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If I know the notes in a melody, how can I identify the scale that is being used?

Also, how do I find the higher octave notes in the same scale?

Here is an example piece:

I know the notes in the melody:

GBBB BABGA
GBBB D+C+BAGA
EAA GGGG F#E
EAA BABAG

Sanu ek pal chain na aave
BBBB BABGA
Sanu ek pal chain na aave
GBBB BABGA
Sajna tere bina
EAA GGGG F#E
Sajna tere bina
EAA GGGG

Dil jaane kyun ghabraave
GABD+D+D+ E+G+D+E+E+
Dil jaane kyun ghabraave
GABD+D+D+ E+G+D+E+E+
Sajna tere bina
G+G+G+F#+F#+E+E+E+E+ D+B
Sajna tere bina
EAA GGGG

(from https://pianoenthalpy.blogspot.in/2018/02/sanu-ek-pal-chain-raid-rahat-fateh-ali.html)

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  • Hey, welcome to the site. As it stands, this question is not a good fit for our format. It relies on an external link to make sense, which will be bad if the link goes away. The bigger problem is that it's very specific to a certain song, and won't be helpful to other people. Perhaps you can make your question more general? In fact, there are probably existing answers on this site that can help you. Maybe try some searching, and if you can't find an answer, updating this question to be less specific to that song?
    – endorph
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 4:04
  • Welcome. I've vtc because the question doesn't comply to policies on this site - analysing a particular song isn't much help to future visitors. Check the notes in the song, and the altered notes (# or b) will be a good clue to the scale used.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 6:03
  • Rohan - on "how do I find the higher octave notes in the same scale?" - musicmotivated.com/guitar-and-bass-in-the-key-of-g should help, or if that's not useful, try searching for "g major scale guitar". Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 7:00
  • BTW I also searched and couldn't find a good answer to the 'general case' of this particular question - if we do find a helpful duplicate with a better answer than mine, this can always be pointed to it. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 7:12
  • Where does the (erroneous) idea come from - that a song must only contain notes that are diatonic (from that key)???
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 8:23

1 Answer 1

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Sometimes this can be quite a difficult thing to do; sometimes it's easier.

One thing we can try is identify the 'home' note that the song 'wants to go to', and then try to tell if the song sounds 'major' or 'minor'.

Often this might be a common note in the piece, or a note that is sung at the end of lines.

In this case, we can see that 'G' is a common strong note in the piece. I also hear the piece as more 'Major' than 'minor' (some people would say that 'Major' is happy and 'minor' is sad, though it's more complicated than that!).

From this method, with your example, my guess would be that the key is G major, and that I could use notes from the G major scale.

Another method is look at the notes in the piece, and try to work out directly what key they fit in.

Here's a chart borrowed from this answer. (As Rockin Cowboy says, this chart is for Major Scales only. You can find similar charts on line for Minor Scales)

major keys

If we look at the notes in the piece, we can see only one 'sharp' - F#. Looking at our table, we can see that agrees with our previous guess at the key - G major.

(It won't always be so easy, especially if you don't already have the notes written out with their enharmonically-correct names - but in this case, you do.)

So in your example case, we've used two methods, and both have given us the key/scale of G Major. Try it and see if it fits!

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  • I played the same thing in C major using same notes and for F# i played the 4th fret D string and still it sounded like the song ,but my confusion is F# is not in C major ,then how come it's not sounding odd?
    – Rohan
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 7:07
  • @Rohan sorry, I don't understand "I played the same thing in C major using same notes" - 'same notes' as what? Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 7:10
  • I played these notes in C major scale GBBB BABGA GBBB D+C+BAGA EAA GGGG F#E as I have mentioned in the link.Although F# is not in C maj scale but I played the 4th fret of D string along with the given notes in a flow and still it's sounding fine.How come ?Since F# is not even in C major
    – Rohan
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 7:40
  • @Rohan OK - so what was it that you played in C major? The song, and those notes, are all in G major. Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 7:42
  • @Rohan - a bit late - but a song doesn't only have to contain notes from a given key. Check out modulation.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 8:22

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