Purpose: Learn to identify the scale degrees, both natural and altered.

Difficulty: Two levels, one for major and one for minor keys. You need to know the notes of each scale and you need to know the terminolgy for degrees (tonic, supertonic, etc. - see below).

How it works:

You'll be asked questions like the following: "Please play the subdominant of the key of Bb major." In response, you would play the note Eb and be marked correct. Touch the answer box for next question.

A good companion for this and other Musica Touch™ exercises is our free multimedia textbook, Exploring Theory with Practica Musica (available for download at the iBooks store). The scale degrees and different types of scales are presented in Chapter 6.

The degrees are tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, subtonic (or leading tone), corresponding to the 7 notes of the scale in order. Really we could just call them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and sometimes people do, but the names are more descriptive. The seventh note of the scale is called the leading tone when it's just a half step from the tonic as it is in the major scale and the harmonic minor scale. When the 7th tone is a whole step below the tonic it's the subtonic, just as the supertonic is the note a whole step above the tonic.

The degrees can also be raised or lowered a halfstep while keeping the same note name. For example, G is the 5th degree of the C major scale, called the dominant. When raised to G# you could call it the raised dominant. Ab, on the other hand, would be the "lowered submediant" in C major, since it's a half step lower than the submediant, A, and has the same note name. But the raised dominant and the lowered submediant would both be played on the same piano key.

In minor keys you have the same 7 degrees, named the same way. There are three different ways of playing in minor, each of which has a name. If the melody uses only the notes found in the key signature, with no added sharps or flats, it's the "natural minor." For example, the white keys starting on A play the natural minor scale. The 3rd degree, called the mediant, would be C. The raised mediant would be C# and the lowered mediant would be Cb.

Often the 7th degree is raised in minor keys so that the chord built on the dominant can be major - when that happens it's called the "harmonic minor." In A minor, the 7th degree, the subtonic, is G. Raise that and it becomes a leading tone.When the 7th degree is raised in an ascending minor passage the composer will often also raise the 6th in order to avoid the awkward interval between the natural 6th and raised 7th degrees - that practice produces the "melodic minor." In A minor that 6th degree, the submediant F, becomes a raised submediant: F#.

Spend time with this activity and you'll be confident that you know the degrees of all the common major and minor scales.

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