a few octaves when I run out of notes. If I play in the major mode, I could go on all day. —Wahoofive (talk) 21:16, 28 April 2006 (UTC)
I feel like we're getting into metaphysics here. I think that it's perfectly reasonable to say that a mode is a scale, plus a specification of which pitch is the tonic. It's certainly a concise, reasonable definition, and I don't see any major problems with it. Tymoczko 16:43, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

Andrew F. 12:45, 27 September 2006 (UTC) There is so much contradictory use of the words scale and mode, would anybody else welcome the application of the term "parent scale", meaning a set of notes without specification of modality? I sometimes think it would be nice if we could start from scratch and ditch all the synonyms for different parent scales, the whole issue is a nightmare! It's hard for a musician to catalogue their learning and ensure that they are not simply re-learning different modes of different parent scales.

Many aspects of music theory would benefit from starting from scratch. Have you ever read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me? However, Wikipedia isn't the place for inventing new pedagogies, nor new terminology (such as "parent scale"). —Wahoofive (talk) 17:03, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

So, can we just put at the top of the article, that modes are scales? I at least skimmed through about 20 articles to understand what scales are, then a music teacher I know said to me, "Modes are not scales," and linked me to back to this very (confusing) article. "What are known as the major and minor scales (sets of notes/pitches in no specific order) are really only two of seven modes." If that's correct, let's please put it on the page. Or something like this that really clarifies it and simplifies it. Maybe with a note to the exception of the Harmonic Minor. (talk) 09:51, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

This discussion of chords is inappropriate and controversial[edit]

"Western tonal chords are stacks of thirds built above a particular scale degree, which is called the root of the harmony."

Firstly, this statement is inappropriate. The only relevance of a discussion of chords here is as it impinges on the creation or use of scales; we have enough other articles on chords and harmony.

Secondly, this statement could only have been written by someone who has (a) only ever used 12-tone equal temperament, and noticed a simple counting pattern, or (b) swallowed whole an explanation by someone with a similarly limited perspective. From a more historical POV, the origin of chords is harmony, which arises from the harmonic series of overtones of natural instrumental (including vocal) timbres.

On both these grounds, I suggest that the sentence I quoted should be removed, and the text adjusted, if necessary, to read well in its absence. yoyo 07:41, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

I disagree with this objection. The sentence appears in a section on "scalar transposition," which refers to the standard Western practice of shifting some pattern (chord, melody, motive) by a constant number of scale steps. This is very common in Western music -- one might think in particular of parallel 6/3 chords, which are found from 1700 on. Furthermore, it's pretty uncontroversial that standard Western tonal music uses "stack of thirds" harmonies: triads and seventh chords, for the most part. This is true in both major and minor modes--and in, minor, overtone-based justifications are much harder to come by. Finally, the statement has nothing to do with equal-temperament. Imagine some non-equal-tempered diatonic scale--such as one of the well temperaments used in the 18th century. Composers using these scales still used stack of thirds harmonies, and utilized scalar transposition. So I'm in favor of keeping the sentence. Tymoczko 04:10, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
I agree. That sentence seems fine to me, yoyo. But what you should do instead of removing it is add something about the situation in other musical cultures. —Keenan Pepper 12:55, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
I don't see how the statement that chords are built from thirds is related to counting 12-tet. I also don't see how harmony or the overtone series (different things) precludes the use of thirds, especially since they can explain the use. Hyacinth 23:47, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

German Music[edit]

It might be useful to note that in the German system what we call "B flat" they call B and what we call "B Natural" they call H though I don't know if that belongs in this article -- Ironcorona 20:56, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

It's mentioned in the artcile note, where it belongs more. −Woodstone 09:03, 17 April 2006 (UTC)


Do modes belong in this article and if so should they have their own section? Hyacinth 07:27, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Personally, I think modes should have their own article, or at least section in this one. Tymoczko 15:52, 31 May 2006 (UTC)
The following section has been repeatedly deleted by User:Tymoszko:

The Modes in the following sequence are arranged in such a way as to where each next mode has one more shortened interval in its scale. The following sequence also corresponds with the circle of fifths.

He points to "terminological note". However that recognises that the word "scale" is commonly used in two slightly different meanings. It is an ordered set of notes either with a chosen tonica (=including modes) or without one (=limited meaning of scale). Futhermore, the rest of the article uses the term "degree" many times, which is only meaningful after a tonica has been chosen. So I see no reason whatsoever not to inlude a discussion on modes. −Woodstone 18:31, 31 May 2006 (UTC)
Since my previous remarks I have had a sandbox try at integrating modes in the article, but I found that the article is currently too mixed up in terminology. A major rewrite will be needed to clear up the inconsistency and redundancy between the lead section and the various detail sections. Perhaps I will find the time later, but anyone wanting to jump in is welcome. −Woodstone 20:09, 31 May 2006 (UTC)
Just to be clear -- I don't really object to the material itself, but rather where it was placed. I also think that the facts described here can be stated in purely scalar terms -- you're talking about the single-semitone voice leadings between fifth-related diatonic collections. I agree that the use of the term "scale degree" should probably be curtailed in the article, and I'm all in favor of including more information on modes. Tymoczko 20:03, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
It's important that if modes are going to be included (or get their own article) that it be noted that there are two sets of modes -- ancient Greek and medieval church modes. The names are often similar, but the sequence of notes are different, such as the Dorian mode being different in church modes than it is in the Greek version. The Apel dictionary or other reference works can provide the full lists of the names and notes from the different time periods. Without checking, I believe the Greek modes were understood from the top down, while the Church or medieval modes were understood from the lowest note to the highest.

Origin of Scales[edit]

(including origins of note-names & tonality) Should the Origin of scales be merged here? Or briefly described here? Even in a shorter form, it seems appropriate. Greenwyk 00:32, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

You must be Kidding[edit]

This is one of the worst articles in wikipedia that I have seen. Why can't musicians make any damn sense when speaking in English instead of music?

The very first sentence is incorrect. A musical scale is not a succession of "notes." It is a set of tones each having a definite pitch and at a specific interval relative to all the other pitches, played in a sequence that either rising or falling in frequency. A note is the written or spoken name you give to a pitch. It is not the pitch itself. A scale, however, is about the pitches, not about their names.

"Composers often transform musical patterns by moving every note in the pattern by a constant number of scale steps: thus, in the C major scale, the pattern C-D-E might be shifted up a single scale step to become D-E-F. Since the steps of a scale can have various sizes, this process introduces subtle melodic and harmonic variation into the music. "

That makes no sense whatsoever. Composers choose sequences of pitches (melody) and combinations of pitches harmony. They may sequence or combine pitches of any way they want, and jump from one pitch to another or slowly change the pitch of a sound (not a note, you cannot change the pitch of a note, a note is what you use to designate a pitch, it is not he pitch itself.

Think, man. Don't just open your mouth and let words drop out.--Nomenclator 12:20, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

Common, really, what do you mean by "provides material for part or all of a musical work." Sort of like trees provide material for making furniture, pigments and solvents provide material for painting pictures, and scales provide material for making music? No! Music is made of sound, not material. Sound is energy not material. The materials used for making music are the materials that are used for making musical instruments. --Nomenclator 02:55, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

Several responses:
  1. I don't think that it's at all self-evident that scales are composed of pitches. The sequence C - E-double-flat - E - E-sharp - G-A-B-C isn't a scale, even though it might enharmonically sound like one when played (on some instruments). In fact, a C major scale will sound at a different pitch when played on a transposing instrument; players of such instruments routinely refer to notes (and scales) by their written names.
  2. Nomenclator is right that composers and musicians don't start with theoretical constructs and make music with them. Music comes first and theory follows after. The quoted passage is certainly dreadful and needs revising. However, musicians commonly use the word note to refer to sounding pitches; much as we'd like to make a distinction between written notes and pitches, it isn't standard English.
  3. As for why musicians can't make music theory concepts easy to understand (a complaint voiced on a number of pages): we all learn a simplified version of music theory from Mrs. Grundy, our third-grade piano teachers. As we become serious musicians, we learn that even the most fundamental aspects of music theory (such as what is a half step) aren't as simple as Mrs. Grundy pretended. It's like physicists learning that the theory of relativity totally makes wrong everything they learned about Newtonian mechanics, except that instead of requiring esoteric experiments to tell the difference, it's easy to perceive in Indian music, jazz, or Baroque theory treatises if you know what to look for. In all these articles we have to balance between a simplistic explanation which is useful for beginners, and a more sophisticated understanding which is necessary for a variety of styles of music, including non-Western music. It isn't that easy.
Wahoofive (talk) 23:39, 29 December 2006 (UTC)
Whoever wrote this initial comment is mistaken. The distinction between "note" and "tone" is the author's own, and is not a standard piece of music-theoretical terminology. Furthermore, Wahoofive's comment that "musicians don't start with theoretical constructs and make music with them" is also incorrect. Explicit instruction in theoretical concepts, including scales, has been part of musical education for centuries. Njarl 23:33, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

As for "...musicians don't start with theoretical constructs and make music with them. Music comes first and theory follows after." That's not strictly true. I'm an (amature) composer in various styles and most of my work starts from a theoretical basis. (I'm kinda' left brain focused.) Also, the name of this section is nigh unto useless and perhaps should be changed. Karatorian (talk) 03:56, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

paragraph appears twice[edit]

I noticed some things while reading this wiki page:

The following paragraph appears twice in the top part of the text:

The distance between two successive notes in a scale is called a "scale step." Composers often transform musical patterns by moving every note in the pattern by a constant number of scale steps: thus, in the C major scale, the pattern C-D-E ("doe, a deer") might be shifted up a single scale step to become D-E-F ("ray, a drop"). Since the steps of a scale can have various sizes, this process introduces subtle melodic and harmonic variation into the music. This variation is what gives scalar music much of its complexity.

and it says: The interval between successive tones of a scale is sometimes called a "step." and the distance between two successive notes in a scale is called a "scale step."

Is this both correct? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 23:10, 9 January 2007 (UTC).

Diatonic and chromatic[edit]

The article uses the term "diatonic" extensively, and pays attention to explaining it; but it is not certain that the term is used consistently with other Wikipedia music articles. Along with "chromatic", "diatonic" is the cause of serious uncertainties at several articles, and in the broader literature. Some of us thought that both terms needed special coverage, so we started up a new article: Diatonic and chromatic. Why not have a look, and join the discussion? Be ready to have comfortable assumptions challenged! – Noetica♬♩Talk 22:20, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Hi Noetica. You will find references to the terms "diatonic" and "chromatic" in the article, Semitone...a very thorough article, and one which was researched with great care, effort, and lengthy discussion. As "just" intervals, a diatonic semitone and a chromatic semitone are obviously not intervals of identical pitch ratio. And I'm sure we all know the difference between diatonic and chromatic scales. Prof.rick 07:50, 10 April 2007 (UTC)
Sorry...I checked your has much to say, and is developing nicely. All the best with it!Prof.rick 09:32, 10 April 2007 (UTC)
Yes indeed, Prof.rick. Thanks for you interest in the new article. I noted a sentence that you wrote yourself, at Talk:Semitone/Archive_2:

What does "diatonic" mean? Which kind of diatonic scale? Major? Natural minor? Harmonic minor? Melodic minor?

According to certain purists, the query you pose on behalf of the hapless student has only one answer, and it is obvious: only the natural minor (equivalent to the descending form of the melodic) and the major are diatonic. Such purists often use the term muddily themselves, though. According to other sources, working from a fine and solidly established tradition that informs much pedagogy, all of the forms you list are diatonic. The different usages needed to be clarified, and that's what we seek to do at Diatonic and chromatic. It is causing a good measure of controversy at Talk:Diatonic and chromatic, though. I hope to see you chipping in there, from the point of view of an experienced teacher.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 02:34, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
YES! The harmonic minor scale is NOT will notice that my comment to which you referred was a question rather than a statement. DIATONIC SCALES ARE CONSTRUCTED OF SEMITONES AND WHOLE TONES. The natural minor scale is decidedly diatonic (consisting of tones and semitones, and without chromatic alteration). The harmonic minor scale is something of a mystery...we have called it a "scale", while, in fact, it most commonly serves as a basis of harmonic function rather than melodic; which begs the question, "are scales the basis of melody, harmony, or both?" In practice, however, the melodic minor scale IS diatonic (whether in ascending or descending form, it is constructed ONLY of tones and semitones). Perhaps the melodic minor should be regarded as TWO scales, or modes (the ascending and descending forms). The descending form is equivalent to the Aeolian Mode. An ascending melodic minor scale cannot be played on the white keys of a piano...but so what? Let's regard all pitches as equal. Let's not allow the design of our keyboard instruments and our bias toward western system of notation (which provides no independent staff lines or spaces for "sharp" or "flat" notes) to influence clear musical thought. To form an ascending melodic minor scale, all it takes is a Dorian or Aeolian tetrachord to be followed by an Ionian or Mixolydian tetrachord (as most common, separated by a whole tone). Other than through the layout of our keyboard instruments, and our biased western notation, can the ascending melodic minor scale justifiably be classified as "chromatic"?
It is interesting that many compositional circumstances demand the use of the "ascending" melodic minor scale in a descending context, and vice versa.
I would therefore present the concept that the MELODIC minor scale is a DIATONIC scale (or two scales), while the HARMONIC minor scale is either not a scale (in Western music) or is something other than DIATONIC. We need another term for hypothetical scales which involve more than tones and semitones. Even the word "diatonic" is misleading. Does it refer to scales that are constructed of nothing more than tones and semitones? That seems to be the concensus. Anything else must be called something else, e.g., "multitonic", "omnitonic" or "heterotonic".
WHY perpetuate the error of nomenclature, particularly in Wikipedia?
For that matter, some editors seem to dwell on music of the "common period" (which, by and large, still dominates today). Great! But IF we dwell on the "common period", we must surely also dwell on Equal Temperament, which similarly dominates music of our times. (I am not rejecting discussion of pre-16th century or alternate tuning systems, nor modern, avante-garde systems...but the average reader is surely most interested in the COMMON MUSIC OF OUR DAY.)
Yes, I hope to "chip in" on your new article, but I feel this one needs palliative therapy! Prof.rick 07:14, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
Very good, Prof.rick: I like to see such analysis. I see that you are sympathetic to this definition for diatonic scale: any heptatonic scale formed of only tones and semitones. As recorded in Diatonic and chromatic, this is the definition that Encyclopaedia Britannica favours (and they explicitly include the ascending melodic, on this basis). But it is not an inevitable definition, and it is definitely adopted by only a small minority of sources. In fact, there is no inevitable or singularly and pre-eminently rational definition for diatonic scale – nor, alas, for other deployments of the descriptor diatonic. Hinc illae lacrimae. I have done a huge amount of reading on this topic, and I'm still going with it. For myself, the main concern is simply to catalogue and explain all the various usages for these terms. But many others find the challenge to their cherished definitions unpalatable, and take offence. For that reason there is some unseemly squabbling at our new article (at Talk:Diatonic and chromatic, and also lately at Talk:Pentatonic scale). Please excuse it! I hope you will read the article through carefully, and have your say at the talk page, as well as adding what you think is fitting to the article itself. Do be careful – it's tough in there! As for this present article, it does look like a bit of a wolverine's brunch. I am not inclined to get involved with it, at this stage. Same for a number of our Wikipedia music theory articles. They are crammed with so many different and competing theoretical orientations, and often corrupted by shoddy analysis and expression – and poor structure, especially. Interesting! It should be an area in Wikipedia excels; in some pockets it does, but elsewhere the seeker after musical enlightenment would be left adrift in the sea of sonic samsara, yes? ;)
– Noetica♬♩Talk 08:27, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
Hi again, Netica! Your final statement sums it up nicely. You have provided much food for thought. I look forward to contributing to both articles, and to such constructive talk. However, I have a performance coming up very soon, and must therefore put Wikipedia "on hold" for a few days. Back soon, with much to say! (You might find it interesting to check the article, half diminished scale. Look at the history, particularly at the oldest item! How did this get into Wikipedia? I have tried to salvage the article, but feel it is a likely candidate for deletion. Your thoughts? Prof.rick 04:24, 13 April 2007 (UTC)
Fine, Prof. I look forward to dialogue and collaboration on these matters. All the best with the performance. What will you play?
– Noetica♬♩Talk 08:56, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

Questions on this article[edit]

I just found this is quite confusing! First, I am not familiar with the term, "temperated". (Did someone mean "tempered", or did I miss something?)

Second, regarding the use of the words "note" and "tone" a valid point has been dismissed: although even trained musicians often mistakenly refer to a musical sound as a "note", this common error doesn't justify its perpetuation, particularly in Wikipedia. A note is a written music symbol which visually represents a pitch (sound); see Musical notation. The correct nomenclature for the sound is a tone. (Of course, this leads to confusion due to the various other meanings of the word "tone" in music.)

This is false. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music gives both meanings, as does the New Grove and the American Heritage Dictionary. People speak of jazz musicians playing "notes" even though they are improvising and not writing anything down. Njarl 20:55, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Third, in university we study the "Materials of Music" (referring to the various theoretical subjects). The term is in common use.

Fourth, which came first...the chicken or the egg? Someone intelligently stated that "Theory is derived from Music", and not vice versa. BRAVO! Obviously, every culture has made music before attempting to dissect or analyse it! The counter-argument provided (that "explicit instruction in theoretical subjects has been part of musical education for centuries") is true, but irrelevant. If this were the case, every composer would simply "follow the rules", and there would be "no such animal" as a new original composition. How can you account for the countless musicians who can create beautiful, original music, but lack any form of musical training? Also, keep in mind that Chopin failed his "composition course"! And what of youngsters who begin composing (unnotated, albeit) before receiving any sort of musical training? Rest assured, Theory IS derived from Music!

This is a bad argument. Theory and practice interact. Composers learn scales and use them, and have for centuries. This does not mean that there is no possibility for originality. I learned scales when I was young. If I want to depart from my training, there's no problem with this. Njarl 20:55, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Fifth...this article has many obvious weaknesses. Much work is needed! Prof.rick 08:45, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Reversion to earlier version[edit]

Hi. I've reverted the opening of this article to an earlier and better version. The most recent version had numerous inaccuracies. For instance:

"In music, a scale is a collection of tones."

But this is insufficient. It doesn't distinguish a scale from a set or a chord.

"There are two aspects to the scale all tones available for a specific type of music such as all keys in a piano. all tones used in part or all of a musical work, such as the piano keys touched for one melody."

I don't know what is meant by "aspects" here, but it's not correct -- "all the piano keys touched for one melody" do not constitute a scale. Consider the melody of the opening of Beethoven's Eroica -- the is not a scale by anyone's definition.

"The first meaning of scale leads us to independently established tonal systems such as natural scale (most folk music), 12 temperated system (european), 53 temperated system (middle eastern), 72 temperated system (south indian), etc.."

Temperated is not a word, as someone else has already pointed out.

"The second meaning of scale involves a discussion of the different collections of tones within the domain of one such tonal system/ Usually a subset of 8 or fewer tones picked among all available tones in an octave make the skeleton of the scale of a melody."

This is also untrue -- the diatonic scale predated the chromatic and was in use for many centuries before it was reimagined as a subset of the chromatic.

A final plea: please do not edit the music articles unless you know what you're talking about. You wouldn't edit the technical math or science articles unless you actually had some qualifications and understood the material. Somehow, everyone feels qualified to rework the music entries, no matter how low their level of competence. This damages the credibility of Wikipedia. Njarl 21:01, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Accessibility to novices[edit]

Could someone with a thorough understanding of the subject edit this to make it more accessible to those of us who don't? Parts like "Accidentals are rare, and somewhat unsystematically used, often to avoid the tritone" strike me as meaningless to anyone who doesn't know and understand that information already.

I agree with you. An encyclopedia is meant to enlighten the unenlightened. This whole article reads like a treatise by professionals for other professionals. I came to this article to try to better my understanding of music from a technical aspect and find myself slogging through it and becoming confused. I hope that person with the thorough understanding of this subject does come forward and better this stilted and poorly written article. Buster 18:51, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Article as an overview[edit]

Having come to this article as a non musician I find it interesting but very western. What I would envisage in an article of this title is a total overview of music scales explained in a manner that is comprehensible to a non musical reader. It should then link to ALL the other scale articles. One glaring omission is that the scales do not have sound files to demonstrate the differences. I understand this would be a major undertaking. There is not even a table of notes and their frequencies. How is that neither Bach nor Pythagoras gets a mention? --CloudSurfer (talk) 19:03, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

Hmm... My thoughts:
  • A link to Category:Musical scales would be useful, or a list based on that category.
  • The concept of a musical scale is sort of a western concept, isn't it? Other than the Indian scales, are there any scales that originate from the East? I know of none, anyway.
  • Making it comprehensible to a non-music reader is definitely a good plan.
  • I wrote a script that will generate a scale as a MIDI given either the notes or the intervals, so if there is enough demand I could generate and upload some... but they should probably be included in the individual scale articles, not in this article. It only works for scales within the 12-tone equal-tempered system that repeat at the octave, though.
  • Why should Bach be mentioned in an article about scales? He never invented a scale or anything, he was just a composer
  • As for Pythagoras, I believe he invented a tuning system, not a scale, but I suppose he could be mentioned.
  • And a table of notes and their frequencies does not really belong in this article. Such a thing should be found in an article on tuning.
You do have some good points, definitely. Perhaps you could point out which parts of the article need improvement to be understood by a non-musical reader? —Celtic Minstrel (talkcontribs) 02:53, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
Scales from the East? Let's see: Pelog and Slendro from Indonesia, Hirajoshi, Iwato, and the Yo scale from Japan, the various makam of Turkey and maqam of Islamic music...what am I missing?
I do agree about Pythagoras (he is credited with developing a tuning system, but not the scales that could use it), Bach, and pitches (dependent on tuning system and on reference pitch: A=440Hz has not always been standard!). — Gwalla | Talk 23:12, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Confused statements about scale degree[edit]

The article has:

Note that such labeling requires the choice of a "first" note; hence scale-degree labels are not intrinsic to the scale itself, but rather to its modes. For example, if we choose A as tonic, then we can label the notes of the C diatonic scale using A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, D = 4, and so on. However, the difference between two scale degrees is independent of the choice of scale degree 1.

This is wrong. If C=1 then the difference between 2=D and 3=E is two semitones. If A=1 then 2=B and 3=C are only one semitone apart.

Thus whether two notes are adjacent in a scale, or separated by one note, does not depend on the mode under discussion.

This is completely garbled. Notes in a scale are by definition adjacent. Perhaps a distance in semitones is meant. But anyway, it seems to me a part of the definition of scale, not a property.

The scale degrees of the traditional major scale can also be named using the terms tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, subtonic. If the subtonic is a semitone away from the tonic, then it is usually called the leading-tone (or leading-note); otherwise the leading-tone refers to the raised subtonic.

In the traditional major scale the subtonic is by definition the leading tone and one semitone away from the tonic. Perhaps, any traditional 7-tone scale is meant.
Woodstone (talk) 16:48, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

I have removed the first two offending sentences and altered the third. I'm not quite sure if whoever put those two sentences in had something in mind and just did not phrase it properly, but I think in this case it's probably not very important. –Celtic Minstrel (talkcontribs) 19:27, 10 June 2008 (UTC)

Introduction is self-contradictory[edit]

Sorry but...

Is there a reference for the premise that 'Scales differ from modes in that scales do not have a primary or "tonic" note'?

When I was a kid, I learnt how to make a major scale. Starting from some note, I first go up two semitones, then another two, then one, then two... So how should I think of that first note, if not as a primary or "tonic" note?

Later in the article, mention is made of different accepted usages of the word "scale". I guess that this statement in the intro is specific to one rather obscure usage? Or is it just plain wrong?

In its current form, it seems to be contradictory to, shortly thereafter, the mention of the 'C major scale', for which, surely "C" has some kind of significance which none of the other notes in that scale enjoys.

