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Chromatic Scale


The word "chromatic" comes from the Greek word chroma meaning "color." The chromatic scale consists of 12 notes each a half step apart. It is from the chromatic scale that every other scale or chord in most Western music is derived. On the piano/keyboard when you play all the black and white keys of an octave in an ascending or descending order you are playing a chromatic scale. We will take the C chromatic scale as an example:

C Chromatic Scale as you go up: C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
C Chromatic Scale as you go down: C B Bb A Ab G Gb F E Eb D Db C

In this example we start at C and end at C, that is an octave. As you go up the scale some of the notes are sharped. As you go down, some of the notes are flatted. Notice that the sharped and flatted keys are the same keys but given different names; these are called enharmonic notes. Enharmonics sound the same but have different names. For example C# and Db is the same key. In grammar and writing, enharmonics are like homonyms; words that sound alike but have different meanings (i.e. meet, meat)

Here are several resources on chromatic scales for different instruments:

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