Each note of a scale can be given a number from 1-7. For example, in the key of C major, C=1st, D=2nd and so on. These are called the “degrees of the scale”.
Each degree of the scale also has a “technical name“. These names are often used when we talk about chords, for example the “dominant chord” is the chord built on the 5th degree of a scale. Here is the complete list of technical names:
7th = Leading Note
Here are the notes and technical names in the key of F major:
Here are the notes and technical names in the key of F minor (harmonic). (Either version of the minor scale can be used.)
It might help you to learn these names if you look at what the words really mean.
- The dominant is the most important note after the tonic (because these two notes work together to help fix the key of a piece). It’s 5 notes higher than the tonic.
- The subdominant is the next most important note after the dominant. It is 5 notes lower than the tonic (which is why it’s called the “sub”=”lower” dominant.
- The word “mediant” is connected to the word “middle”. The mediant note is midway between the tonic and the dominant. It’s 3 notes higher than the tonic.
- The submediant is midway between the tonic and the subdominant. It’s 3 notes lower than the tonic. (Remember, “sub-” = lower).
- The supertonic is “one more than” the tonic. It’s one note higher than the tonic.
- The leading note is one note below the tonic. This note is called the leading note because it is very often followed by the tonic when used in a melody – so it generally “leads to the tonic”.
- The word tonic in music has a complicated etymology! The modern meaning is “keynote”, or the note we head home to to finish a piece of music. It is the adjective derived from the noun “tone”, which originally comes from the Greek tonus, meaning “stretching”. Most likely the idea came from the fact that a string, when stretched, can produce a sound.
Technical Names Exercises
Hover your mouse over the questions (tap on mobiles) to reveal the answers.
A. Give the technical name (tonic, dominant, etc) of:
B. Name the note which is: