Violin scales

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The scales are built from the intervals. For the introduction to the intervals see the article Intervals on the violin.

Structure of the major and the natural minor scale

For understanding the scales it is important to remember where the whole tones and semitones in the scale are located. The semitones in the major scale are on the third and seventh degree. The semitones in the natural minor scale are on the second and fifth degree.

C Major scale

%{ C Major scale %} \relative c' 
{ \key c \major  \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f c1 d \[ e f \] | g a \[ b c \] | \[ c b \] a g | \[ f e \] d c \bar "|." }


A Minor scale

%{ A Minor scale (aeolian) %} \relative c' 
{ \key a \minor \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f a'1 \[ b c \] d | \[ e f \] | g a a g \[ f e \] d \[ c b \] a \bar "|." }


Chart of the whole tones and semitones in the major and the natural minor scales


Each major scale has a corresponding relative natural minor scale (aeolian) containing the same tones as the major scale. The relative natural minor scale can be created from the major scale by starting on the sixth degree of the major scale and continuing for the whole octave.

The major and minor scales starting on the same tone (for example C major and C minor) are called the parallel scales.

Construction of the scales with accidentals

C Major has no accidentals, sharps () or flats (). The scales with accidentals can be constructed from the C Major scale.

The major scales with sharps

The major scale with sharps () can be created by starting on the fifth degree (walking the circle of fifths) of the major scale and by raising the seventh degree of the newly created scale. For example, using the C major scale, by starting on the fifth degree, G and raising the seventh degree of the new scale F to F sharp, the G major scale is created.

Accidentals in the major scales with sharps

%{ Accidentals in the major scales with sharps %} \relative c' { \set Staff.explicitKeySignatureVisibility = #"begin-of-line-visible" \key c \major \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f  s4 \mark \markup{ "C Major" } s s s \key g \major s \mark \markup{ "G Major" }  s s s \key d \major s \mark \markup{ "D Major" } s s s  \key a \major s \mark \markup{ "A Major" } s s s \break \key e \major s s s \mark \markup{ "E Major" }   s \key b \major s s s \mark \markup{ "B Major" } s \key fis \major s s s \mark \markup{ "F sharp Major" } s \key cis \major s s s \mark \markup{ "C sharp Major" } s \bar "|." }


The major scales with flats

The major scale with flats () can be created by starting on the fourth degree (walking the circle of fourths) of the major scale and by lowering the fourth degree of the newly created scale. For example, using the C major scale, by starting on the fourth degree, F and lowering the fourth degree of the new scale B to B flat, the F major scale is created.

Accidentals in the major scales with flats

%{ Accidentals in the major scales with flats %} \relative c' { \set Staff.explicitKeySignatureVisibility = #"begin-of-line-visible" \key c \major \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f  s4 \mark \markup{ "C Major" } s s s \key f \major s \mark \markup{ "F Major" }  s s s \key bes \major s s s \mark \markup{ "B flat Major" } s \key es \major s s s \mark \markup{ "E flat Major" } s \break \key as \major s s s \mark \markup{ "A flat Major" }   s \key des \major s s s \mark \markup{ "D flat Major" } s \key ges \major s s s \mark \markup{ "G flat Major" } s \key ces \major s s s \mark \markup{ "C flat Major" } s \bar "|." }


Natural minor scales

The relative natural minor scales with accidentals can be created from the corresponding major scale by starting on the sixth degree of the major scale.

The minor scales with sharps

Accidentals in the minor scales with sharps

%{ Accidentals in the minor scales with sharps %} \relative c' { \set Staff.explicitKeySignatureVisibility = #"begin-of-line-visible" \key a \minor \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f  s4 \mark \markup{ "A Minor" } s s s \key e \minor s \mark \markup{ "E Minor" }  s s s \key b \minor s \mark \markup{ "B Minor" } s s s  \key fis \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "F sharp Minor" } s \break \key cis \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "C sharp Minor" } s \key gis \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "G sharp Minor" } s \key dis \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "D sharp Minor" } s \key ais \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "A sharp Minor" } s \bar "|." }


The minor scales with flats


Accidentals in the minor scales with flats

%{ Accidentals in the minor scales with flats %} \relative c' { \set Staff.explicitKeySignatureVisibility = #"begin-of-line-visible" \key a \minor \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f  s4 \mark \markup{ "A Minor" } s s s \key d \minor s \mark \markup{ "D Minor" }  s s s \key g \minor s \mark \markup{ "G Minor" } s s s  \key c \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "C Minor" } s \break \key f \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "F Minor" } s \key bes \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "B flat Minor" } s \key es \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "E flat Minor" } s \key as \minor s s s \mark \markup{ "A flat Minor" } s \bar "|." }

Harmonic minor scale

A Minor scale (natural - aeolian)

%{ A Minor scale (natural - aeolian) %} \relative c' 
{ \key a \minor \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f a'1 b c d | e f | g a a g f e d c b a \bar "|." }

The natural minor scale has not got the feeling of the leading tone as the seventh degree is the whole tone down from the tonic. The harmonic minor scale is created from the natural minor scale by raising the seventh degree by semitone. The harmonic minor scale is the same both ascending and descending.


