Welcome to our basic beginner's guide to scales. Let's first explore what a scale is and how it relates to music in general.
A scale is simply a pattern of notes (pitches) that are used to form the basis for a piece of music and all melodies. Knowing and understanding your music scales is vital to understanding music theory, particularly in relation to knowing the keys of your music. There are many different types of music scale, including diatonic scales, the chromatic scale, pentatonic scale, modes and many more, but the most important ones to learn first are the diatonic, major scale and minor scale.
If a piece of music is written in the C major scale then all of the notes will come from that scale. If the composer wants to include notes not in C major scale, then they will need to add extra sharps, flats or natural signs, these are called accidentals.
When playing a straight scale, for both major and minor, you will always start on the scale's tonic note. The tonic note simply means the first note of the scale (also called the first degree of the scale). This first note will give you the name of the scale. For example, if your scale starts on C, this will either be C major scale or C minor scale depending on what is in your key signature.