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Old 07-03-2015, 06:59 AM   #1
jerrykramskoy
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The war of names

Hey Guys.

Here's my take on scale (names) and related matters.

1/ A scale is a collection of intervals measured from its start pitch. Written as a recipe, each interval symbol (here are four different symbols as examples ... 1, b3, 3, #4) indicate the number of semitones from the scale start pitch, to locate the pitch corresponding to that symbol, where "1" is coincident with the start pitch.

2/ Once the start pitch is chosen, the recipe singles out all the other pitches found at the various intervals from the start pitch

3/ The overall sound created by a scale has the same "flavour", and the choice of start pitch doesn't alter this ... it just makes the whole effect sound higher or lower.

4/ Each different collection creates a different flavour.

5/ Each different flavour is given a different name, that is shorthand for the set of intervals involved. Examples include "major", "harmonic minor", "mixolydian", "jazz minor 7" ...

6/ Only some scales (flavours) are successful for creating melodies and chord progressions that clearly draw the listener's attention to the start note of the scale chosen, over typically several bars or more of music written using that scale. This doesn't just occur because we choose a scale to use ... it only occurs with correct usage. Randomly jumbling up scale pitches and/or chord progressions has virtually zero chance of succeeding. This is another discussion.

Successful scales must include (b3) or 3, and 5, so that they have a major or minor triad available off the start note of the scale.

7/ Assuming correct usage to successful scale, then we have created a tonality. (Major-minor system proponents ... hold fire ... see below). We have imparted the scale flavour applied to some start pitch. This start pitch is known as the tonal centre. To describe the tonality, we name it by both its pitch and the scale name (see Walter Piston, Hindemith, Ligon ... as exemplary theorist with this view).

8/ Things get more blurry as we start introducing other intervals ... again, assuming correct usage, then the flavour starts becoming ambiguous, but the tonal centre remains clear.

For example, the melodic minor scale, in classical use, typically applies (1,2,b3,4,5,6,7) in ascending parts of the melody, but (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7) in descending parts. These are often referred to as the ascending melodic minor scale and the descending melodic minor scale.

Whereas in today's music (especially jazz), only the (1,2,b3,4,5,6,7) is used, regardless of melodic direction (acending or descending).

As it happens, the descending melodic minor is identical to the natural minor scale (aka aeolian).

So, suppose we have a (section of a) tune that is 100% based on (1,2,b3,4,5,6,7). We'd be entirely correct to name it as, say, Eb ascending melodic minor (although these days its common to call it Jazz minor)

Or suppose we have a (section of a) tune that is 100% based on (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7). We'd be entirely correct to name it as, say, Eb descending melodic minor, or Eb aeolian.

But what happens, if we mix these up? Now we could name the tonality Eb melodic minor (implying both ascending and descending).

Yet another very common minor scale is harmonic minor (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7). It's very common to write music entirely using this scale, and so we could create a tonality of Eb harmonic minor.

But here's the nub of the matter ... very often, the above get mixed up in the same tune. At this point, we just acknowledge this under the umbrella name of "minor", so we can talk about creating the tonality of Eb minor to encompass all the above. And this makes loads of sense, unless we want to be mega-pedantic. If we did just use aeolian, we could still categorise this as Eb minor tonality (aeolian is one of the member scales of this "minor cartel").

However, don't forget the dear old major scale (which seems very certain to have been created well prior to any of the above scales). When we use the major scale correctly, we get say, Eb major tonality.

Finally, its also extremly common to mix up major scale with the various minor scales above, at different parts of a tune. So, some could be in Eb major, and some in Eb minor. (we have two different tonalities, if we ignore which actual of the above scales get used in the minor tonality). [of course, other tonal centres could be used across the tune]

Taken all these flavours together, the above gives us the "major-minor system" that gets used so much.

To recap: the scales in this overall cartel known as the "major-minor system" are: major, ascending and descending melodic minor, and harmonic minor. They don't all have to be used. At any one point (typically) a tune will either be in the major or the minor tonality, where the minor tonality can be some mix of the minjor scales just mentioned.

