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Chromatic scale
Number of pitch classes 12
Chromatic scale drawn as a circle: each note is equidistant from its neighbors, separated by a semitone of the same size.

The chromatic scale is a musical scale with twelve pitches, each a semitone above or below another. On a modern piano or other equal-tempered instrument, all the semitones are the same size (100 cents). In other words, the notes of an equal-tempered chromatic scale are equally spaced. An equal-tempered chromatic scale is a nondiatonic scale having no tonic because of the symmetry of its equally spaced notes.[1]

Chromatic scale on C: full octave ascending and descending About this sound Play in equal temperament  or About this sound Play in Pythagorean tuning .

The most common conception of the chromatic scale before the 13th century was the Pythagorean chromatic scale. Due to a different tuning technique, the twelve semitones in this scale have two slightly different sizes. Thus, the scale is not perfectly symmetric. Many other tuning systems, developed in the ensuing centuries, share a similar asymmetry. Equally spaced pitches are provided only by equal temperament tuning systems, which are widely used in contemporary music.

The term chromatic derives from the Greek word chroma, meaning color. Chromatic notes are traditionally understood as harmonically inessential embellishments, shadings, or inflections of diatonic notes.


The chromatic scale may be notated in a variety of ways.

Ascending and descending:[1]

Chromatic scale ascending, notated only with sharps.
Chromatic scale descending, notated only with flats.
The harmonic chromatic scale starting on C.
The melodic chromatic scale starting on C.

The chromatic scale has no set spelling agreed upon by all. Its spelling is, however, often dependent upon major or minor key signatures and whether the scale is ascending or descending. The images above, therefore, are only examples of chromatic scale notations. As an abstract theoretical entity (that is, outside a particular musical context), the chromatic scale is usually notated such that no scale degree is used more than twice in succession (for instance G flat - G natural - G sharp).

Non-Western cultures[edit]

  • The ancient Chinese chromatic scale is called Shí-èr-lǜ. However, "it should not be imagined that this gamut ever functioned as a scale, and it is erroneous to refer to the 'Chinese chromatic scale', as some Western writers have done. The series of twelve notes known as the twelve were simply a series of fundamental notes from which scales could be constructed."[2]
  • The Indian solfège, i.e. sargam, makes up the twelve notes of the chromatic scale with respective sharps and flats.

Total chromatic[edit]

The total chromatic (or aggregate[3]) is the set of all twelve pitch classes. An array is a succession of aggregates.[3] See also: Tone row.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Benward & Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.47. Seventh Edition. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  2. ^ Needham, Joseph (1962/2004). Science and Civilization in China, Vol. IV: Physics and Physical Technology, p.170-171. ISBN 978-0-521-05802-5.
  3. ^ a b Whittall, Arnold. 2008. The Cambridge Introduction to Serialism, p.271. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68200-8 (pbk).

External links[edit]

Recommended Reading[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatic_scale — Please support Wikipedia.
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343 news items

Connecticut College

Connecticut College
Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:15:00 -0800

“I worked out the melodies at the keyboard … then adjusted them to include the 12 notes of a chromatic scale to produce a row. I make sure that the lines are singable, to hear each timbre and to probe for high and low points in the dynamics and ...


Tue, 16 Dec 2014 01:11:15 -0800

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, here's a chromatic scale and the singers have to sing it; this is the whole tone scale and they have to sing that!' There were double sharps and double flats and dissonance all over the place - and yet there are standard ...


Mon, 15 Dec 2014 10:45:00 -0800

In a way, for the rehearsals, for the recordings, he said, 'this part in the Mozart, the chromatic scale goes down...it means the tears, or the bird not flying high.' C-LITE: Again, I would not expect that from the uber-Vienese Harnoncourt. LL: Then ...
PR Web (press release)
Sat, 06 Dec 2014 00:03:45 -0800

Claude demonstrates a lick based in the first position of the B minor pentatonic scale that incorporates some passing tones using the chromatic scale as follows. First Claude slides into the 9th fret of the 4th string with 3rd finger and then moves to ...
Baltimore Sun
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:52:30 -0800

In addition, three students from Dayton Oaks have memorized all nine major scales to four sharps and four flats plus the chromatic scale. These students are Whitney Ye (Percussion), Ocarina Lin (Oboe) and Kristina Kim (Flute). Memorizing all these ...
PR Web (press release)
Sat, 13 Dec 2014 06:18:05 -0800

In this lead guitar lesson instructor Darrin Goodman teaches an alternate picking exercise based in the chromatic scale in the style of Flight of the Bumble Bee. Since the lick is chromatic and not diatonic all of the notes are only one half steps ...
Metal Underground
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 01:45:00 -0800

One thing the solo achieves is to break down the chromatic scale into different types of symmetrical sets which form most of the phrases you hear here. Lastly, a tapping line moving up the neck chromatically in quintuplets closes out this entire solo ...

Premier Guitar

Premier Guitar
Wed, 29 May 2013 10:03:45 -0700

The chromatic scale is simple—it's all 12 notes that we use in Western music. In our quest to outline the chords we're playing over, we'll fudge this chromatic scale a little. We'll just outline the most important scale tones and leave a few passing ...

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