I see in this discussion history that this point has been raised before. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:02, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

It's because "scale" is sometimes used to mean "mode". In the strict sense, a "scale" is a set of notes in a certain order (you can think of them as being arranged around a circle). When people talk about the "C major scale", "C" specifies the tonic and "major" specifies the mode (also called Ionian). So strictly speaking it should be "C major mode". The scale in this case is the diatonic scale which includes the note C (but C is not strictly more important than any other note).
So the strictest sense, 'Scales differ from modes in that scales do not have a primary or "tonic" note', is not the only meaning. Some may argue that the term is misused (much like physicists tell us that me misuse the term "weight"). I prefer to just say there are different (though related) meanings. —Celtic Minstrel (talkcontribs) 14:22, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
That's beyond pendantic, Minstrel. A C major scale has no tonic note? Every musician calls a C major scale a C major scale; none would say they're going to warm up by practicing a few "modes". No one except a few crackpot theorists would say that "scale" means exclusively what you say. Scales ha So saying a piece is in "C major" might mean the same thing as "C major mode", but "scale" is something different. —Wahoofive (talk) 06:06, 4 July 2008 (UTC)
'Scales have the notes in order, but a mode need not.'? Um... that doesn't sound right. On the other hand, the reverse (modes have the notes in order, but a scale need not.) sounds wrong too. I think it's better to just say they are both ordered. A scale is a group of notes arranged around a circle, and a mode is when you break the circle and stretch it out into a line. Both are ordered, but the scale doesn't have a designated "first" note. (But one can make an exception for "major scale" and "minor scale", treating them as modes, because that's the normal terminology.) —Celtic Minstrel (talkcontribs) 03:29, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
This happens a lot on Wikipedia. Different editors bring different definitions of terms with the same spelling to the table from the general culture, and argue over which meaning is correct, when what they should do is realized that both meanings are in use in the culture, and collect and distinguish those meanings in the article. One meaning of "scale" is a collection of notes with no tonic (such as some people describe the Diatonic Scale) from which other "scales" that do have tonics are derived (such as the Major scale and the Minor scale). Those derived tonic-having scales are necessarily also modes of each other, precisely because they represent the application of the tonic to each of the members of the master non-tonic scale. Modes are scales too, and they have tonics, but they are called modes to point out their relationship to one another. All modes are equal, but are sometimes sloppily presented as if they are not equal. For example, the Ionian Mode (another name for the Major Scale) can be presented as generating the other modes, such as the Aolian Mode (another name for the Minor Scale), but it's just as easy to generate all the other modes from any of the modes, even from the attention-starved sibling, the Locrian Mode. The meaning of "scale" that includes a tonic is probably used more often than the meaning of "scale" that doesn't include a tonic, but that doesn't mean one meaning displaces the other or that only one meaning is correct. Both meanings are valid and in use. They are actually different terms with the same spelling, and they should be carefully and clearly distinguished in the article. Anytime you see a note name associated with a scale, such as "C Major Scale", you definitely know there's a tonic, but if no note name is included, it doesn't necessarily mean there's no tonic. For example "Major Scale" describes an intervalic relationship, or scale shape, without pinning it to any particular location in real pitch space, yet it still reserves the fact that one of the members is taken to be the tonic. That's actually a third meaning of scale that should be distinguished--it's that thing that is common to all transpositions of the same shape in real pitch space. C Major Scale and D Major Scale are both "Major Scales", so "Major Scale" is a logical level above them, or a step more abstract than they are, and should be distinguished. The Chromatic Scale is sometimes meant as having no tonic, representing the even playing field of the total pitch resources of the 12EDO or 12TET tuning system, but it's sometimes also meant as having a tonic. For example, as that scale that represents all the possible pitches you can play in a given key, as long as you use the right melodic tactics. It's also the scale that represents all the possible pitches you can play over a given chord with the right tactics. Hm, that's another meaning of scale, one that has a root instead of a tonic. Explaining: In jazz, a so-called "chord scale" is associated with the chord of the moment, which is not necessarily the tonic chord of the key, and yet one of it's members has a tonic-like function for the duration of the chord, which is the scale member that is the root of the chord. For example, the G Bebop Dominant Scale has a root of G, even though G7 ultimately implies the key of C or a tonic of C. (talk) 03:36, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

differential scale, ordinal scale, rational scale[edit]

The terms differential scale, ordinal scale, and rational scale came from a music theory book by a famous composer that I read, but I only saw it in one library a long time ago, and I don't remember the book title or composer's name. Does anyone else recognize this and can you point me to it so I can get the references before adding them to the article? The terms describe very basic abstract differences in the way we catalog collections of sounds used as a compositional resource to draw from. A differential scale is any collection of sounds that we can tell apart, for example, trash percussion (one bottle, one can, one brake drum, etc.), or tape loops, or sound effect samples. An ordinal scale adds a level of information in that there is something about the sounds that allows us to order them, such as brightness. A rational scale adds the next level of information that allows us to determine the relative spacing between the members of an ordinal scale. If the exact brightness of the cymbals could be measured and prescribed, one could make a rational scale of cymbals. This is the realm of what most people know as pitched scales, where Hz can be used to determine the exact spacing and relation to an absolute reference. All of the various theories determining tuning, and cultural preferences for scale membership belong under the umbrella of "rational scale". It may also be appropriate to call the collection of related durations used in a composition or portion of a composition a type of rational scale, which connects to the idea of temporal or metrical modulation. I will have to find the book to be sure. There is a slight confounding or confusion problem in the terminology in that rational scale doesn't imply that the relationships must be rational in the mathematical sense (capable of being expressed as whole-numbered ratios); scale derivations using mathematically irrational numbers (such as the 12th root of 2) are still called rational scales in this musical scale categorization terminology. -- Another Stickler (talk) 19:45, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

This use of the term "scale" (although etymologically related) doesn't really have anything to do with music scales.The article Level of measurement addresses this topic. —Wahoofive (talk) 05:52, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Actually, yes, it absolutely does have to do with music and even with the musical scales in this article. The book was written by a well known 20th century composer (unfortunately I can't remember which composer, but the book was in the USC library music racks in the 1980s with all the other composition and theory books I was reading at the time, which you could do as a non-enrolled student as long as you showed ID and read them on the premises, as UCLA and CSULB also allowed), and it's easy to recognize them in musical contexts. Thanks, the Level of measurement article is indeed similar, but not exact. I would bet the ideas of Stanley Smith Stevens influenced that composer. Also, if I remember right, the composer only included three scales in his theory, while the article describes four, including an "interval scale" which has degree of difference but not ratio of difference. It makes sense to leave that one out of music theory, because it has no musical example. In music, once you get degree of difference, you automatically also get ratio of difference, because degree of difference is measured in pitch, which is a function of frequency, and frequencies can be compared exactly. You can indeed say "this frequency is twice that frequency." These three scales are actually a logical level above what's being described so far in this article. I guess these are more like classes or types, because all of the scales described in this article so far would fall under the single class of rational scales, because they incorporate pitch, but rational isn't the only class. The other classes have musical examples as well. Take for instance a set of tom toms arranged high to low but not required to have an exact tuning. That's obviously an ordinal scale. I'll find that book again some day! Please, if anyone else finds it first, help contribute. (Another Stickler on a different computer years later) (talk) 00:55, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
Ben Johnston discusses the musical applications of Stevens's four scales of measurement in his 1963 article "Scalar Order as a Compositional Resource."[1] This was, if I'm not mistaken, the first music theory article to invoke that concept, but the idea resurfaces in some of Johnston's subsequent writings (all of which appear in Maximum Clarity)[2] and in Milton Babbitt's 1969 lecture "Contemporary Music Composition and Music Theory as Contemporary Intellectual History." [3] Despite the great value Stevens's scales of measurement may have for theorists, I cannot see how this concept would fall inside the scope of an article for nonspecialists.Chuckerbutty (talk) 17:53, 13 December 2016 (UTC)

C-D-E transposed to D-E-F?[edit]

The distance between two successive notes in a scale is called a "scale step." Composers often transform musical patterns by moving every note in the pattern by a constant number of scale steps: thus, in the C major scale, the pattern C-D-E might be shifted up, or transposed, a single scale step to become D-E-F. This process is called scalar transposition (see also musical sequence). Since the steps of a scale can have various sizes, this process introduces subtle melodic and harmonic variation into the music. This variation is what gives scalar music much of its complexity.

