Memorizing scale degrees

Hi all,
In the B to B course we are told to try and know which scale degree a note is while playing. Not only is that hard while thinking which hole bend or blow…too many numbers, but I also don’t understand how that is useful. If one learns a melody, 1st position C, how does that help when going to another key?? In another key that 6 in C major (A) , becomes C# in the key of E major.
What am I missing and if you show to me that it is indeed helpful how should I approach doing it???
Thanks for any feedback.

For me this part of your question itself shows the answer.

The beauty of learning the scale degrees is that when you change keys the 6 is still the 6.

For example if you know the melody follows a scale degree pattern of 51 123 123 65 then you know the tune in every key.

If you play more than one instrument you also know the tune for those other instruments - provided you know where the scale degrees are on those too of course. :slight_smile:

Does that make any more sense now?


Hey @DavidW it’s been awhile my friend. Great to see you! Great response here.

Does that make sense @expat48?

I hear what you’re saying about hole numbers and interval numbers being confusing.

The goal’s here are two-fold:

1.) On the harmonica, to connect SOUND to FEELING rather than hole number on the harmonica. When I’m playing harmonica, I’m never thinking “I’m on hole #X”. I’m just thinking “I want THIS sound.”

2.) Away from the harmonica, to connect SOUND to INTERVAL number. The first notes of Mary Had a Little Lamb, rather than thinking C C G G, it’s more helpful to think 1 1 5 5, because then as @DavidW it translates to any key on any instrument.

More here:

This stuff takes a long time, and there’s no shortcut. A lot of patience is required with the process. If you’re wanting to speed up the process, 5 minutes/ day with the EarMaster software would be a wise investment.


Thanks,both of you it finally sunk in as to playing something on different keys.
Luke, I get point #1 and learn a song that way.
But if I learn that scale degree 6 (C harp) is A, when I hear A when playing an F harp it is not degree 6, but degree 3…see my point??

Hi @expat48

I look at scale degrees as notes relative to the root note of the scale I am playing. So when playing in C major, scale degree 6 (A) has a very specific “feeling” with respect to the root note (C).

Then, playing in F major the 6th degree note is D and (to me) it has the same “feeling” with repect to the root note (F) of the F major scale as did the note A when playing in C major.

I hope this helps.


– Slim :sunglasses:


Thanks Slim that makes a lot of sense now. I think I was looking at it in another way…it’s the relation to the ROOT note that is the key not how one 6 note sounds to another 6 note, and even when the key of the harp changes the relationship stays the say…
Right on bro, appreciate it.


Hey @expat48

I’m very glad that this helped to make one use of scale degrees more clear. For harp players that seems to be a useful approach.


– Slim :sunglasses:


Yep! Especially for harp players, guitar players, bass players.

But I mean it’s a helpful approach for ALL musicians. And all of the professional musicians that I’ve played with and admire certainly hear, understand, and talk in terms of intervals (even the drummers! :wink:)