Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is a Chromatic Scale?

Learn to recognize this important musical scale.

In this video, Robert tackles the Chromatic scale, and how to recognize it.

Released on January 29, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome. I'm Robert Estrin here at and living Today's subject is what is a chromatic scale? All right. You've all heard it. You've probably all played it. And I'm gonna break it down for you so you understand exactly what a chromatic scale is. Well, you know what major scales are, we've had that topic before, series of half steps and whole steps? Well, half step, a refresher on that is simply any two keys that are next to each other with no keys between. So, chromatic scale is virtually all the notes in order without skipping any or repeating any. So ultimately, there is only really one chromatic scale. And you can start on different notes, but it's always the same series of notes, just half steps. So if you start on middle C for example.


You just go through every note.

That's all there is to it. Chromatic scales are the simplest possible scale. You can go to other scales but then you generally have more variety except for the whole tone scale which we'll cover in our next video for you. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here at and

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Comments, Questions, Requests:

PamD on November 14, 2016 @5:54 pm PST
Thank you for demonstrating this concept. I'm a beginner and now I get it!
William Strickler * VSM MEMBER * on November 9, 2016 @2:46 pm PST
There are 7 notes in a regular scale and 12 notes in a Chromatic scale. I personally disagree with those who say 8 and 13, but I won't argue. The difference between the two numbers are the list of sharps/flats. Anytime you pound, pluck, or stroke a note on a string, you get the note and you get harmonics to the note. That is true on both strings and stereo speakers and maybe any other sound source or instrument. The stronger harmonics are the ones that are multiples of the frequency of the original note. So for the A at 440 hertz, you also get lesser rings at 880, 1320, 1760, and so on. So if you play the A on the G string on the violin or viola, the A string will feel it and ring out a strong 440 Hz harmonic ring. Listening for that ring is good way to know that the lower A is in tune with the upper A. That ring is even more obvious when you play the A on the D string. It only works if you keep your fingers high enough so that you don't accidentally touch the A string when you are not playing it. I assume that if you accidentally touch a string you are not playing, the violin or viola will produce some other weak wrong rings that could result in being judged a less than perfect player due to lack of clear sounds. So a note called A is made up of the A you are playing plus other weak A's at the same time. So that all of the A's have a certain tone that agrees with all of the other A's from any octave. These are my observations from playing around with and experimenting with the violin. Seems like I have also played an A on one string and lightly touched the A string and found it to vibrating a "me too". I am even thinking that in orchestra practice, if you play a "open A" while the other violin players are playing a different A, they might not be able to tell that you are playing a different A because of all the other players playing the correct A and their harmonics are in match with your note.
Robert Estrin - host, on November 10, 2016 @1:18 pm PST
You bring up an essential fact about the nature of sound. All pitched, vibrating objects have color tones or overtones contained above the fundamental pitch. They are universally the same for all objects that produce pitched sound. In the following article and video about atonality, you can get a description of this series which is pervasive in music and nature:

On a side notes, un-pitched sounds sometimes referred to as "noise" still contains the overtone series. But it contains all pitches and all overtones. So, you cannot distinguish them because they are all mixed together.
Barb * VSM MEMBER * on August 10, 2016 @8:31 pm PST
Thank you for explaining a chromatic scale. I have been trying to learn notes not in numbers but letters on violin and should I try memorizing every note in all positions if possible. I hear sounds and play the sound but get lost often. Yanni Until the last Moment I can play only the first part. Should I memorize each note would that make it easier since memorizing numbers and sounds is not concrete.
Robert Estrin - host, on August 11, 2016 @12:17 pm PST
Comprehending diatonic relationship of notes varies depending upon instrument you are playing. Piano is a very visually oriented instrument which makes it easy to understand the relationship of notes.

On the violin, you can understand the relationship of half-steps and whole-steps which comprises the major minor tonality of Western music with the concept of the tetrachord. Here is an article and video of violin master William Fitzpatrick who explains this very clearly:
William Strickler * VSM MEMBER * on November 9, 2016 @9:56 am PST
I've been playing violin for 6 years. I learned to read music starting same time as starting violin. When I play scales, I say the notes as I play them. I memorized the exact positions by playing scales. Finger numbers don't mean much as eventually after learning first position, you will then have to be able to shift any finger to any note from half position to any position and be able to play in that new position in the correct key. There is rarely time to think much about finger numbers. The notes on the staff become locations on the instrument and the feedback to your ears tell you if you are exactly where you should be. Scales only have 7 notes before they repeat. Chromatic scale includes all of the possible half steps. A violin is tuned to perfect fifths so that there are exactly 7 half steps from string to string. Hope what I am saying is correct as I am always being corrected.
Maritza on January 30, 2014 @5:13 pm PST
Thank you very much. Love you!
kerry cox * VSM MEMBER * on January 30, 2014 @9:31 am PST
was wanting something on 12 bar blues
Ken Winn on January 29, 2014 @1:05 pm PST
What is / can you explain about " the circle of fifths" and its practical application / use in music ?
Robert Estrin - host, on January 29, 2014 @6:01 pm PST
The circle of 5ths will be addressed in a future video.
kerry cox * VSM MEMBER * on January 29, 2014 @5:05 am PST
12 bar blues
Robert Estrin - host, on January 29, 2014 @6:02 pm PST
This is a great subject for a video!
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