Melodic Chromatic Scale – Set Form


Melodic Chromatic Scale – Set Form - 3 Simple Steps

A Melodic Chromatic Scale sounds the same but is written in different ways. A Melodic Chromatic Scale may be written in a “Set Form”.  A "Set Form" means that a scale is written using a set pattern of notes.

In a Harmonic Chromatic Scale, the “Set Form” is that the Tonic, Dominant and Upper Tonic notes are only written once. All other notes are written twice. Therefore the notes in the ascending and descending Harmonic Chromatic Scale are the same notes.

A Chromatic Scale uses all 12 semitones in the octave, for a total of 13 notes. The “Rules in Stone” for writing any Chromatic Scale are:

  • The Chromatic Scale must start and end on the same Tonic note.
  • Each letter name is used at least once. You cannot skip a letter name.
  • A letter name may be used twice in a row, but never more than twice in a row.
  • There will always be 5 single notes – 5 letter names that are only used once.

There are 3 types of Chromatic Scales:

  1. Harmonic Chromatic Scale – Set Form (Single Tonic, Dominant and Upper Tonic)
  2. Melodic Chromatic Scale – Raise going up, lower going down
  3. Melodic Chromatic Scale – Using a Set Form

In a Melodic Chromatic Scale using a “Set Form”, the notes are not the same in the ascending and descending Melodic Chromatic Scale. So, how can it have a “Set Form”? Easy!

There are 3 Steps to writing a Melodic Chromatic Scale using a Set Form.  So, yup, you guessed it – grab that Ultimate Whiteboard or download Staff Paper for free from our Website.

Follow the instructions for each step and then check your work. Let’s write a Melodic Chromatic Scale using a Set Form beginning on E. Use accidentals. Use whole notes.

UMT Tip: If you are asked to use a Key Signature, you always use the Major Key Signature of the given Tonic Note.

  • Step #1: In the margin, complete the following:

Ascend:  iii - ___; vii - ___; VIII/Upper I - ___.     Descend:  IV - ___; I - ___.

Based on the Major Key of the Tonic Note, the Melodic Chromatic Scale will use a single Mediant, Leading Note and Upper Tonic ascending, and a single Subdominant and Tonic descending.

So, your answer will be:
Ascend:  iii -  G# ; vii -  D# ; VIII/Upper I -   E .     Descend:  IV -  A ; I -  E .

  • Step #2: Write the whole notes beginning on the Tonic note E. Write one single note for each of the “Set Form” notes as indicated above. Write two notes for all other notes (ascending: I, ii, IV, V, vi; descending: vii, vi, V, iii, ii.)

Don’t peak at the answer until you have finished! Are you ready? You should have this:
melodic chromatic scale - form

  • Step #3: Add the necessary accidentals to create the Melodic Chromatic Scale beginning on E!

Yes, you just might get a chance to use a double sharp – finally! Yahoo!
Your answer will be:
melodic chromatic scale - variation form
This is a Melodic Chromatic Scale because different letter names are used in the ascending and descending scales. It uses a “Set Form” as there is always a single Mediant, Leading Note and Upper Tonic ascending, and a single Subdominant and Tonic descending.

Isn’t learning all these little tidbits of theory fun! Want to learn more?

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PS – Join the Conversation: When asked to write a Chromatic Scale, you will be asked to write one using “any standard form”. You can also write a Chromatic Scale with a center bar line and without a center bar line.

There is no “right” or “wrong” here, but just out of curiosity… What form of Chromatic Scale do you prefer to write and do you prefer to write with or without a center bar line?


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Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren