How to Find the Scale of Any Melody

by Arvind Padhiar
(Montreal,QC, Canada)

I have hard time to find the scale; I know how to find a melody but can not find the scale. Do you have any easy way, or any tips? I am a beginner piano player; I am trying to learn Indian songs by ear. Thank you.

Maria’s Answer:

This is great for ear training! I know nothing about the tonality in Indian songs, but if they are mainly in major and minor keys, the following steps may help you:

  • Step one: To find the scale a melody is made from in any major or minor tonality, start by picking out a larger part of the melody by ear. Next, you listen for one note that “finishes” the melody, or song. Usually this is the last note, but it must sound like it really stops there.

  • Step two: Organize the different notes used in the melody in order of lowest to highest pitch. Test this “scale” by starting and ending with the note you found in step one. If this still sounds like the beginning and ending note of the scale, you have found the “Tonic”. If not, try the next note up in the scale. Test until you find the note that sounds like “home”.

  • Step three: Once you have found the “Tonic” (which is the starting and ending note of the scale, and also gives its name to the scale), you need to decide if the scale is major or minor. It helps if you know about major and minor scale patterns.

A caveat: More often than not, a melody is not using all the notes from a scale. By adding the notes that are “missing” from the scale you think it is, to the notes you organized from the melody in step two above, you can hear if it sounds right. If not, you may have another type of scale that is not major or minor. Learn more about different types of scale patterns here.

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