This doesn't entirely make sense. C-D-E could simply be changed to C-D-D♯. Someone knowledgeable should look at what I quoted and rework it. (talk) 22:51, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

You miss the point entirely. The section explicitly mentions that the differences of the step sizes bring variation to the music. Indeed the shifting of the pattern CDE to DEF does not create an identical copy at higher frequency, but a musically interesting variation of it. −Woodstone (talk) 10:06, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry but you miss my point entirely, I am well aware of what you're saying. The article makes the claim that composers use scalar transposition often, and uses the example of C-D-E to D-E-F. It then says "Since the steps of a scale can have various sizes, this process introduces subtle melodic and harmonic variation into the music". That is true of course, but the same melodic variation is achieved by changing C-D-E to C-D-D♯. Changing the overall pitch without changing the melody would be D-E-F♯ for instance. It seems logical that a composer would simply change the melody if he wanted to change the melody, and change the overall pitch if he wanted that. The article makes it look like composers often slap these two types of changes together which is what C-D-E to D-E-F is, without clarifying that they can be thought of as two distinct changes. No sources are provided on how this is done often. In short, the paragraph could be changed for the better. (talk) 12:20, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Whatever the merits of the various discussions, I suggest that this material shouldn't be in the lead of the article. The lead of a WP article is generally about gently leading an outsider into the subject with an uncontroversial overview. Detailed points generally belong in subsections. So I suggest that this material firstly be relocated to a later place, probably in its own subsection. That move, in itself, might then help us to clarify the points it is trying to make. Feline Hymnic (talk) 14:03, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. Even though explicitly stated, this is extremely misleading to the novice reader who probably wouldn't notice that the scale steps between D and E are greater than between E and F and might be mislead into thinking that C-D-E becomes D-E-F because you're just moving everything up one letter. Somebody new to music isn't going to get this at all.
The fact that "moving everything up by the same amount" is broadly what most people mean by the term transposition when it is said without qualification (i.e. C-D-E to become D-E-F#) makes the paragraph even more confusing. To muddy the waters further, in just intonation, such transposition would result in a subtly different harmony for different reasons. For example, an instrument tuned in JI for C Major, would cause C-D-E to have different ratios to D-E-F#.
So yes, certainly not subject matter for the lead-in! -- Fursday 21:51, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

OK. I've moved most of that paragraph into its own section later in the article. Feline Hymnic (talk) 22:28, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Good job on that. I took the liberty to change "Composers often" to "One can". (talk) 17:35, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
That phrasing has a connotation of rarity, which is certainly not the case. Diatonic transposition (which I guess is a subset of "scalar transposition"?) is in fact very common in music. You said "The article makes it look like composers often slap these two types of changes together which is what C-D-E to D-E-F is, without clarifying that they can be thought of as two distinct changes." That is intentional, since they do often do that. Simply following C-D-E with C-D-E will not create the same effect as C-D-E followed by D-E-F, mainly because of the C-D-E that preceds it. It's true that, in isolation, C-D-E sounds the same as D-E-F, but composers rarely work with small groups of notes in isolation.
Does that make sense? —Celtic Minstrel (talkcontribs) 20:18, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Why semitones?[edit]

In response to Feline Hymnic reverting my edit...

I'm quite new to Wiki so I didn't immediately realize my edit had been actively reverted, I just thought it had got lost somehow. So I re-posted it.

Seeing your comment in the history tab, may I explain why I think it's important?

The bulk of western music is based on semitones but when I was learning music theory nobody explained why an octave was divided into 12 equal intervals (rather than eg 53). It remained a baffling mystery through several years of music lessons.

It was only much later when I taught myself to play the guitar that I understood that tuning in 5ths naturally generates a total of 12 keys, but I saw that mathematically it made no sense. Then the flash of understanding came that it was just a coincidence that the harmonics approximately fitted with the mathematic intervals - the 5th pretty well, the 3rd rather less well.

Later still I heard about the "commas" and they seemed to be described in awfully complex terms when actually they were just the difference between the harmonics and the 12-root-2 divisions - quite simple really.

So I thought someone interested to understand scales should hear this straight away rather than be baffled like I was.

If you can explain it better that's fine but I don't think it should be left out.

Best wishes, DrJCPC (talk) 01:28, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the note. There is certainly a place for describing the detail of temperament. Indeed it is already in Wikipedia in articles such as Musical temperament and Equal temperament. It is right and appropriate for them to be discussed there.
The main reason I reverted it is that this article (Musical scale) is about describing the basics of scales to relative beginners. From that beginners perspective, the mathematical details of scales are generally intimidating and off-putting.
Suggested way forward. Continue to omit the detail from this article, but improve the linkage (wikilinks, 'See also' etc.) leading from this article towards other articles that describe the detail you wish.
Put another way: Detailed description of any topic (railway stations, dung beetles, and in our case musical temperament, etc.) should, in general, be only in one article. Related articles (in our case this 'musical scale') shouldn't usually repeat detailed information but rather should provide links so that (1) interested readers can follow through (2) uninterested readers won't be bogged down in material which is tangential to the focus of the article itself.
Does that help? Feline Hymnic (talk) 21:00, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

It is also good that you now seem to have a proper account, namely "DrJCPC". That's a good step. The "temperament" edits to the article were done from an "anon-IP" account. Many editors (myself included) who keep watch on some articles for things going astray will be quite trigger-happy in reverting such anon-IP contributions, but will be somewhat more careful in reverting those by established, account-based contributors. For one thing, being able to view an editor's previous contributions helps us get a feel for the seriousness and experience of that contributor. (For instance, you can view my previous contributions here and yours here.) I hope that helps. Keep contributing! Feline Hymnic (talk) 23:24, 20 July 2009 (UTC)


I understand the need for a simple introductary article with more detailed descriptions referenced but I think the present artical uses highly technical jargon (requiring a general reader to follow frequent links, interrupting the flow) and still does not explain that the underlying structure of a scale depends first on the division of an octave into 12 semitone intervals. This is so basic that I don't see how you would want to leave it out.

The obvious question "Why 12?" should also be addressed before launching into the details of the various diatonic and other scales.

I'll get back and try to add a simple intro (or maybe you would prefer to put one in?)

Best wishes, DrJCPC (talk) 17:29, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

First, Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not a manual, guidebook, textbook, or scientific journal. This article is about musical scales, not 12-tone equal temperament. The topic, why 12-TET, would at best be a side-note of little use to the already uninformed.
Furthermore, it's a pretty simple question to answer for oneself, at least now. My first year theory textbook, cited in this article actually, has/had a page about tuning (Benward & Saker 2003, p.56-57) explaining the history of Western music from Pythagorean to just to unequal to equal, not cited in this article. I believe Google Book Search will turn up numerous books whose very titles directly address the issue: why 12-TET?. Lastly, as a practicing musician, you should be familiar with leading-tones. Hyacinth (talk) 03:06, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Structure and focus[edit]

As several people have noted on the 'talk' page over the years, this article seems to lack focus and structure. Somewhat too much of it seems to suffer from the Wikipedia malaise of being globs of information, made by experts for experts, rather than a structured means to assist people who might well be relative beginners to develop and grow in their understanding of our topic. Might we spend a little time putting ourselves in the shoes of someone who doesn't know the subject and imagining how to present the material to them? And similarly deciding what material to present? And what not to present? And what to provide links for? I've just made a small start by re-ordering some sections to keep information about Western scales together (they had previously been held apart by non-Western and microtonal sections). Feline Hymnic (talk) 23:44, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

How's the kettle look now? Hyacinth (talk) 03:07, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Link to[edit]

Is this link in "External links" really relevant? Excuse me from saying so, but IMHO that site has telltale signs of kookiness. TorLillqvist (talk) 23:19, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

No, it's not. Lucy Tuning is a system of tuning, not a scale, and Mr. Lucy is a very persistent self-promoter who keeps adding links to it from musical topics. Feel free to nuke on sight. — Gwalla | Talk 18:40, 15 January 2010 (UTC)


This has to be the most useless article on this wiki. All the information on here is only comprehensible by somebody who already knows it. The purpose of Wikipedia is to inform, to teach. Then I look at the talk page, and I see people complaining about the 'math-y' parts. Instead of removing -every piece- of information that isn't instantly understood by someone whose only focuses on music, maybe leave it so that way anyone with an understanding of math or physics will actually get something out of this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:25, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for the help. Hyacinth (talk) 05:23, 8 April 2011 (UTC)


Where and how is this article too technical and what should be done to improve it and why? Hyacinth (talk) 07:33, 5 April 2011 (UTC)


I don't think "musical scale" is the 'most common' name, so it should be moved back to scale (music) per Manual of Style. 23:12, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

"Scale (music)" is certainly less common than "musical scale". Anything in the naming conventions which addresses which is preferred in this case? Hyacinth 09:10, 3 June 2006 (UTC)
I interpret the guideline you cite to recommend the opposite of what you propose. Scale is the most common name, but it is redundant with all the articles linked to from the Scale disambiguation page. Therefore musical scale is the most common name "that does not conflict with the names of other people or things". —Keenan Pepper 23:56, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
Searching for scale would not take you to the proper article in this case, regardless of what the music article is titled. Hyacinth (talk) 21:22, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

Proposing "Scale (music)"[edit]

I think that the article title should be Scale (music), because the most important word in the title (in this case the word "Scale") should be the first one. "Scale" is also the word that anyone would type in the search box, which automatically proposes "Scale (music)" as one of the possible alternatives. Moreover, and even more importantly, this is consistent with a style widely adopted in Wikipedia in these cases (even in articles about music):





As you probably know, if we decide to change the title, the current title Musical scale will be turned into a page which will redirect here, and double redirects will be fixed by whoever does the move, or automatically by BOTs.

