Technical names

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:

1st= Tonic

2nd= Supertonic

3rd= Mediant

4th= Subdominant

5th= Dominant

6th= Submediant

7th = Leading Note 

Here are the notes and technical names in the key of F major:

F G A Bb C D E
Tonic  Supertonic  Mediant  Subdominant  Dominant  Submediant  Leading Note

Here are the notes and technical names in the key of F minor (harmonic). (Either version of the minor scale can be used.)

F G Ab Bb C Db E natural
Tonic  Supertonic  Mediant  Subdominant  Dominant  Submediant  Leading Note

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:

  1.  the note C in A minor
  2.  the note C# in C# major
  3.  the note D in G major
  4.  the note Eb in C minor 
  5. the note E in D major
  6. the note E# in F# minor
  7. the note F in Ab major  
  8.  the note F# in A major 
  9.  the note G in D minor 
  10.  the note Ab in C minor 
  11. the note A in G major 
  12.  the note Bb in Eb major 
  13.   the note B# in C# minor

B. Name the note which is:

  1. the dominant in B minor
  2. the tonic in Bb major
  3. the submediant in F minor harmonic
  4. the leading note in A minor
  5. the supertonic in F# minor
  6. the subdominant in C major