Diatonic vs Non-Diatonic

Like I said, it is important to know that there are other types of scales that work in different ways. The easiest way is to distinguish between diatonic and non-diatonic scales.

Diatonic: The major and minor scales are diatonic because both scales use a combination of whole and half steps. More so, we see that each time we use five tones and two semitones as intervals. You know that these intervals make it possible for us to build seven different notes from one octave. We can observe diatonic notes as notes that are ‘in key’.

Non-diatonic: Here, it’s the opposite: in non-diatonic scales, some notes are seen as not ‘in key’. We also notice the intervals are not the same compared to the ones above. As an example of this, there is the chromatic scale. The interval between each note is a semitone apart. That way, we end up with twelve notes (per octave) instead of seven. Similarly, there is the hexatonic scale. It works with the same interval of a whole tone each time. This way, we end up with six notes per octave.

Also, pentatonic scales (five notes) are used quite often. However, this scale doesn’t contain any half steps. Therefore, a pentatonic scale is not seen as a diatonic scale. When you play the C pentatonic scale (containing C, D, E, G, A) on top of the C major scale, the notes would be diatonic since these notes are within the family of C major. However, the scale itself is not.

Although there are different scales, within this booklet we will concentrate mainly on the major and minor scales. Afterwards, these will form the basis for understanding other scales. Everything we have learned so far forms a solid foundation for getting started with building chords.

In doing so, it is important to know that there is a difference between a note and a chord. A chord consists of at least three separate notes. Let’s discover how to build major, minor and diminished chords.