Scales in modern/pop/rock music

Hi. I had a question from a student asking if scales are ever used in modern music (not classical) in the manner we prctice them - just going up and down the scale from root to octave. I didn’t know any examples off the top of my head. I can hear one song in my head but cant for the life of me recall what it is.

My student shared an example of how this is done in classical music (he’s studying classical guitar and I’m far from knowledgeable in classical music). At 11:31 in this link a scale run up and down happens.

Beethoven Sonata

Anyone have any examples in pop or rock where a scale is played by rote up or down one note after another?

My answer to my student was that scales are the cupboard of ingredients for melody and harmony, we dot chuck every ingredient into a dish. It wouldnt be very musical (or apetizing). Arpeggios or other melodic patterns would be better than just a scale run.


I’ve definitely heard a lot of scalar motion in popular music, albeit partial scales for the most part. The first example that comes to mind would be the intro to Just by Radiohead. Two full octaves of the C whole half diminished scale. I’ll see if I can think of some more examples in the coming days.

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The intro of “Seventeen” by Marina is an ascending and descending C harmonic minor scale.

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The pre-chorus of “Un-thinkable (I’m Ready)” by Alicia Keys is an ascending D major scale.

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Misirlou by Dick Dale has an ascending E double harmonic major scale.

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The verse of The Flood by Take That has an ascending D major scale starting on the second scale degree.

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Wow you guys are amazing. Some excellent - and really varied - examples there. Very interesting that vocal lines appear in the list too. I had not even considered them.

Thank you so much, really appreciated.

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I think scalar runs in vocal melodies aren’t as uncommon as one would think. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard quite a few of those. Unfortunately I’m having a hard time remembering things due to cognitive impairment, but maybe you will discover some yourself now that you’re aware that they exist :slight_smile:

I just remebered another one. The verse of My Favorite Things by Richard Rodgers contains an ascending D# minor scale starting on the 5th scale degree.