9/ BUT ... just because the above is so common, it does not mean it is the only source of intervals for creating a tonality. For example, we can use Dorian or Mixolydian to create say Eb Dorian tonality or Eb Mixolydian tonality, using correct chord progressions from these scales. Note the word "correct".

The scale Locrian wouldn't succeed ... it has the b3, but is doesn't have a 5.

There are also some symmetrical scales that can't succeed, even when they do contain (b)3 and 5. This is because of their symmetry. But none of the scale in the major-minor system, nor modes of these, are symmetrical.

10/ For modal scales, we may not choose to use chord progressions per-se, and just groove away on one or two chords.

cheers, Jerry
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:26 AM   #2
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What are you getting at here?

Scales are just sets of notes, not an interval series (that's a mode). They never impose a harmonic regime, rather they are derived from harmonies.

If you actually look at where and how these scales are used, they correlate completely with the harmony. The harmonic and melodic minor, for example, having a raised 7th (leading tone) - where do you see the leading tone in minor key tunes? On the dominant. Therefore, melodic and harmonic minor scales are appear solely during dominant harmonies, and are simply the melodic expression of the dominant harmony.

The use of scales to express non-tonic harmony is why you have a lot of very useful scales that can't be harmonized: locrian, diminished, wholetone, wholetone-diminished, lydian dominant, blues, bebop minor scale... This litany of non-diatonic scales is part of why strictly scalar analysis becomes nonsense very quickly.

Also, major/minor is not really a huge distinction. A is A is A, no matter what the third above is, and you resolve to it the same either way.

The big distinction is, again, harmonic, and it's the tonic/dominant distinction. You are either on a tonic-type harmony, or you are working your way back to a tonic-like harmony. That distinction then break down when you consider modal harmonies, because they lack the harmonic motion that requires a tonic/dominant relationship.

If you're apt to analyze this thoroughly, I'd recommend taking the rigor to harmonic analysis. Scales are incidental to harmony, and so don't tell you a whole lot by themselves. Harmony is real the meat of the music.

Last edited by cdgraves : 07-03-2015 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 07-03-2015, 01:56 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdgraves
What are you getting at here?

Scales are just sets of notes, not an interval series (that's a mode). They never impose a harmonic regime, rather they are derived from harmonies.

If you actually look at where and how these scales are used, they correlate completely with the harmony. The harmonic and melodic minor, for example, having a raised 7th (leading tone) - where do you see the leading tone in minor key tunes? On the dominant. Therefore, melodic and harmonic minor scales are appear solely during dominant harmonies, and are simply the melodic expression of the dominant harmony.

The use of scales to express non-tonic harmony is why you have a lot of very useful scales that can't be harmonized: locrian, diminished, wholetone, wholetone-diminished, lydian dominant, blues, bebop minor scale... This litany of non-diatonic scales is part of why strictly scalar analysis becomes nonsense very quickly.

Also, major/minor is not really a huge distinction. A is A is A, no matter what the third above is, and you resolve to it the same either way.

The big distinction is, again, harmonic, and it's the tonic/dominant distinction. You are either on a tonic-type harmony, or you are working your way back to a tonic-like harmony. That distinction then break down when you consider modal harmonies, because they lack the harmonic motion that requires a tonic/dominant relationship.

If you're apt to analyze this thoroughly, I'd recommend taking the rigor to harmonic analysis. Scales are incidental to harmony, and so don't tell you a whole lot by themselves. Harmony is real the meat of the music.


There are many discussions on how to name a tonality, whether to use scale name or not. Hence the above post.



"Scales are just sets of notes, not an interval series (that's a mode). They never impose a harmonic regime, rather they are derived from harmonies. "

The above is so wrong it deserves a medal. Completely wrong on every level.

If you've a teacher that's told you that, then demand your money back.

FACT: There is absolutely no need for any harmony to establish a tonal centre.
FACT: Counterpoint originally was based on concurrent melodies, and as the concurrent pitches came together, created harmonies ... not the other way round.

"If you actually look at where and how these scales are used, they correlate completely with the harmony. The harmonic and melodic minor, for example, having a raised 7th (leading tone) - where do you see the leading tone in minor key tunes? On the dominant. Therefore, melodic and harmonic minor scales are appear solely during dominant harmonies, and are simply the melodic expression of the dominant harmony."

