Scale Degree Names Explained For Parents

Music scales are the basics of music theory.

When musical notes are grouped and arranged in descending or ascending order of pitch, it is called a scale.

Each scale is marked by something called a scale degree. Scale degrees are measured by how far the given note's pitch is from the note at the scale's start.

The names of the scale degrees are one of the most important things in music theory, they are important in both major and minor scales. Children are easily confused by the concept though, and many parents struggle to help if they aren't from musical backgrounds. We will explain all the different scale degree names for parents to help you understand and teach your child; making it an entertaining learning experience for all.

To help children remember these names, we would suggest using a mnemonic such as, Today Some Musicians Should Develop Scale Learning. Why not try making up your own?

To learn more about different names, take a look at these royal surnames or these Icelandic surnames.

Scale Degree Names

Musicians have to remember the scale degree names.

First Scale Degree: Tonic

The first scale degree is called the tonic. It is also known as the keynote because it is the most pivotal note in the scale. Any seven note scale (diatonic scale) begins with the tonic, and other degree names are based on their position in relation to the tonic.

Second Scale Degree: Supertonic

The next degree in a seven note scale is called the supertonic. The supertonic is just above the tonic in the note scale.

Third Scale Degree: Mediant

Mediant, Latin for 'middle' is the third degree. Despite not being one of the middle scale degrees, it has this name because the first, third and fifth degrees form the triad chord. The third degree is the middle triad chord, so it is called the Mediant.

Fourth Scale Degree: Subdominant

The fourth on the list of scale degrees is called the subdominant. The subdominant is below the fifth note (called dominant). The word 'sub ' in Latin means below, and hence, the fourth note is called subdominant.

Fifth Scale Degree: Dominant

Dominant is the fifth degree amongst the scale degrees and is found above the subdominant. The dominant chord has a lot of harmony around it. This is why the dominant always tends to change its resolution to the tonic. In music theory, dominant is regarded as the second most significant degree after tonic.

Sixth Scale Degree: Submediant

The sixth degree out of the scale degrees is called the submediant. Sub, in Latin meaning below, is used for this degree on a music scale.  The submediant is located a third (a mediant) below the tonic and hence, it is called the Submediant.

Seventh Scale Degree:  Leading Tone

The seventh scale degree is a unique note.  The scale degrees remain the same in the case of both major and minor scales up to the seventh, but the seventh degree has a different name and position in a major scale compared to in a minor scale. This degree is called the leading tone in a major scale and it is only a half step below the tonic. When you play on a major scale, the leading tone will lead you to the tonic. However, in the case of a natural minor scale, this seventh note is compressed. It is then is known as the subtonic.

Kidadl has lots of great name articles to inspire you. If you liked our list of scale degree names then why not take a look at these musical baby names, or for something different take a look at these names that mean happy.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.