The Chromatic Scale
The Pentatonic Scale (below) that we just covered is limiting in a lot of ways. The notes are not consistently spaced and there are so few of them. Modern music demands a more flexible system.
Thus the Chromatic Scale was born. This system added 7 more notes to fill in the gaps while still including all the notes from the Pentatonic Scale. Click to hear the notes.
Almost all modern instruments are tuned to this system, including guitars, keyboards, violins, etc. For example, press the keys of the piano below to see how they match up to the 12-note system.
Naming the Notes
At this point we've only been labeling the notes 1 through 12. It's time to show you their real names.
Unfortunately, I truly believe that the naming of the notes is why music theory is so difficult. If I could go back in time, I would not name the notes this way. But since it's what we've been using for thousands of years, there's no real way around it. Here they are:
Let's point out some poor qualities about this:
- We use 7 letters to describe 12 notes.
- There are sharps (#) each of which can also be called a flat.
- Not all the notes have sharps or flats.
- The natural letters will play a C Major scale, but only when you start on C.
This 12-note system has a lot of nice properties. The first is Equal Temperament. This means that the interval between any two adjacent notes is exactly the same.
Why is this useful? Well it means we can start a melody on any note. Try it out.
Too many notes
A downside to having all of these notes is that not all of them sound good together, making this system less forgiving than the Pentatonic Scale. Lets listen to some that don't sound so nice.
Next, we'll take a look at notes that do sound good together.Next Section