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Music Theory Quiz and tutorial: Test Your Knowledge of Scales
Depending on the type of music you're interested in as a musician or music student, some scales will be more important than others. A good general knowledge of scales, however, is a worthwhile thing to have. Try this simple ten question quiz on musical scales to test, refresh or even improve your knowledge of scales.
Music theory quiz - Scales
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For any that you may have got wrong, have a look at the answer explanations below. There's some detailed info explaining more about scales.
- Which major scale has no sharp or flat notes?
C major, consisting of notes: CDEFGAB&C, is the only major scale containing no sharp or flat notes. This explains why it's so commonly used in examples. The absence of sharps and flats makes it the simplest scale (and key) to work with on paper.
- Name the 3rd note of the scale of D natural minor.
It's F. The third note of all minor scales is three semitones (a minor 3rd) above the first note.
- How does a harmonic minor scale differ from a natural minor scale?
The 7th note is raised by a semitone. Raising the 7th note in minor key music produces chord progressions that are stronger and more forcefully establish the tonal centre of the music. The harmonic minor scale was devised to reflect this common practice of composers.
- How many notes of the major pentatonic scale are separated by semitones?
None. The separating intervals are major seconds and minor thirds. The minor pentatonic also has no semitones separating its notes.
The lack of semitones give these scales, and music composed with them, a unique sound. There are some pentatonic scales around the world that do have semitones separating some of the notes, but the major and minor pentatonic scales commonly used in Western music (and around the world) have none.
- Which minor pentatonic scale contains the same notes as G major pentatonic?
E minor pentatonic is the answer. G major pentatonic consists of notes: G A B D E G and E minor pentatonic consists of notes: E G A B D E. This holds true for all major and minor pentatonic scales. Any major pentatonic scale will have the same notes as the minor pentatonic scale that is a minor 3rd lower. This is equally true for major and minor scales too.
- The first note of major and minor scales is called what?
The tonic. In the major-minor key system, which dominates Western music, notes can have functions as well as pitch. The tonic note will be heard in actual music as the 'tonal centre' or principal note that the music constantly returns to and sounds like 'home' when we hear it.
- Which classical scale type has a descending form that differs from its ascending form?
The melodic minor scale. In traditional classical, and pre-classical, usage, composers working in minor keys would routinely raise the 6th and 7th notes of the natural minor scale in ascending melodic passages to create a more dynamic rise to the tonic note. This wasn't required or useful in descending passages moving away from the tonic, and so the notes in descending runs were usually unchanged from the natural minor. Theorists marked this common compositional practice by devising the melodic minor scale. This scale is similar to the original natural minor scale but ascends with the 6th and 7th notes raised a semitone, followed by its descending form with those raised notes reverted to normal.
- How does the scale known as the Dorian Mode, differ from the natural minor scale starting on the same note?
The 6th note is raised a semitone. For example:
A minor = ABCDEFG
A Dorian = ABCDEF#G
Music composed in the Dorian mode (e.g., Scarborough Fair) has a very minor feel to it, but the raised 6th creates a subtle difference.
- What's the only triad chord type that can be formed from the notes of a whole tone scale?
Augmented Triad. Whereas major and minor scales can produce a variety of triad types due to the variable spacing between their notes, the whole tone scale has no variable spacing. Every note is separated from its neighbour by a whole tone, which means that every interval of a third (the building blocks of triads) will be two whole tones, or a major 3rd. Combining notes separated by intervals of a major 3rd, produces only one chord type - Augmented triads.
- Which of the following scales is not a diatonic scale?
The Blues scale. Scales that are classed as diatonic have a certain arrangement of tones and semitones. They all consist of five whole tones (whole steps) and two semitones (half steps) arranged in such a way that the two semitones are separated by two or three whole tones as in the major scale (TTSTTTS), the Mixolydian mode (TTSTTST), or even the mostly unusable Locrian mode (STTSTTT).
The Blues scale, in its most common form, is a minor pentatonic scale with an extra note inserted between the scale's 3rd and 4th notes. ACD (Eb) EG. It's not diatonic.