Mobile Music Production 2.1 - Scale Degrees


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    Published on Jan 27, 2022
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    In today’s video, we will be talking about Scale degrees.
    In my opinion, this is one of the most important things you’re going to learn in this course, when I first learned this concept it completely changed my perception of music. It simplified things for me and it made everything so much easier when it comes to listening to and studying music.

    A Scale degree is the position of the note relative to the root note.

    What does that really mean? Let’s say we are in D Major, this is the melody I came up with, and here’s another melody I came up with in G Major.

    Here are the two melodies, they sound exactly the same right? Even though they are technically playing different notes, the shape of the melody is the same, the intervals between the melodies are the exact same.

    So what scale degrees do is it gives us a sequence that simplifies music so that we don’t have to rely on the scale anymore.

    Now there are two types of scale degrees, there are scale degrees for individual notes and scale degrees for chords.

    The note one is really easy, so let’s take a scale of E major Scale degrees in notes are written in numbers so E is going to be root so it's one.

    E F# G# A B C# D# E
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

    Now let's use our previous example of D major and write this melody in scale degrees instead.

    D F# E G F# B A

    3 2 4 3 6 5
    Now that we have this number, we can move this to any other key

    Let's try this on M major.

    Scale degrees work exactly the same on minor scales

    D Minor

    D E F G A Bb C D
    1 2 3 4 5 6. 7 1

    Let’s apply the scale degrees of our previous melody on D minor.

    D F E G F Bb A
    1 3. 2 4 3 6. 5

    Once again you can transpose this to any scale.

    Scale degrees are great for learning melodies but it's also really important when you’re learning chords, later on, in the course, I will be talking about chord extensions and you really need to learn the scale degrees before you start learning how to make chords.

    For example, if I wanted to create an F Major 7 chord, we start with a basic F major triad and the 7th is going to be the scale degree, so starting from F which is 1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 so we add the 7 on top of our triad chord in order to get the Major 7 chord.

    We just went over scale degrees for notes now we have to go over scale degrees for chords and chord progressions. Now scale degrees for notes are represented by numbers but scale degrees for chords are represented by Roman numerals.

    So let's pick a key, let's try A major, we are going to start with our root note and create a triad and we are going to ascend the scale and keep making triads and note all chords we are getting.

    So here’s the A major triad, so this is our “1” in Scale Degrees and we will label this with a Roman numeral “I” like this. Now let's move on to the second note of the scale which is B, so we come up with this B minor triad chord. When you are playing a minor chord you want to label your Roman numerals in lower case letters so we will label this “ii” for 2. Lets we have the C sharp, from here, skip a note and create a C minor triad chord which we will label like this “iii”

    By the way, if you’re wondering how I am getting to these notes, its because I am skipping within the major scale notes, so when I am going from C# to E, I am not thinking about in terms of skipping 2 semitones, I am thinking about the notes that’s in the major scale we are working with.

    The next note is D, skip a note so it's F# and skip another note from there to A which creates a D major chord, which we will label like this “IV”. From E, create a triad from there we have an E major chord which we will label like this “V”. Next, we have F#, skip a note, A, skip a note, C# which creates an F# minor which means we have a minor 6 “vi”. The last note in our scale is this G#, skip a scale tone, B, skip a scale tone to D and this will create a Diminished chord.

    A diminished chord will be labeled with a lower case with a minus behind like this “vii -“, in other music theory books you might see a circle behind it instead of the minus sign. Now I know we haven’t really discussed diminished chords yet but don’t worry we will be diving deep into it later in the course for now you just need to know that it’s there.

    So what we just did was we figured out every single chord possible within A major and on top of that we tracked whether it's major, minor or diminished.
    Now we transfer that knowledge into any other major scale on the piano.

    Here’s a really popular chord progression, We go from C, G to Am to F
    Our first chord was C major within the scale of C, so we will label our first chord like this “I”, next chord was a G major (12345) so this is a “V” so the next chord was an Am “vi” and the last chord was an F major, 1234 which we will label with an “IV”. So our chord progression written in scale degrees looks like this

    C G Am F
    I V vi IV

    Now that we have learned that our chord progress is “I V vi IV” we can transfer that to any other keys. Let’s try this on E flat major. So “I V vi IV” on a E flat major looks like this.

    Now let’s do this for the minor scale, let’s pick C minor for this one, starting on C minor. (C D Eb F G Ab Bb C)
    We have C minor chord which is our 1 “I”, next from D we skip a note on our C major scale so we have F and we skip a note from there and we have Ab which creates a D diminished chord. Which we will label it like this “ii-“ Next note on the scale we have Eb, from there we skip a note to find G , and skip another note from there which is Bb, which creates Eb major chord which is our “3” and we will label like this “III”. Next one we have F, skip a note in the scale and we have Ab skip a note to C and we have a minor “iv” chord. Next note on the scale is G, skip a note to Bb and skip a note to D and we come up with a minor “v”. Next note is Ab, skip a note to C and skip a note to Eb and this is a major “VI” last one we have Bb, skip a note to D and then skip another note from there to F and we have Major 7 “VII”

    And we can even bring over the “1 5 6 4” chord progression into a minor scale because when we look at the notes we already know the quality of the chord, let’s say we are doing it in a B minor. “1 5 6 4” on a minor scale looks like this “i v VI iv”

    B D F# (i)
    F# A C# (v)
    G B D (VI)
    E G B (iv)

    This might have been a lot of information so go back and watch it again if you’re confused, if you guys don’t know your major and minor scales yet, its going to be really hard to get this down so make sure you learn your minor and major scales first.

    The one you should really focus on is memorizing the scale degrees for the chord progression so learning which is major learning which is minor, learning which is diminished that’s going to be crucial moving forward into the course.


    If you're a musician/music producer/artist, I am also hosting a PsyberX music contest where you will submit 30-second audio of you making/performing a Cyber-Punk type of music.


    Make sure to join the Discord server down below if you have any more questions.


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