The chromatic scale

What's the chromatic scale?

Among the key elements of harmony, we can mention the scales. A scale is a set of notes that have some relationship to each other. Scales are the basis of modern harmony, because from them we can better understand the chords. Learning scales also help us to know what notes to use when we are making an arrangement, a solo or a composition.

The simplest scale is the chromatic scale. This is the scale on which Western music is based. It has the 12 notes that we use within our tuning system (there are other systems with different notes in cultures like India or China, for example). Below there is a list of each note expressed with English naming convention, which is the system that we will use from now on (the # symbol is called sharp):

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F# G, G# A, A#, B 

This is the way to name the ascending scale, that is, from the lowest to the highest note. We can name the descending scale too, from the highest note to the lowest one (the b is called flat):

C, B, Bb, A, Ab, G, Gb, F, E, Eb, D, Db

As we can see, there are  notes that are 'equivalent' to each other, these are called enharmonics: C# and Db D# and Eb F# and Gb G# and Ab A# and Bb Using either case depends on the context and tonality of the music piece. It is also important to note that there are other enharmonics, e.g. E# and F, C and B#, etc.

Every musician must be familiar with all these enharmonics. We must know all the notes of the chromatic scale in ascending and descending order. Practice that! Try to do it on a piano or keyboard. The chromatic scale can be used for 'passing notes' and in some compositions, such as the circus theme:

Well, that's all for now. We'll talk about more topics on the world of music and sound the next time.


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