So much to say and where to start.
First a caveat: not all scales have seven notes. There are many types of musical scales: what is called “music” depends on the culture, year, place, so many factors (semi-detailed later.
Let’s see what I can dredge up from college…
“Standard” Western European music is the 7 tone diatonic scale based on the Pythagorean system - five whole tones (T) and two semi-tones (S). It is the arrangement of these steps and half-steps that gives a piece of music its modality (major, minor, etc.) that we are used to.
Diatonic or Major - TTSTTTS
c – d – e – f – g – a – b – c[sup]1[/sup]
Harmonic Minor - TSTTSTT
c – d – e-flat – f – g – a-flat – b-flat – c[sup]1[/sup]
Melodic Minor - ascending! - TSTTTTS
c – d – e-flat – f – g – a – b – c[sup]1[/sup]
Melodic Minor - descending! - TTSTTST
c[sup]1[/sup] – b-flat – a-flat – g – f – e-flat – d – c
Other scales include:
Aeolian - ‘pure’ minor scale (can’t find my notes)
These were used by the ancient Greeks for different ‘humors’ of the body (inspiring the phlegmatic, etc) as well as different celebratory occasions
(Any doper, please feel free to add to/correct this - I know I am missing a couple of scales).
Not to further confuse the issue, there is also the Gypsy scale: a seven-tone scale that has three semitones between the 3rd and 4th degrees of the scale.
c – d – e-flat – f-sharp – g – a-flat – b – c[sup]1[/sup]
Western European music also uses:
Whole tone (a whole step between each scale degree)
c – d – e – f-sharp – g-sharp – a-sharp – c[sup]1[/sup]
Also found in Western Europena music is the
Pentatonic (has five tones to the octave)
c – d – f – g – a – c[sup]1[/sup]
also found in MANY cultures - African, Chinese, Celtic, etc., as well as several Gregorian chants. Anyone can play a pentatonic scale: use only the black keys on the keyboard.
Please note also that scales can start on any note. ‘C’ is used by default, since that is the way many of us were taught in school. It is the intervals that make the scale, not the names of the notes.
I’d end up taking up a lot of bandwidth discussing “just intonation” and “equal” temperments (ways of tuning an instrument so the intervals are constant between each note), and I haven’t even touched:
Javanese (which has 18 types of tunings and based on 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 tones scales, depending on the century of development),
Indian (continental) music (I cannot for the life of me find the notebook, and but the professor went into the Vedic system, the classical period and the development of the ragas, the Medieval period and the fusion of Islamic and Hindu elements, and the modern period (all of which have their own scales!), and
Jewish (based on a four note tetrachord, IIRC and depending on which book is being chanted) [this notebook is irretrievably gone, and I really could use it right now]
all of which have their own scales.
Not to mention the fact that most people are talking about keyboard music (and to an effect valved and keyed instruments) - the human voice, stringed instruments and the trombone are capable of quarter tones and tinier intervals. To our modern ear, these sound “wrong”, but there are 20th Century pieces written necessitating these intervals.
Oh geez, and Schoenberg, Berg and Webern - 20th Century composers known for serial music (atonal - complete suspension of traditional harmonic function) and the dodecaphonic or twelve-tone systemn (using all twelve tones of the chromatic scale in any order chosen by the composer, but no tone may be repeated [either melodically or chordally] until the other eleven have appeared).
E-mail me, and I can see if I can scan in my notes - far too many to type here (if I can get the scanner to work).
Excuse me from this board for awhile. I have developed a tic and a flashback to to Freshman Theory I, Advanced Theory V and survey of Ethnic Music. I’m gonna play in MPSIMS for a bit to calm down. If I find more info, I’ll stop back.