I heard my band teacher talking about "scale degrees" and do not understand what he means.

  • 1
    Scale degree
    – user39614
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:20
  • 3
    If you don't understand what your teacher means, the usual thing to do is ask them.
    – PiedPiper
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:45
  • What research have you done, apart from posting the question here? At very least, ask teacher and peers.
    – Tim
    Sep 21, 2021 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


Supposing you know that music notes named cdefg or doremifasol are ascending like a scale (meaning a ladder or a stair) so a degrees is a single step of this scale.

But the band leader might also have meant the triads of thirds that are built on each degree: e.g. domiso or ceg. (If you skip always one note you get thirds and fifths like 135. You can play the tones 1-3-5 from any degree of an instrument. On the piano the degrees are the keys in the scale of C major the white keys.

Study the pattern of triads (chords) on a piano keyboard and you will get the idea of scales and degrees. If we play the row of white keys we get the C major scale. Starting with C = I ,D =II,E=III ...

As we've seen the scale degree can mean the single tone of each step, but also the chord on each step of this ladder.

  • 2
    I've never heard 'degree' used to mean a chord. We could talk of 'the triad on the 3rd degree of C major' (which would be E, G, B- E minor) but the 'degree' is the note not the chord.
    – Laurence
    Sep 20, 2021 at 22:49
  • In Schenkerian analysis, "scale degree" (or "scale step") translates Schenker's German Stufe, denoting "a chord having gained structural significance" (see Schenkerian analysis#Harmony). see your posted wiki link. Sep 21, 2021 at 4:41
  • Yeah. But we're talking about music. Getting into Schenkerian is like citing Leviticus in a discussion of morals :-)
    – Laurence
    Sep 21, 2021 at 23:01

There are 7 different notes in (most) scales. (The 8th is a repeat of the first.)

C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The seven notes of C major scale. Or the 1st, 2nd etc. degrees of the scale. That is what 'degree' means.


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