Paolo.dL (talk) 12:02, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Hyacinth's and Keenan Pepper's view that the most appropriate title is "Musical scale". Some of your examples are in fact redirects and thus don't support the case for moving to "Scale (music)". -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 03:13, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

My examples do support the proposal to adopt the title Scale (music), especially (but not only) the specific examples about Scale. Most of them are not redirects. Even the redirects (which I copied from the disambiguation pages Degree, Interval, Mode, Transposition) support my proposal. Indeed, Transposition (mathematics) redirects to Cycle (mathematics), not to Mathematical transposition, Interval (time) redirects to Time, not to Time interval, etc. (for more details, see the updated list of links provided above).

Moreover, the proposal is not only supported by examples. I will give other motivations:
1) The introduction says "In music, a scale is...". It does not and should not say "A musical scale is..."...
2) In dictionaries, people are used to search for "scale", not for "musical" when they want to know the meaning of the word scale in music. For instance:

Scale (from Webster's online dictionary)
1. An ordered reference standard; "judging on a scale of 1 to 10".
2. Relative magnitude; "they entertained on a grand scale".
6. (music) a series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme (usually within an octave).
7. ...

3) Whoever is going to search for an article about musical scales will type at least the word "scale" in the search box (not always they will type "musical scale").
Paolo.dL (talk) 09:52, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

As I said before, searching for "scale" will not take you to this article. Thus the use of "musical scale" or "scale (music)". Common practice does not make a convention. Why not change the examples given to read "Musical ___" instead of changing this article?
Perhaps this would be more properly addressed at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (music). Hyacinth (talk) 23:33, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

I believe the parenthetical form is preferred for disambiguation when there is not an unambiguous common name form. But here, "musical scale" is a very commonly used term for it, unambiguous, appearing in thousand of books before 1900 even, and hundreds of thousands by now. Dicklyon (talk) 00:51, 10 June 2012 (UTC)

When thinking about music, people will use just "scale" as the term. That should be the primary word. As used in WP in abundance elsewhere, parenthetical disambiguation should be used. Scale (music) will pop up at the search box to direct the reader further.−Woodstone (talk) 05:11, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
What does Wikipedia:D#Naming the specific topic articles have to say about your theory? Dicklyon (talk) 05:14, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
Hyacinth, when you say "Why not change the examples given to read "Musical ___" instead of changing this article?" you fail to notice that I already answered above, giving you three reasons not to do so. I provided a total of four reasons to change the title, only one of which is consistency with titles of other Wikipedia articles. You also fail to consider that following your suggestion would produce in most cases awkward results:
Paolo.dL (talk) 08:27, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
A fifth reason supporting this proposal: when you type "Scale" in the search box, a list of suggested titles appears, including "Scale (music)". On the contrary, when you type "Musical", a list appears including articles starting with "Musical", but not "Musical scale". This is because "Musical" is contained in a much larger number of articles.
Also consider that in both Musical scale and Scale (music), the generic words "Musical" and "music" are used for disambiguating a more specific term, which is "Scale". As stated by Woodstone, "Scale" is the primary word.
Finally, consider that Musical mode was recently moved to Mode (music), and everybody in the talk page agreed that this was a necessary ("sensible", "long overdue"...) move . Paolo.dL (talk) 08:44, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
You don't have any comments in this discussion which respond to mine. If you are referring to the numbered reasons you give for changing this article title the indentation indicates it is not a response to me and those reasons do not refer to other article titles but to this one. Hyacinth (talk) 09:32, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
Why do you consider non-musical examples relevant here? Hyacinth (talk) 09:34, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
If you admit that "Musical" is contained in [at the beginning] of a much larger number of articles doesn't that outweigh your given examples? Hyacinth (talk) 09:37, 10 June 2012 (UTC)

Answer 1: Let's not waste our time discussing whether I addressed all your concerns before you expressed them or did not address them at all. It only matters that I provided several reasons to adopt Scale (music) and not to change Interval (music) into Musical interval.
Answer 2: Non-musical examples are relevant because Wikipedia is not only about music (and this is the reason why we need to disambiguate the title of this article, using either Scale (music) or Musical scale).
Answer 3: In music, for each specific topic (such as Scale), the articles starting with "Musical" are typically less than those starting with the name of the topic. For instance, in this case only one article starts with "Musical" (Musical scale) and two with "Scale" (Scale (album) and Scale (string instruments)). See the disambiguation page. Also, there's a series of articles about Mode in music: Mode (music), Gregorian mode, etc.. However, no article about "Mode" in music starts with "Musical". But since there are a lot of topics in music, we have more articles starting with "Musical" (very generic term) than articles starting with "Scale" or "Mode" (very specific).
Answer to Dicklyon (00:51, 10 June 2012): The expression Musical scale (as well as "Musical notes") is rarely used as a chapter title in music textbooks. The most common titles are

  • "Scales"
  • "Scales and key signatures"
  • "Scales and modes"
  • "Notes, Harmonies & Scales", etc.

See, for instance, Music theory, or, or Music theory and history. Similarly, in the introduction of this article, we say: "In music, a scale is...". We do not and should not say "A musical scale is..."... ". Paolo.dL (talk) 21:04, 10 June 2012 (UTC)

  • Support. Hyacinth (talk) 04:30, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support Scale (music). In the flow of speech or writing, "musical scale" is a perfectly acceptable ad hoc disambiguation. As the subject title for an encyclopedia article, the parenthetic form seems more appropriate. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 12:13, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support Scale (music). As argued above. −Woodstone (talk) 16:25, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support Scale (music). For much greater consistency and convenience. An enquirer will almost certainly search with a string beginning "scale" rather than one beginning "musical". "Scale" with its musical meaning is not an obscure term of art; the musical meaning is prominent in everyday language. I suggest that we initiate a formal RM for this, soon (see WP:RM). If it is not managed that way there will be instability. If others are unwilling, or unfamiliar with that process, they can ask me and I will take it further. NoeticaTea? 00:15, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
Noetica, please initiate the RM. Paolo.dL (talk) 09:10, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

Requested move to "Scale (music)"[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: moved. An interesting case, where both titles comply with different sections of WP:AT. As Powers notes, the title/naming sections of WP:D do exist to supplement WP:AT, but as a widely supported guideline it cannot be completely dismissed and does carry some weight. In the end, I felt the support and oppose arguments were of equal merit – the supporters' consistency argument and the opposers' natural disambiguation argument being the two most compelling cases made – but the clear numerical majority in favour of the proposed title meant there was a consensus to move the article. Jenks24 (talk) 09:56, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

Musical scaleScale (music) – There has already been considerable support for giving this article a more natural and accessible title. This would bring it into line with most comparable articles among Wikipedia's offerings in music theory: Interval (music), Transposition (music), Degree (music), Organ (music), and so on. The term in each of those is the title of a disambiguation (DAB) page: Interval, Transposition, Degree, Organ; each of these has many meanings, and the solution appears to work very well for the convenience of readers. It is hard to see why Scale (also a DAB page) should be treated anomalously when that term is disambiguated as a core musical topic. People naturally use a search string (whether in Wikipedia itself or on Google, for example) that begins with the specific word "scale", not with the mere background word "musical". There are other arguments in favour of the move, and some can be seen in discussion above. So now let the matter be settled consensually by a wider consultation with editors, toward a robust and lasting solution. NoeticaTea? 11:56, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

