Unorthodox Tonalities

author: CPDmusic date: 07/13/2010 category: scales
rating: 8.9 / votes: 17 
Intro: Hello, and welcome to another CPDmusic lesson! First of all, I meant to get this lesson out sooner. It's been sitting, completely finished, in my lessons folder for two or three days now, but I have been quite busy. Anyway, you may have noticed this lesson has a somewhat strange title, Unorthodox Tonalities. That's really just a fancy way of saying Weird Scales You Probably Don't Use or Hear Of That Often. I just figured Unorthodox Tonalities was a more acceptable title. Today we'll have a bit of fun looking at some unusual sounding exotic scales, so that you can write riffs in even more styles than you thought! So, let's get down to business! The Hungarian Major: The first scale we're going to look at is the Hungarian Major Scale. I'm going to take a shot in the dark in guessing it originates from Hungary. This scale is hard to explain, as far as sound goes. It just soundsexotic. Anyway, the pattern for this scale (you may remember the tone semitone patterns in the major vs. minor lesson) is root note, 3 semitones, 1 semitone, 1 tone, 1 semitone, 1 tone, 1 semitone, 1 tone. So, using this pattern, we will transcribe an E Hungarian Major Scale. Now, remember that 1 semitone is the equivalent of 1 fret, and 1 tone is the equivalent of 2 frets. So, an E Hungarian Major scale, using the 1 fret, 2 frets method, would look like this before transposition:
E||----------------------|------------------------||
B||----------------------|------------------------||
G||----------------------|------------------------||
D||----------------------|------------------------||
A||----------------------|------------------------||
E||--0----3----4----6--|--7----9----10----12-||
And after proper transposition, it would look like this:
E||----------------------|----------------------||
B||----------------------|----------------------||
G||----------------------|----------------------||
D||----------------------|------------0----2---||
A||-----------------1----|--2----4-------------||
E||--0----3----4--------|----------------------||
Now, lets quickly study this scale. Firstly, it follows the main rule for scales, it covers an octave (in this case E to E). Now, when comparing the Hungarian Major scale to our usual Major Scale, you will notice only three notes are different. (WARNING: Musical intervals ahead! If you know nothing about musical intervals, read this.) First of all, in case you forget how to play the E major scale, here it is.
E||----------------------|----------------------||
B||----------------------|----------------------||
G||----------------------|----------------------||
D||----------------------|------------1----2---||
A||-----------------0---|--2----4--------------||
E||--0----2----4--------|----------------------||
First thing you will notice is that the second note in the Hungarian major is a minor third of the root, while in the standard major, it is a major second of the root. The second note that is different is the fourth note of the scale, which, in the Hungarian major scale, is a tri-tone of the root note, while in the standard major scale, it is a perfect fourth of the root note. Finally, the seventh note of the two scales differ. In the Hungarian major scale, this note is a minor seventh of the root, while in the standard major scale, this note is a major seventh of the root. So, we can conclude that the Hungarian Major scale has more minor intervals than the standard major scale, which gives it it's unique tone. Now, there is a Hungarian Minor scale as well, but for the sake of time, we'll move on to another scale. The Spanish 8-Tone: Now, there is one particular reason I want to look at the Spanish 8-tone scale. It is the only scale that I have come across (there might be more, this is just the only one I know of) that uses 9 notes to cover an octave (ironic, as it's called the 8-tone). So, the pattern for this scale is root note, 1 semitone, 1 tone, 1 semitone, 1 semitone, 1 semitone, 1 tone, 1 tone, 1 tone. Now, using the fret method, we can transcribe an un-transposed E Spanish 8-tone, which would look like this:
E||----------------------|-----------------------|--------||
B||----------------------|-----------------------|--------||
G||----------------------|-----------------------|--------||
D||----------------------|-----------------------|--------||
A||----------------------|-----------------------|--------||
E||--0----1----3----4--|--5----6----8----10--|--12---||
Now, properly transposing that, it looks like this:
E||----------------------|----------------------|-------||
B||----------------------|----------------------|-------||
G||----------------------|----------------------|-------||
D||----------------------|-----------------0---|--2----||
A||----------------------|--0----1----3-------|-------||
E||--0----1----3----4--|----------------------|-------||
So, quickly, examining this scale, it does cover the octave, although it does so using nine notes, causing this scale to seem awkward when you play it. But, there is a valid reason for this scale having 9 notes. Traditional Spanish music is often written in 3/8 time! So, this scale in 3/8 time, with each note being an eighth note, looks like this:
E||-----------|-----------|-----------||
B||-----------|-----------|-----------||
G||-----------|-----------|-----------||
D||-----------|-----------|-----0--2-||
A||-----------|-----0--1-|---3------||
E||--0--1--3-|--4--------|----------||
So, you just learned two important things in case you ever had the sudden urge to write a tradition Spanish piece of music (which I do a lot, it's really cool music), than use the Spanish 8-tone, and write in 3/8 time! The Chinese Scale: This is the final scale we are going to look at for this lesson. It is of Chinese decent (duh!), and is a pentatonic scale. The pattern for the Chinese scale is root note, 1 tone, 1 tone, 3 semitones, 1 tone, 3 semitones. So, using this knowledge, as well as the fret method, an un-transposed E Chinese scale would look like this:
E||----------------------|-------------||
B||----------------------|-------------||
G||----------------------|-------------||
D||----------------------|-------------||
A||----------------------|-------------||
E||--0----2----4----7--|--9----12---||
While a properly transposed one would look like this:
E||----------------------|------------||
B||----------------------|------------||
G||----------------------|------------||
D||----------------------|-------2----||
A||-----------------2---|--4---------||
E||--0----2----4--------|------------||
So, like all scales, it covers the octave, and it is a pentatonic scale. If you play it, you will notice it has a distinct Chinese feel to it, which is good if you wanted to write a song in that style. The reason it has this distinct tone is due to it's large jumps (you may have notice that there are nothing less than 1 tone jumps in this scale, while most scales have some semitones). So, there it is, the Chinese scale! Outro: Well, that's all for today! Hopefully you had fun learning some strange scales, and now you posses the ability to write more exotic songs. Hey, you could write a Hungarian folk song if you wanted! Or a tradition Spanish piece, using a 3/8 time signature! Or maybe a traditional Chinese folk song! And don't think this is it! There are many more exotic scales out there! In fact, if I get enough positive response from this lesson, maybe I'll write a sequel! Anyway, I hope you will leave this lesson more knowledgeable in world music, and use this knowledge to compose some exotic riffs! Did You Like This Lesson? Check Out My Last Lesson, Using Scales For Chord Progressions. More Lessons Coming Soon!
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