What are degrees?
Probably you already heard about “first degree”, “second degree”, etc. And maybe this has sounded strange in the beginning. But, as we will see, this terminology is simple and can be really useful.
If we give numbers to C major scale in the following way: C (1st degree), D (2nd degree), E (3rd degree), F (4th degree), G (5th degree), A (6th degree), B (7th degree), we could say to a friend, for example: “play the 5th degree of C scale”, and he/she would know that we are talking about G note.
For this, it is really useful to talk about notes of a song in terms of degrees. The logic is the same that was shown above, applied to each note of interest. For example, we can create the degrees starting from D note: D (1st degree), E (2nd degree), F (3rd degree), G (4th degree), A (5th degree), B (6th degree), C (7th degree).
So, if someone asks, let’s say, the 3rd degree of D, you would know that he/she is talking about F note. You can see that we are working in C scale in all these examples. This must be specified (in which scale we are working).
Applying Music Intervals
In a practical way, to know which note refers some degree it’s only to count with your fingers the notes starting from the one that was chosen as 1st degree. Below we have some examples, yet in C scale (use like exercise):
– Second degree of E: F
– Fourth degree of G: C
– Seventh degree of B: A
*Observation: The first degree is also called “tonic”.
These examples were used only for teaching purposes. In practice, you will see that degrees are really used in the context of harmonic fields. You will learn how to find yourself in a song using degrees in the article called “harmonic fields”. Before this we will learn (in the topics “augmented, diminished and perfect intervals” and “music intervals and degrees – complementary concepts”) other important details about degrees and music intervals.
Back to: Module 2