  • Support. In the discussion above, I proposed this move. Here is a summary of my points:
  1. Scale (music) is consistent with the style used elsewere in Wikipedia to disambiguate terms such as Scale, Mode, Transposition, or Interval (see list of links provided above). It is impossible to achieve consistency the other way (i.e. by making all titles similar to "Musical scale"), as it would produce in most cases awkward results: e.g., Scale (string instruments) --> String-instrument scale, Scale (album) --> Album "Scale", Scale (descriptive set theory) --> Set-theoretical scale, Scale (map) --> Map scale, Scale (social sciences) --> Social-science scale. For the same reason, Musical mode was recently moved to Mode (music), and everybody in the talk page agreed that this was a necessary ("sensible", "long overdue"...) move.
  2. The expression "Musical scale" (as well as "Musical notes") is rarely used as a chapter title in music textbooks. The most common titles are "Scales", "Scales and key signatures", "Scales and modes", "Notes, Harmonies & Scales", etc.. See, for instance, Music theory, or, or Music theory and history (web sites are not considered reliable sources, but these titles are commonly used in textbooks as well).
  3. Consistently with point 2, the introduction says "In music, a scale is...". It does not and should not say "A musical scale is..."...
  4. In dictionaries, people are used to search for "Scale", not for "Musical scale" when they want to know the meaning of the word scale in music. For instance, see Scale in Webster's online dictionary.
  5. People searching Wikipedia for an article about musical scales will type at least the specific word "Scale" in the search box. They will not always type "Musical", as it is a much less specific term.
  6. When you type "Scale" in the search box, a list of suggested titles appears, including "Scale (music)". On the contrary, when you type "Musical", a list appears including articles starting with "Musical", but not "Musical scale". This is because "Musical" is more generic than "Scale", and therefore it is contained in a much larger number of articles.
Paolo.dL (talk) 12:41, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose – I'm not sure what Noetica means by "a more natural and accessible title". To me, a title that names a topic clearly without a parenthetical is more natural, and equally accessible. I'd leave it. Paolo's argument's about searching don't make much sense to me either; redirects work great for this kind of thing; as he notes, "Scale (music)" already appears for people who search for it from that direction. Wikipedia:D#Naming the specific topic articles says "1. When there is another term or more complete name (such as Heavy metal music instead of Heavy metal) that is equally clear and is unambiguous, that may be used.". Dicklyon (talk) 15:30, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
Wikipedia:D#Naming the specific topic articles also says: "If there is a choice between using a short phrase and word with context, such as Mathematical analysis and Analysis (mathematics), there is no hard rule about which is preferred." Paolo.dL (talk) 16:01, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support. While I can sympathise with Dicklyon's "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" position, I find Noetica's argument about consistent treatment with respect to disambiguation pages a convincing demonstration that it is in fact broke.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:58, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
This article was originally named "Scale (music)". On 1 June 2006‎ Keenan Pepper changed the title to "Musical scale", without previous discussion. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies against this edit, and in support for Noetica's proposal to revert it. Paolo.dL (talk) 19:05, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
  • SupportWahoofive (talk) 18:07, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose; natural disambiguation is preferred to parenthetical where available. WP:Disambiguation is a guideline used in supplement to the overriding policy, WP:Article titles. The latter clearly indicates that natural is preferred to parenthetical. If WP:D says otherwise, it is out of date and should be revised to match the policy. Powers T 19:19, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
Specifically, it's at Wikipedia:Article_titles#Precision_and_disambiguation. For once, we agree. Dicklyon (talk) 19:26, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
From the same page (WP:Article titles), more exactly from section WP:NAMINGCRITERIA:
  • "Article titles are based on what reliable English-language sources refer to the article's subject by."... (see points 2 and 4 in my support statement)
  • ..."There will often be several possible alternative titles for any given article; the choice between them is made by consensus."...
  • ..."Naturalness – Titles are those that readers are likely to look for or search with"... (see Noetica's proposal and points 4, 5, 6 in my statement)
  • ..."Consistency – Titles follow the same pattern as those of similar articles."... (see Noetica's proposal and point 1 in my statement)
Paolo.dL (talk) 19:50, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
Those provisions -- particularly "naturalness" -- apply to the base name, not to disambiguation. Only the conciseness criterion (and maybe consistency) would favor "scale" over "musical scale". When it comes to disambiguation, however, the section that Dicklyon linked is the more relevant. Powers T 14:11, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment on natural versus parenthetic disambiguation. Some commenters above have argued in effect that the present title uses "natural disambiguation", and that this is better because it is preferred by the the main policy page concerned with article titles (WP:TITLE).
    My first response is this: most of the provisions of that policy page are contested. In the clear absence of clear consensus for them, it is reasonable not to rely on those provisions alone, but also to appeal directly to the convenience of those looking for Wikipedia articles (by Google searches, internally on Wikipedia, or whatever).
    It is also reasonable to appeal to consistency in titles within a broad topic area; and there is no doubt that there is an established practice of disambiguating parenthetically in the articles on music theory. These two considerations are connected: as readers get familiar with the music theory articles, they surely develop expectations about what to search for. If they have seen Degree (music) and Transposition (music), they will expect to find an article called Scale (music).
    That is also what they would find at Britannica, by the way. Search at Britannica online with the single word "scale", and the suggestion that heads the list is "scale (music)". (Britannica's article itself is headed simply "scale", with this "lead sentence" following: "scale, in music, any graduated sequence of notes, tones, or intervals dividing what is called an octave.") Similarly on Britannica for "interval" and "key" as search terms, as on Wikipedia.
    But to return to "natural disambiguation", the provision at WP:TITLE has this wording:

Natural disambiguation: If it exists, choose a different, alternative name that the subject is also commonly called in English, albeit, [sic] not as commonly as the preferred but ambiguous title (do not, however, use obscure or made up names).

Example: The word "English" commonly refers to either the people or the language. Because of the ambiguity, we use the alternative but still common titles, English language and English people, allowing natural disambiguation.

I contend that "musical scale" fails as natural disambiguation, so defined. Here are points related to those Paolo has made, above:
  • Other encyclopedias (like Britannica) do not use it; dictionaries (I checked five) do not have "musical scale" as a lemma: they just use "scale", and define it for various contexts. It simply is not what a scale is "commonly called in English", even though it is sometimes used in running text to avoid ambiguity.
  • "Musical scale" is itself ambiguous. It has other meanings, such as in these excerpts that I quickly found through Googlebooks searches:
"The first two scenes of Act III perform a similar function, but on a yet grander musical scale."
"... a profoundly ironic adaptation of Wagner's idea of interior drama on an ambitious musical scale, ..."
"... wanted to do some dramatic work on a larger musical scale ..."
"However much the social scale has subordinated women in life, the musical scale has allowed operatic heroines to remain securely on top." [Exact meaning?]
"... on a bigger musical scale than those of the seventeenth century. Something had to be done if the opera was not to last all night."
"All three sets were stunning examples of verismo suitably romanticised to Puccini's musical scale and scope."
  • The example given at WP:TITLE is quite different in form and prevalence: "English language" versus "English people". (We could add "English opening" too, which is called simply "the English" by chess buffs.) In these, the term to be naturally disambiguated comes first, so that searching is still natural also. Not so with "musical scale".
  • As I suggested in introducing this RM, people enquiring after an article on musical notes, or transposition, or interval, or organ do not have the term "musical" at front of mind. That is already understood. For the present at least, they lack interest in, or knowledge of, other uses of "note", "transposition", "interval", or "organ". It is our job in determining titles to be aware of this. We (right now, in this discussion) have an overview of all the meanings; they cannot be expected to. It is often difficult to see things from the readers' point of view; but it is essential for us to do so in making a work or reference like Wikipedia: in our writing, our editing, our design of the framework in which we present information to readers, and – no less certainly – in the titles that we give our articles. What is "natural" for us is often quite artificial for readers, and quite unhelpful. Conversely, the use of parenthetical disambiguation is quite familiar – quite natural – to most readers. Everyone knows perfectly well what Scale (music) will be about.
In this case, I say Britannica and the dictionaries have it right; and we have it right for most of our music theory articles. Why not for this one? ☺?
NoeticaTea? 09:12, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
"even though it is sometimes used in running text to avoid ambiguity." Precisely! And in fact, our article titling policy explicitly prefers "natural" disambiguation -- that is, of the sort one would find in running text. Powers T 18:12, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support per Noetica's Paolo's points 1, 2, 4, and 5. As long as Musical scale redirects to the new title, I don't see why not. While I don't think it matters much either way, consistency is a worthy goal. Rivertorch (talk) 00:14, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
Fine, Rivertorch. Note that those numbered points are Paolo's, not mine. ☺ NoeticaTea? 01:06, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
So they are. Thanks for pointing this out. (And thanks to Paolo for writing good points!) Rivertorch (talk) 05:25, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support Scale (music). In the flow of speech or writing, "musical scale" is a perfectly acceptable ad hoc disambiguation. As the subject title for an encyclopedia article, the parenthetic form seems more appropriate. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 00:51, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support Scale (music), as already expressed in preceding section. −Woodstone (talk) 02:59, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • I hate all the parentheses in general, so I'm biased. This doesn't seem like a particularly bad example at all, so renaming it would be fine. —Keenan Pepper 07:10, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
Just a dream . I do not like parentheses either. I'd rather disambiguate by adding a path such as that used to show the position of a web page or file within a website or File system. For instance: MusicScale (a better format, which I cannot reproduce, is used in the path bar of Windows Explorer in Windows 7). However, this would require a modification of the Mediawiki interface. Disambiguation would be obtained by simply assigning a cathegory (such as "Music") to an article. The path would appear automatically before the title, only if needed to disambiguate. This is similar to what we typically do in the first sentence of most Wikipedia articles (see point 3 in my support statement above). It requires a modification in Mediawiki because it implies that, when you type "Scale" in Wikipedia's search box, the context menu will show, for instance, the following items:
  • Music → Scale
  • String instruments → Scale
  • Album → Scale
  • Descriptive set theory → Scale
  • Scale ratio (in this case, "Ratio → Scale" is not appropriate)
  • Cartography → Scale
  • Social sciences → Scale
  • Geography → Scale = Metereology → Scale = Astronomy → Scale, etc. (same meaning in different contexts)
The article title, and each of the items in the search box menu would not need to show the whole path, but only the minimum number of cathegories needed for disambiguating (typically, just one). For instance, "String instruments → Scale" is enough for differentiating the scale of string instruments from other scales, although the complete path would be "Music → Instruments → String instruments → Scale". If a title does not require disambiguation, its path will not be shown at all. For instance, Johann Sebastian Bach is enough to indicate a specific article, although its complete path (or one of the many possible ones pointing to the same article) would be "Music → Composers → Johann Sebastian Bach".
This is currently just a dream. Mediawiki can be modified, but not in a short time. In the meantime, we can speed up the process by adopting the only method currently available to disambiguate by means of cathegories, i.e., by supporting Noetica's request.
Paolo.dL (talk) 08:45, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support, per Noetica and Paolo. Neotarf (talk) 12:50, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose either title is fine. If it's not broke, we don't need to fix it. ---Kvng (talk) 22:19, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I am a bit confused. According to your premise, either you are neutral, or you should also oppose the move which in 2006 substituted the original title (Scale (music)) with the current one (Musical scale)... Paolo.dL (talk) 12:45, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

