Chromatic scale

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The chromatic scale consists of all 12 notes in an octave on the piano keyboard. Like the diatonic scale, it may begin on any degree. The chromatic scale evolved with the rise of common pratice tonality. Melodically speaking, it is a diatonic scale with added ‘chromatic’ notes which are properly extraneous to the key but serve to ‘colour’ it. Harmonically, the added notes are needed to provide a major or minor triad for each note of the diatonic scale.

There are many ways of notating the chromatic scale; in tonal music, the choice of G♯ or A♭ (for example) may be important for stringed instruments or the voice, where the two notes are not necessarily identical in pitch. On the piano there is no difference in pitch, but the diffrent spellings can denote diffrent function. In the context of 12-note music, where there is no keynote and all 12 notes of the octave are considered equal, a single notation is usually selected for each black note and used consistently.


Bold text This diagram shows an octave of the chromatic scale beginning on C, notated in sharps ascending and flats descending.

The chromatic scale allows one to play a diatonic scale starting on any one of it's pitches. This stems from the fact that 6 perfect fifths make a (lydian to be percise) diatonic scale, and that the chromatic scale is made up of stacked perfect fifths. (tuned slightly diffrentley depending on the temperament)

This also stems from the fact that the chromatic scale has either an equal distance between tones, or an almost equal one, depending on temperament.

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