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Scale Degree names

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by markjsmithbass, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. markjsmithbass

    markjsmithbass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Most people seem to know the term Tonic but I've seen a bit of confusion over the use of the term Dominant (especially as to why a 7 chord is called a Dominant 7 chord) so I've put up a lesson on the naming of the major scale degrees just to clear things up:


    I suppose a lot of people will find the terms Supertonic and Submediant fairly useless unless you're studying for theory exams but I do think that knowing these terms can help in differentiating between the use of intervals and scale degrees. For example (as I show in the vid) a perfect 5th from C is G but that G can be also be at a twelfth distant or even a fourth if you invert it. Whereas the scale degree is a still a fifth no matter how far away it is. That can be slightly confusing for some people so learning the names can help differentiate between intervals as a measurement and as relative scale degrees.

    Anyway, for what it's worth, it's out there for anyone interested.

  2. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Very nice. I like the bit of voice leading you put in there and the emphasis on harmonic function. Knowing the names for these things is useless without having some idea of how to put them to work.

    I don't know if anyone is interested, but this is the rationale for the naming system:

    Dominant - a fifth above the tonic
    Mediant - the middle point between the tonic and the dominant
    Supertonic - the scale degree directly above the tonic

    Then it does a mirror flip. Notice that it's the same thing, but with "sub" as a prefix:

    Subdominant - a fifth below the tonic
    Submediant - the middle point between the tonic and the subdominant
    Subtonic - the scale degree directly below the tonic


    Leading tone - describes the harmonic tendency of a subtonic that is a minor second away from the tonic to resolve to the tonic.

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