Advanced Music Theory Lesson 2: Scale Tendencies

Now that we have introduced all of the modes, let’s look at what roles individual notes take in these scales. In a tonal context, they all have certain tendencies.

Stable Tones: (1,3,5)


  • The tonic is the 1st degree of the scale. All other notes are based around the tonic and gravitate towards it.


  • The dominant is the 5th degree. This is a solid or stable note.

Third degree:

  • The 3rd degree is stable; however, it is not as stable as the tonic or the dominant.

Unstable Tones: (2,4,6,7)

Second degree:

  • The 2nd degree moves most commonly to the tonic but also to the 3rd.

Sixth degree:

  • The 6th degree tends to move to the dominant (5th) which is most stable. The 6th degree also moves to the 7th but it is not as stable as 5th degree.

Seventh and Fourth degrees:

  • The 7th and 4th degrees usually move by half steps and are the most unstable tones.
  • The 7th (not the b7) commonly resolves to the tonic (1st). The pull from the 7th to the tonic is very strong.
  • The 4th degree commonly resolves to the 3rd as the 4th is not a chord tone in tonic chords.

Please note:
all of the modes contain the same stable tones (1,3,5) and unstable tones (2,4,6,7).

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