Scale Degree Reference Chart for Major & Minor Scale Degrees

    A scale degree is the position of a note within a specific musical scale. Degrees are often referred to by number (e.g. scale degree 1, scale degree 2,...)

    In the case of the major scale and the natural minor scale, the scale degrees have also been given specific names that highlight the quality and function of that scale degree within the scale.

    These scale degree names are Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, Subtonic and Leading Tone. The Leading Tone is scale degree 7 of the major scale, while the natural minor scale doesn't have a Leading Tone and instead uses Subtonic as the name for scale degree 7.

    Below you'll find a chart of the different scale degree names and numbers, as well as the note intervals for the different major and natural minor scales. You can click on a specific major or minor scale to see the notes that occupy each degree. You can even click on the note names to hear that pitch on the piano, and hence compare the sound of the different scale degrees.

    degreesnotesintervals
    1: TonicCUnison
    2: SupertonicDMajor 2nd
    3: MediantEMajor 3rd
    4: SubdominantFPerfect 4th
    5: DominantGPerfect 5th
    6: SubmediantAMajor 6th
    7: Leading ToneBMajor 7th
    1: Octave/TonicCPerfect 8th

    Scale Degrees and their Function

    Here's a little bit more about the function of each of those scale degrees:

    • Tonic: The tonal center, where things want to resolve for that scale.
    • Supertonic: A whole step above the tonic, and has a predominant function.
    • Mediant: The mid-point between the tonic and the dominant.
    • Subdominant: The tone right before the dominant and it has a predominant function.
    • Dominant: The most stable tonality after the tonic itself. It's a perfect 5th away from the tonic, hence its stability.
    • Submediant: The mid-point between the Tonic and the Subdominant, similar to how the mediant is the mid-point between the tonic and the dominant.
    • Leading Tone or Subtonic: The Leading Tone is only a half step below the tonic, so it really wants to resolve to the tonic and return to the tonal center. With the natural minor scale, the Subtonic is a whole step below the Tonic, so there's less of a feeling like it wants to resolve to the tonic compared with the Leading Tone.


    piano samples

    The piano samples used for this scale degree reference are from “ Salamander Grand Piano V3 ” by Alexander Holm, licensed under CC BY 3.0.

    Circle of fifths with major and minor keys adgcfebDAEBGCF mini circle of fifths