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Scales Cheat Sheet

A Guide to Musical Scales For Guitarists


Basic music theory terms with descriptions.

Basic music theory terms

  • Musical note - a pitch and duration of sound.

  • Accidental - a symobol, which changes the pitch of a note. Most common accidentals are: sharp, flat and natural.

  • Pitch - property of sounds, which allows their ordering on a frequency - related scale.

  • Scale - a set of musial notes ordered by fundamental frequency (or pitch). A scales spans a single octave.

  • Based on their intervals, scales are divided into categories like minor and major.

  • Key signature - a set of sharp, flat and natural symbols, which desigates notes, which are to be played higher or lower than corresponding natural notes.

  • Fretboard - part of the guitar between the nut and the bridge.

  • Interval - a recoginzable distance between two successive notes in the scale. Five - note scale has 10, while in seven - note scale one can find 21 intervals.

  • Pentatonic scale - a scale with 5 notes per octave.

  • Heptatonic scale - a scale with 7 notes per octave.

  • Mode - a scale together with a set of characteristic melodic behaviours.

  • Relative scale - a minor and major key, which have the same signature and which differ by no more than one accidental.

  • Modulation - the act of changing from one key to another.

  • Chord - any charmonic set of pitches consisting of two of more notes (also called pitches) played simultaneously.

  • Chord progression - a succession of two or more musical chords. Alternation between two chords may be thought of as the most basic chord progression.

  • Scale degree - the position of a particular note on a scale relative to the tonic - the first and the main note of the scale.

  • Backcycling

    Backcycling is a process of extending a chord progression based on creating one or more extra dominant-to-tonic movements, or if taken further - re-creating the whole original chord progression.