Wrong. Medal #2. However, it is true that a wide variety of scales are used over a dominant chord, but that chord does not have to be functional.

"The use of scales to express non-tonic harmony is why you have a lot of very useful scales that can't be harmonized: locrian, diminished, wholetone, wholetone-diminished, lydian dominant, blues, bebop minor scale... This litany of non-diatonic scales is part of why strictly scalar analysis becomes nonsense very quickly."

Medal #3, #4 ... the above statement would set a seriously large number of jazz players spinning in their graves. What about m7b5 (locrian, and others), 7b5 chord (lydian dominant, and others)? Or 13b9 (half-whole). Etc.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Posting such inaccuracies can wreck some newbie's understanding. Where did you get these ideas from?? You should reassess very carefully your understanding of harmony and melody to establish a tonal centre.

cheers, Jerry
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Old 07-03-2015, 02:41 PM   #4
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well this should be good

posting to mark this thread so i can read it after the mandatory 10 pages of arguments have been completed
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Old 07-03-2015, 03:08 PM   #5
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Old 07-03-2015, 03:08 PM   #6
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what happens if you go both up and down from the starting note and don't play a scale shape
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Old 07-03-2015, 03:10 PM   #7
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what happens if you go both up and down from the starting note and don't play a scale shape


If that happens the name Travis loses.
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Old 07-03-2015, 03:24 PM   #8
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Okay everyone TIME out. I need to set a few things straight here before this turns into a flame war:

#1: Jerry, your two "facts" contradict each other. All melodic lines IMPLY harmony. All harmony is the result of melodic lines. You do need harmony to imply a tonal center. But guess what? Melody IS harmony.

#2: There is no such thing as being 'in' harmonic or melodic minor. Tonal Music is either in a major key, or a minor key. Minor keys often use elements of MM and harmonic minor scales.

#3: MM going up one way and down the other way is a myth. There are plenty of examples from the literature demonstrating against this false rule.

#4: Every scale can be harmonized. End of story.

#5. Major/Minor IS the only system of creating tonality. Modes create MODALITY. Diminished and symmetrical scales are NOT tonal, and MM and Hmaj are shading devices. Tonal and non-tonal music are mutually exclusive. Music cannot be both tonal and non-tonal.

#6: There are only TWO tonalities: X major, and X minor. Everything else isn't tonal.

#7. Scalar analysis does NOT become useless because there are many. It becomes useless because scales are colors, and choice. If I paint a red house, or a blue house, it's still a house. Scale usage is a personal choice you make when improvising. There are at least NINE common scales that fit perfectly well with a Dom7 chord. Pick one.

#8. "Successful scales must inlcude "X"" is an insane statement. All scales are successful. A scale without a P5 interval will make establishing an expected root difficult (this is why there are no Locrian frameworks) but to imply a scale without a 5 or 3 is "unsuccessful" is inaccurate. There is more to music than establishing a tonal center. If there wasn't, we would only play major and harmonic minor scales.

#9. Melodic and Harmonic minor scales do NOT solely appear on dominant harmonies. Maj7#9 and its siblings say hello.

#10. You both, more or less, know what you're talking about , but you're only looking at it through one lens, one perspective. The blind people with the elephant analogy. There's a horizontal and a vertical perspective to music, and you need them both.

Tonal music works in a specific way, and so does modal music. These extra concepts?

They're tools, just tools to expand the palette of sounds available to you.


I dunno what everyone's getting at here, but A) cool it, and be civil and B) expect ME to pounce on anything "less than accurate" in here.

If this goes even a little off the rails I'm closing it.
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Old 07-03-2015, 04:31 PM   #9
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Old 07-03-2015, 04:44 PM   #10
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hello i would like one scoop major scale, one scoop wholetone, and if it could come in a pre-modern notation waffle cone, that'd be great
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Old 07-03-2015, 04:47 PM   #11
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Your name is Travis then? I didn't know that.
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Old 07-03-2015, 06:10 PM   #12
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or perhaps travis is a lover
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Old 07-03-2015, 10:32 PM   #13
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#1:... ...All melodic lines IMPLY harmony. All harmony is the result of melodic lines. You do need harmony to imply a tonal center. But guess what? Melody IS harmony.

