I am writing an tool to create music on a mobile device. I am going to allow the user to create simple melody and bass lines. I would like the user to be able to change key after they enter their melodies. As such I will store all musical phrases as degrees of the scale as opposed to storing the note number. This will mean that if I have a phrase

I, IV, V

I will easily be able to transpose it between keys.

My question is what scales should I allow the users to use? What is the essential set and what are others that would allow for interesting musical expression (that might be included in version 2 :)


I have no idea what is considered the essential set or if there is such a thing but I recently implemented something similar for a music software project I was working on and ended up including the scales listed below by default.

The list includes the most commonly used scales and offers reasonable variety without going too far off into super-obscure and esoteric scales.


  • Major
  • Natural Minor
  • Harmonic Minor
  • Melodic Minor
  • Dorian
  • Phrygian
  • Phrygian Dominant
  • Lydian
  • Lydian Augmented
  • Mixolydian
  • Locrian
  • Locrian Major
  • Super Locrian
  • Major Neapolitan
  • Minor Neapolitan
  • Romanian Minor
  • Spanish Gypsy
  • Hungarian Gypsy
  • Enigmatic
  • Overtone


  • Major Pentatonic
  • Minor Pentatonic
  • Egyptian Pentatonic


  • Whole Tone
  • Augmented
  • Prometheus
  • Tritone
  • Blues

8-tone (diminished scales)

  • Diminished Half
  • Diminished Whole
  • Spanish Eight-Tone


  • Nine-Tone Scale
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Just a few scales will probably do it. Pentatonic major and minor. Blues. Full major , harmonic and melodic minors. Whether you would use the same note program for major/natural minor, and indeed, the 2 pentatonics, I don't know. The major could be easily adapted to form all standard modes e.g. Dorian, et al. Straightforward, initially, leaving you with add -ons later to make more profit...

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