Tonality: Scales & Chords

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This lesson is part of the Fundamentals of Sound & Music module.


  • Students will understand the fundamental concepts of tonality and scales, including terminology like “pentatonic” and “heptatonic.”
  • Student will learn the distinction between different scale types (number of notes, steps/semitones)
  • Students will be familiar with concepts of dissonance and consonance in regards to harmony, and with common harmonic terminology such as tertial, quartal, triad and tetrad.
  • Student will be able to identify scale notes for any melody
  • Student will be able to surmise a tonic for simple tonal melodies
  • Student will comprehend the difference between tonal and non-tonal (or atonal) music
  • Optional: Student will learn about basic tonal structures in various non-Western cultures (focus: Indian raga, gamelan patet, Arabic maqam)



Instructor References[edit]

Videos & Listening[edit]

Class Activities[edit]

  • Discussion and demonstration of the concepts of tonality and tonal centers
  • Discussion and demonstration of scale subsets within a particular tuning system
  • Discussion and demonstration of different sizes and types of chords
  • Scalar analysis of different melodies


  • Analysis of a piece of music for tonic, scale
  • Analysis of chords (presented aurally or in protonotation)