Sounds - ordinary, everyday "noises" - come in every conceivable pitch and groupsof pitches. In fact, the essence of noise, "white noise", is basically every pitch at once, so that no particular pitch is heard.
One of the things that makes music pleasant to hear and easy to "understand" is that only a few of all the possible pitches are used. But not all pieces of music use the same set of pitches. In order to be familiar with the particular notes that a piece of music is likely to use, musicians study scales.
The set of expected pitches for a piece of music can be arranged into a scale. In a scale, the pitches are usually arranged from lowest to highest (or highest to lowest), in a pattern that usually repeats within every octave .
The set of pitches, or notes, that are used, and their relationships to each other, makes a big impact on how the music sounds. For example, for centuries, most Western music has been based on major and minor scales. That is one of the things that makes it instantly recognizable as Western music. Much (though not all) of the music of eastern Asia, on the other hand, was for many centuries based on pentatonic scales, giving it a much different flavor that is also easy to recognize.
Some of the more commonly used scales that are not major or minor are introduced here. Pentatonic scales are often associated with eastern Asia, but many other music traditions also use them. Blues scales, used in blues, jazz, and other African-American traditions, grew out of a compromise between European and African scales. Some of the scales that sound "exotic" to the Western ear are taken from the musical traditions of eastern Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia. Microtones can be found in some traditional musics (for example, Indian classical music81) and in some modern art music.
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