What Are The Top 3 Diatonic Scales? An Overview

“What is a Diatonic scale?” You may be wondering to yourself.

Well, a Diatonic scale is a grouping of any 7, non-repeating, notes arranged from high to low or low to high. 

The most common 7-note scale (by far) is the “Major” scale. It is used in 99% of all western music.

This is the scale that most people learn when they get an education in music.

But it is not the ONLY 7-note scale.

Two other very popular scales in this 7-note family are the “Harmonic” minor and “Melodic” minor scales.

These two are most commonly used in Classical, Jazz, and Metal Music, so you’ll probably want to learn them as well!


Major Scale

Major Scale Overview

Here it is, the most common scale in the Western World. It contains 7 modes which are named after ancient Greek provinces. Almost every single song you’ve ever heard was written using notes, chords, and scale fragments derived from this scale.

This examle is in the Key of “C” meaning the first mode is located on the note “C”.

It contains the following chords:

  • Major (3)
  • Minor (3)
  • Diminished (1)

built on the following notes:

Major:

  • (C E G)
  • (F A C)
  • (G B D)

Minor:

  • (A C E)
  • (D F A)
  • (E G B)

Diminshed:

  • (B D F)

1. Ionian Mode Major Scale Overview Mode 1

  • Tonic: C
  • Major 2nd: D
  • Major 3rd: E
  • Perfect 4th: F
  • Perfect 5th: G
  • Major 6th: A
  • Major 7th: B
 Major Scale Mode 1

2. Dorian ModeMajor Scale Overview Mode 2

  • Tonic: D
  • Major 2nd: E
  • Minor 3rd: F
  • Perfect 4th: G
  • Perfect 5th: A
  • Major 6th: B
  • Minor 7th: C

Major Scale Mode 2


3. Phrygian Mode

Major Scale Overview Mode 3

  • Tonic: E
  • Minor 2nd: F
  • Minor 3rd: G
  • Perfect 4th: A
  • Perfect 5th: B
  • Minor 7th: D

Major Scale Mode 3


4. Lydian Mode

Major Scale Overview Mode 4

  • Tonic: F
  • Major 2nd: G
  • Major 3rd: A
  • Augmented 4th: B
  • Perfect 5th: C
  • Major 6th: D
  • Major 7th: E

Major Scale Mode 4


5. Mixolydian Mode

Major Scale Overview Mode 5

  • Tonic: G
  • Major 2nd: A
  • Major 3rd: B
  • Perfect 4th: C
  • Perfect 5th: D
  • Major 6th: E
  • Minor 7th: F

Major Scale Mode 5


6. Aeolean Mode

Major Scale Overview Mode 6

  • Tonic: A
  • Major 2nd: B
  • Minor 3rd: C
  • Perfect 4th: D
  • Perfect 5th: E
  • Minor 6th: F
  • Minor 7th: G

Major Scale Mode 6


7. Locrean Mode

Major Scale Overview Mode 7

  • Tonic: B
  • Minor 2nd: C
  • Minor 3rd: D
  • Perfect 4th: E
  • Diminished 5th: F
  • Minor 6th: G
  • Minor 7th: A

Major Scale Mode 7


Harmonic Minor Scale

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview

This is the second most common scale in western music and is used commonly in both Classical music and Metal Music. There is really only one interval that sets this scale apart from the standard “Major” scale: the raised (or sharped, or major) 7th tone of the first mode. Since all the modes of this scale share the same notes, just in different orders, that changed interval carriers through the all the other modes of this scale as well. So you can really see how just one small change can lead to very interesting changes throughout the enitre scale.

This examle is in the Key of “A” meaning the first mode is located on the note “A”.