.

All harmony is the result of melody. Hmmm.... ...thinking about it.... ...okay I'll give you that.

"You do need harmony to imply a tonal centre." - Why? It seems that many melodies have a tonal centre without harmony.

Adding harmonies to the melody will affect the melody as there will then be harmonic relationships to hear and not just melodic ones. These new relationships can alter our sense of where that tonal centre lies.

"All melodic lines IMPLY harmony." - No they don't. You might point to specific examples and say that it implies a certain harmony but if someone is singing a melody without any accompaniment then there is no harmony. If a solo violinist is playing a melody then there is no harmony. - Not even "implied" harmony.

What exactly is the "implied" harmony supposed to be? Is it a tonic drone? Is it an oscillating tonic-fifth vamp? Is it a harmony of parallel octaves? Is it parallel fifths? or maybe it's harmonized in thirds, or in sixths? Maybe it's some combination of I IV V block chords played in straight eighths? Is it a bunch of independent melodic lines that work together as a whole? What is this "implied" harmony? - seriously, what is the implied harmony?

While we can use our years of cultural experience to create a harmony in our heads for a melody that harmony is implied by the years of musical conditioning that have gone before as much as it is by the melody, and it is a completely subjective experience. And the simple fact is that when there is only one note sounding at a time there is by definition no harmony.

All this begs the question though:

If a melody can not determine a tonal centre on it's own then how can it imply a harmony that does? Surely if there is some unheard harmony inherent in every melody and that "implied harmony" is what determines the tonal centre then hasn't the melody which itself implies the harmony also implied the tonal centre?

I don't get what you are trying to say there.
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Old 07-03-2015, 10:48 PM   #14
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okay, okay please, please help me out...

I mean, to whom were you referring too? Posts #1, 2, 3 or Post#8?... or all of them???, now I'm really confused? despite the passionate deliveries, posts 1, 2, 3, and 8 were albeit an honest attempt at clarification.

You seem to be stating that either or all above posts mentioned are (in your opinion) half-baked at best ...but then you follow it up with... well nothing? I mean this post (for me) has now become the most confusing of them all. The others were at least making honest attempts to sort fact from fallacy.

If you believe you have all the answers here, please by all means, enlighten us, share something, I mean for those like me, certainly now feel dumber due to this video having been posted.

I now don't know what to believe? (and in case you missed it), I would appreciate/value your input.

cheers!
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:02 PM   #15
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Best reaction I could ever hope for tbh. Confusion, a little anger and waves of antipathy.

The video was aimed at the op.
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:27 PM   #16
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at some point MT regs get tired of writing the same posts every 3 days so the vast majority become apathetic assholes
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:28 PM   #17
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:34 PM   #18
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confirmed

(I wrote like 5000 words on contextualizing scales, modes, tonality and their definitions historically and barely anyone even read the thread so frig off randy)
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:43 PM   #19
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Double confirmed. ^I read the thread...

20T:

I'm not claiming melodies don't show tonal centers. Behold:

Monophonic lines delineate harmony. An unaccompanied melodic line had harmonic implications. The melody does determine a tonal center, because it implies harmony, and the harmony determines the tonal center. That's what I'm getting at.

Yes, when there is one note sounding there is no harmony. But a melodic line implies harmony. Can you say that 'happy birthday' has no harmony, because there's only one note sounding at a time? Or a Bach cello suite? No. They imply harmonies IN the line.

Unless, you know, you think this has no harmony. I forgot that Bach didn't use harmony.



Right, clearly no harmonic movement or keys or anything there, since it's one note a time until the cadence.

My sarcasm aside:

A melody CAN and does imply tonality/modality/non-tonality because a melody implies harmony, but it's the harmony that determines those things, not the melody. The melody just delineates the harmony.

You can think about music vertically all you want (and there are times when this is a very good thing) but you hear it horizontally.
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:51 PM   #20
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