A Minor scale (harmonic)

%{ A Minor scale (harmonic) %} \relative c' 
{ \key a \minor \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f a'1 b c d | e f | gis a a gis f e d c b a \bar "|." }

Melodic minor scale

The harmonic minor scale has a big distance between the sixth and seventh degrees so that the sixth degree was raised and the melodic minor scale was created. The melodic minor scale uses the raised sixth and seventh degrees when ascending, when descending the natural minor scale is used.


A Minor scale (melodic)

%{ A Minor scale (melodic) %} \relative c' 
{ \key a \minor \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin" \override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f a'1 b c d | e fis | gis a a g! f! e d c b a \bar "|." }


Chart comparing the natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales

Circle of fifths and circle of fourths

The summary of relationships between the major and minor scales in the circle of fifths (clockwise) and the circle of fourths (anticlockwise) and the table with the number of sharps and flats for each major and minor scale up to seven accidentals.

Circle of fifths
Flats Sharps
Major minor Major minor
0 C a C a
1 F d G e
2 B g D b
3 E c A f
4 A f E c
5 D b B g
6 G e F d
7 C a C a
The table indicates the number of sharps or flats in each scale. Minor scales are written in lower case.

Church scales

The modern major and minor scales were derived from the Church scales, the major scale is identical with the Ionian scale, the natural minor scale with the Aeolian scale.

  • Ionian
  • Dorian
  • Phrygian
  • Lydian
  • Myxolydian
  • Aeolian

Chart showing the structure of the Church scales

Names of the degrees in the scale

  • I. Tonic
  • II. Supertonic
  • III. Mediant
  • IV. Subdominant
  • V. Dominant
  • VI. Submediant
  • VII. Leading note

Violin scale books

Harvey S. Whistler

  • Elementary Scales and Bowings for Strings. Violin [Sheetmusic: Elementary Scales and Bowings for Strings. Violin (Whistler, Harvey S.)]
  • Scales in First Position for Violin [Sheetmusic: Scales in First Position for Violin (Whistler, Harvey S.)]
  • Intermediate Scales and Bowings for Strings. Violin [Sheetmusic: Intermediate Scales and Bowings for Strings. Violin (Whistler, Harvey S.)]

Barbara Barber

  • Scales for Young Violinists [Sheetmusic: Scales for Young Violinists (Barber, Barbara)(Preludio Music)]
  • Scales for Advanced Violinists [Sheetmusic: Scales for Advanced Violinists (Barber, Barbara)]

William Starr

  • Scales Plus! [Sheetmusic: Scales Plus! (Starr, William)]

Cassia Harvey

  • Scale Studies (One String) for the Violin, Part One: One-Octave Scales (2007) [Sheetmusic: Scale Studies (One String) for the Violin (Harvey, Cassia)(C. Harvey Publications)]
  • First Position Scale Studies for the Violin, Book One (2017) [Sheetmusic: First Position Scale Studies for the Violin, Book One (Harvey, Cassia)(C. Harvey Publications)]
  • The Two Octaves Book for Violin (2015) [Sheetmusic: The Two Octaves Book for Violin (Harvey, Cassia)(C. Harvey Publications)]
  • Octave Scale Studies for the Violin, Book One (2014) [Sheetmusic: Octave Scale Studies for the Violin, Book One (Harvey, Cassia)(C. Harvey Publications)]

Charles Dancla

  • 24 Scales and Melodies, Op. 115

Hans Sitt

  • Scale studies for violin, Appendix to Schradieck's Scales [Sheetmusic: Scale Studies for Violin, Appendix to  Schradieck's Scales (Sitt, Hans)(editions)]

Jan Hřímalý

  • Scale Studies for the Violin [Sheetmusic: Scale Studies for the Violin (Hřímalý, Jan)(editions)]

Karel Halíř

  • Neue Tonleiterstudien für Violine

Henry Schradieck

  • Scale Studies for the Violin [Sheetmusic: Scale Studies (Schradieck, Henry)(G. Schirmer)]

Eugène Ysaÿe

  • Exercices et Gammes pour Violon [Sheetmusic: Exercices et Gammes pour Violon (Ysaÿe, Eugène)(Schott Music)]

Craig Duncan

  • Essential Scales and Studies for Violin, Level 1 [Sheetmusic: Essential Scales and Studies for Violin, Level 1 (Duncan, Craig)(Mel Bay Publications)]

Hans Wessely

  • Comprehensive Scale Manual for the Violin [Sheetmusic: Comprehensive Scale Manual for Violin (Wessely, Hans)(Carl Fischer)]

Ivan Galamian

  • Contemporary Violin Technique, Volume One [Sheetmusic: Contemporary Violin Technique, Volume One (Galamian, Ivan)(ECS Publishing)]
  • Contemporary Violin Technique, Volume Two [Sheetmusic: Contemporary Violin Technique, Volume Two (Galamian, Ivan)(ECS Publishing)]