It contains the following chords:

  • Agumented (1)
  • Major (2)
  • Minor (2)
  • Diminished (2)

built on the following notes:

Augmented:

  • (C E G#)

Major:

  • (F A C)
  • (E G# B)

Minor:

  • (A C E)
  • (D F A)

Diminshed:

  • (B D F)
  • (G# B D)

1. Harmonic Aeolean:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 1

  • Tonic: A
  • Major 2nd: B
  • Minor 3rd: C
  • Perfect 4th: D
  • Perfect 5th: E
  • Minor 6th: F
  • Major 7th: G#

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 1


2. Harmonic Locrean:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 2

  • Tonic: B
  • Minor 2nd: C
  • Minor 3rd: D
  • Perfect 4th: E
  • DIminished 5th: F
  • Major 6th: G#
  • Minor 7th: A

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 2


3. Harmonic Ionian:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 3

  • Tonc: C
  • Major 2nd: D
  • Major 3rd: E
  • Perfect 4th: F
  • Augmented 5th: G#
  • Major 6th: A
  • Major 7th: B

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 3


4. Harmonic Dorian:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 4

  • Tonic: D
  • Major 2nd: E
  • Minor 3rd: F
  • Augmented 4th: G#
  • Perfect 5th: A
  • Major 6th: B
  • Minor 7th: C

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 4


5. Harmonic Phyrgian:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 5

  • Tonic: E
  • Minor 2nd: F
  • Major 3rd: G#
  • Perfect 4th: A
  • Perfect 5th: B
  • Minor 6th: C
  • Minor 7th: D

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 5


6. Harmonic Lydian:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 6

  • Tonic: F
  • Augmented 2nd: G#
  • Major 3rd: A
  • Augmented 4th: B
  • Perfect 5th: C
  • Major 6th: D
  • Major 7th: E

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 6


7. Harmonic Mixolydian:

Harmonic Minor Scale Overview Mode 7

  • Tonic: G#
  • Minor 2nd: A
  • Minor 3rd: B
  • Diminished 4th: C
  • Diminished 5th: D
  • Major 6th: E
  • Minor 7th: F

Harmonic Minor Scale Mode 7


Melodic Minor Scale Melodic Minor Scale Overview

This is the 3rd most common scale in western music and is featured prominently in Jazz music. Similar to the Harmonic Minor scale, the Melodic Minor scale has only one note different than the standard “Major” scale. In this case, that note is “C#” which adds a major 7th tone to what would otherwise be the Dorian mode of the standard diatonic scale. It has the same number of chord types as the Harmonic Minor scale, but they occour in different “places” within the scale. This has a great effect on voice leading and chord progressions.

This examle is in the Key of “D” meaning the first mode is located on the note “D”.

It contains the following chords:

  • Agumented (1)
  • Major (2)
  • Minor (2)
  • Diminished (2)

built on the following notes:

Augmented:

  • (F A C#)

Major:

  • (A C# E)
  • (G B D)

Minor:

  • (D F A)
  • (E G B)

Diminshed:

  • (B D F)
  • (C# E G)

1. Melodic Dorian:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 1

  • Tonic: D
  • Major 2nd: E
  • Minor 3rd: F
  • Perfect 4th: G
  • Perfect 5th: A
  • Major 6th:B
  • Major 7th: C#

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 1


2. Melodic Phyrgian:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 2

  • Tonic: E
  • Minor 2nd: F
  • Minor 3rd: G
  • Perfect 4th: A
  • Perfect 5th: B
  • Major 6th: C#
  • Minor 7th: D

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 2


3. Melodic Lydian:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 3

  • Tonic: F
  • Major 2nd: G
  • Major 3rd: A
  • Augmented 4th: B
  • Augmented 5th: C#
  • Major 6th: D
  • Major 7th: E

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 3


4. Melodic Mixolydian:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 4

  • Tonic: G
  • Major 2nd: A
  • Major 3rd: B
  • Augmented 4th: C#
  • Perfect 5th: D
  • Major 6th: E
  • Minor 7th: F

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 4


5. Melodic Aeolean:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 5

  • Tonic: A
  • Major 2nd: B
  • Major 3rd: C#
  • Perfect 4th: D
  • Perfect 5th: E
  • Minor 6th: F
  • Minor 7th: G

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 5


6. Melodic Locrean:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 6

  • Tonic: B
  • Major 2nd: C#
  • Minor 3rd: D
  • Perfect 4th: E
  • Diminished 5th: F
  • Minor 6th: G
  • Minor 7th: A

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 6


7. Melodic Ionian:

Melodic Minor Scale Overview Mode 7

  • Tonic: C#
  • Minor 2nd: D
  • Minor 3rd: E
  • Diminished 4th: F
  • Diminished 5th: G
  • Minor 6th: A
  • Minor 7th: B

Melodic Minor Scale Mode 7


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