New article: Tetratonic scale[edit]

I noticed this term had no link, so created a start article of Tetratonic scale (a scale having only four notes). I'd welcome any support in expanding the article. MatthewVanitas (talk) 17:38, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Reordering "Types of scale"[edit]

I'd submit that "Types of scale" would read smoother done in order of quantity. Would folks support modifying it to the below? MatthewVanitas (talk) 21:51, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Types of scale

Scales may be described according to the intervals they contain:

or by the number of different pitch classes they contain:

I agree this looks much better than what is presently in the article. I'd say go for it, though perhaps for completeness' sake it would be good to add "dodecatonic" as an alternate for "chromatic", in parallel to diatonic/heptatonic, whole-tone/hexatonic.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:32, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Definition - does a scale have to be ordered?[edit]

Current definition:

  • "In music, a scale is any set of musical notes ordered in an ascending or descending sequence."


  • Does a set of notes have to be ordered to be a scale?
  • Does a set of notes have to have a particular temporal sequence to be a scale?

If we consider a scale as a set of pitches (or pitch classes), e.g. {A, B, C, D, E, F, G}, there is no specific ordering. If we specify one pitch to be the tonic, then we have introduced an order. But does a musical scale have to specify a tonic?

If we consider a scale as a set of notes that can be played in a temporal sequence, then if we specify the sequence, we have introduced an order. But does a musical scale have to specify a temporal sequence? Isn't {A, B, C, D, E, F, G} a musical scale regardless of what sequence the notes might be played in?

Webrobate (talk) 05:30, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

You seem to be using a narrow definition of "ordering", making this equivalent to "performing sequence". By definition (as given in this article), a scale views the notes within a set with respect to pitch height. This is conventionally described as "order". If one chooses to play the notes in that sequence (low to high, or the reverse), we usually say the performer is playing "a scale", or is playing "in scale order"; if one chooses to play in some other order, then "scalewise" does not apply. Does that help?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:54, 28 December 2012 (UTC)
A scale is an ordered set of notes. They are ordered by pitch (or fundamental frequency), and the order may be either ascending or descending. The term "scale" comes from Latin "scala", which means "stair" (this is the reason why one of the meanings of the verb "scale" is "climb over"). The expressions "scale step", "whole step", "half step" are consistent with this etymology of the term scale. If the scale were not an ordered set, it would not be possible to define scale steps (first, second, third...). Also, it would not be possible to define interval numbers (unison, second, third, ...). The natural notes are named A, B, C, ... so that when they are in "scale order" (i.e., ordered by pitch) they are also in alphabetic order (the alphabet is an ordered set of letters). Paolo.dL (talk) 08:55, 28 December 2012 (UTC)
It needs to be said for clarification, that even when a scale is illustrated in sequence of descending pitch, its members are still identified numerically in ascending sequence. For example, in the ascending and descending forms of the melodic minor scale, the sixth and seventh scale degrees take different pitches. We can make that statement because they have not taken different numerical identities as numbered scale members. In other words, they are still considered the sixth and seventh scale degrees, counting from the bottom up, even when the scale is notated in pitch sequence from the top down. (talk) 03:23, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

Scales and pitch[edit]

"A single scale can be manifested at many different pitch levels. For example, a C major scale can be started at C4 (middle C; see scientific pitch notation) and ascending an octave to C5; or it could be started at C6, ascending an octave to C7. As long as all the notes can be played, the octave they take on can be altered."

The text above, which is the entire content of the "Scales and pitch" section, has a problem. I'd like to just gut the whole section, but moves like that usually get reverted, so I'll discuss it here first. Here's why I don't like it: It confuses the term "scale" in music theory, commonly meaning a collection of pitch classes with one of them being designated tonic, with the term "scale" meaning a finger exercise in piano instruction (like "practice your scales and arpeggios daily"). An octave-repeating scale in music theory is implicitly understood to continue indefinitely in both directions (even beyond the range of hearing) and contain all of those pitches. Theory books find it convenient to illustrate a scale by notating its members with each pitch class represented once and arranged low to high, except the tonic, which is usually shown repeated at the octave. Unfortunately, they don't explicitly state "and continuing in both directions indefinitely", which could allow novices to misinterpret a scale as being the same as that written example. It's actually unnecessary to write the repeated tonic at the octave in order to completely define an octave-repeating scale. A C major scale can be completely defined by writing 7 notes, not 8, because it only contains 7 pitch classes. Writing 8 is just a convention (probably to avoid the discomfort of "hanging on the leading tone" for anyone who is sight singing along while they're reading the theory book). The second tonic shown in book illustrations has nothing to do with the definition of "scale" in music theory. The one-octave snippet typical in book illustrations has nothing to do with scale theory. A scale doesn't begin and end at tonic delimiters. Finger exercises called "scales" do typically begin on the tonic, reverse direction at the tonic in a different octave, and end on the tonic again. But that meaning of scale (as an exercise) is different than the theoretical meaning of scale that most of this article is describing. Just like an arpeggio (exercise) is not the same as a "chord" (music theory), even though an arpeggio is composed of chord tones, so a scale (exercise) is not the same as a scale (music theory), even though the exercise is composed of scale members (music theory).

Maybe, instead of deleting this section, it should be rewritten to say that "scale" has another meaning in music, which is a type of finger exercise? (talk) 01:50, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

Non Intelligibility as an interested non specialist,looking to gain some understanding of music. i got none. the whole article is more or less gobbledygook to someone with no prior knowledge. is this a function of the editing process where experts have added and subtracted their edits over time allowing the whole article to drift into a zone where only these experts can enter.. is there a process where articles can be examined, not for exactitude or fulsomeness, but for common sense, to deliver up articles that non- speicialists can benefit from. perhaps a prologue?

Daiyounger (talk) 20:42, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ Johnston, Ben. "Scalar Order as a Compositional Resource": Perspectives of New Music 2 no.2 (Spring-Summer 1964), 56-76
  2. ^ Johnston, Ben. "Maximum Clarity" and Other Writings on Music. Edited with an introduction by Bob Gilmore. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
  3. ^ Babbitt, Milton. "Contemporary Music Composition and Music Theory as Contemporary Intellectual History," inPerspectives in Musicology. Edited by Barry S. Brook, Edward O.D. Downes, and Sherman Van Solkema. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972.