Major scale degrees

Scale degrees in the Major Scale

Yup! We can name each note of the major scale (tonic solfa) using what we call scale degrees.

These names are not for fancy before we start calling names like “Tiger” or “Teddy bear “.

The names define their position and function including how it relates to other notes in the scale.


Remember I named notes using 1 to 7 (or eight to be more specific).

But here we are going to name them like this…

  • Tonic -it’s the keynote or home of the major scale (Tonal center). It brings everything to rest hence most songs starts and ends with the tonic.


  • Super tonic – the second note of the scale which is a tone above the tonic (resting note) hence it’s called the super tonic.


  • Mediant – it’s the 3rd note which is in between the tonic and the dominant (the 5) hence it is called Mediant. To verify this, please find the most middle note from your major scale that’s in-between “1” and “5”, you will notice it’s the “3”. Even in maths you will notice that 3 is median of this 1,2,3,4,5.


  • Sub-dominant – it’s the 4th. The name “sub-dominant ” simply mean“lower-dominant” . it’s the same interval below your tonic as your dominant(5) above the tonic. How? relax I will show you that below this page. Let’s see the dominant (5) first.


  • Dominant – why I call this dominant is because it’s second in importance after the Tonic. It’s the 5th note of the major scale.


  • Sub-Mediant – The 6th note of the major scale. Sub-mediant or “lower mediant” is middle between the tonic and sub-dominant just as Mediant is in the middle of dominant and Tonic.


  • Leading Tone or Sub-tonic – it’s the 7th note of the major scale. It has a strong pull or lead to the Tonic hence it’s called “leading tone”. it’s called sub-tonic maybe because it’s a semitone below the tonic.


  • Tonic (octave) – Maybe I have explained what an octave is before. It’s the same thing as the “tonic” but simply eight (oct) notes away from the Tonic. it has a conclusive feel especially when you play the leading tone before it.


Now let me explain the 4th degree before we go.


I said it’s

“The same interval below your tonic as your dominant above your Tonic”

Hence it’s called sub-dominant /lower dominant.

Now look at this image (I am using key C for quick analysis)

We all know that G is the 5th of key C and F is the 4th note as well (check your major scale for more clarity).

You can see that I used an arrow to denote below C /above C.

Now watch this carefully as you might not see it anywhere in the world.

Showing C as fifth interval from F (this makes F the lower-dominant in key C)

Here is the real dominant below…

C to G is a 5th interval it makes G the dominant


Wow! So do you now understand or you want me to say more?

Now you understand why the 4th (F on key C) is called sub-dominant or lower dominant.

Actually it’s still the 4th note of the major scale but the interval changes when it’s going below the Tonic.

Finally look at your circle of 5ths…

I told you that circle of 5ths move clockwise while Circle of 4ths is counterclockwise.

So please, move from F to C….. It’s a 5th interval.

C to G as well is a 5th interval too.

This saves you much stress as you can see that from F to C is a 5th and from C to G is also a 5th.

Please don’t lie to me that you don’t understand this as I would never believe you. lol

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