Unorthodox Tonalities

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.

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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!

38 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Cmd. Cool
    Cool article; a couple of new scales to have a play with is always good. It would have been cool if you gave some context in which these scales could be used (chord sequences or songs etc.) Also, isn't the Chinese scale the major pentatonic? Or have I missed something?
    Solstace
    You'd be better off calling that the Whole-Half Diminished scale. By starting with the semitone you would get the Half-Whole diminished.
    Whoops, that should be Half-Whole, and the other one Whole-Half. I missed the "Root Note" in the post, so I got them turned around >.
    Flibo
    @firebirdg The "symmetrical" scale is called a half-whole scale. I don't really get the idea in calling it symmetrical.
    Ilushka
    About the spanish scale, It's an 8 note scale if you don't count the octave. Anyways, cool lesson
    Rokeman
    I'm going to give these a shot next time I'm holding a guitar. I already know the Hungarian Minor Scale, so the Major scale should be interesting. Thanks.
    exanimateguitar
    i got a question, isn't the spanish 8 tone scale just an e phrygian scale with the dominant tone, G#?
    motallica757
    Hey thanx for the lesson dude theres this really cool scale I want to know about I don't hear it a lot but u can hear it in a several System of a Down songs...mostly in "Hypnotize" The scale is basically a Major scale with a minor 6th instead of a major 6th...
    Solstace
    And just to add a bit of info, another 8-tone scale I know is the Symmetrical Scale: E|-0-1-3-4-6-7-9-10-12-| Meaning: Root note, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone... And so endlessly. You can see why it's called symmetrical.
    You'd be better off calling that the Whole-Half Diminished scale. By starting with the semitone you would get the Half-Whole diminished. Another fun set of 8 tone scales are the Bebop scales, which can give you both a major and minor third along with some other weird harmonies. Technically, they're 7 tone scales with passing notes, but whatever. Also check out the Kumoi and Hirajoshi scales for some fun asian tonalities.
    motallica757
    there are 2 great scales that I see in a lot of songs. i play them a lot too they're really fun I have no idea what they're called, but here we go: E|-0-2-4-5-7-8-10-12-| this ones used in some classical music and the best SOAD songs(hypnotize,streamlines,violent P, and most of serj's vocals) also, E|-0-2-3-6-7-8-10-12-| this is more rare and it's got a really scary theme, I hear it in some old eastern music but it's very suitable for metal vocals too(listen to Patterns by serj tankian and tony iommi)
    22-20
    AeolianWolf has pretty much covered all the concerns I had with this. I gave it a 7. I think that was too much though.
    motallica757
    sorry for the double post but, the 2nd scale I listed is the one in pantera's cemetary gates riff if u wanna hear it
    CPDmusic
    motallica757 wrote: there are 2 great scales that I see in a lot of songs. i play them a lot too they're really fun I have no idea what they're called, but here we go: E|-0-2-4-5-7-8-10-12-| this ones used in some classical music and the best SOAD songs(hypnotize,streamlines,violent P, and most of serj's vocals) also, E|-0-2-3-6-7-8-10-12-| this is more rare and it's got a really scary theme, I hear it in some old eastern music but it's very suitable for metal vocals too(listen to Patterns by serj tankian and tony iommi)
    The first scale is an E melodic major, the second is an E "Camara" scale. It has the same notes as the B Neapolitan scale, except it has a minor sixth interval instead of a major.
    FBassman
    to be honest, it seems like you're more trying to sound impressive than teach people. In a way your stuff makes sense, but it is written in the most confusing sense possible. And learning exotic scales' patterns without context is more or less musically useless.
    L2112Lif
    It IS an augmented second in classical theory terms, but in guitar theory its easier to call it a minor third, because you're moving up three frets from your original note. BTW, its called the spanish 8-Tone because there are 8 tones without REPEATING the root. Its the same reason that pentatonic scales (Made up of SIX notes) are called PENTA-tonic (Five notes). What you're teaching is REALLY useful... But you just kinda skim it. There's a LOT in a scale, and a LOT you missed. What chords can you build from the Hungarian? How do the notes interact, and what notes have a tendency to pull to each-other? Where would you use these scales in a major/minor situation? Who uses these, what do they sound like? What you're teaching is really super-cool, but you've left too much unexplained and have only uncovered the very top layer of these scales. You've gotta do a lesson on the practicality of these scales, because this is far too basic for anyone who's looking to use the scales.
    Bluesguy1
    Building on Flibo's (and other's) comments: There are several other 8-tone scales, but two are commonly used in jazz and more sophisticated R&B and blues: Half-whole diminished: C,Db,Eb,Fb(E),Gb,G,A,Bb,C Whole-half diminished: C,D,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,A,B,C If I remember correctly, Half-Whole Diminished is typically used with altered chords (C7#9#5, C7b9b5, etc.) while Whole-Half Diminished is typically used with diminished chords (R,b3,b5,bb7[6]).
    sorting things
    Bluesguy1 : Building on Flibo's (and other's) comments: There are several other 8-tone scales, but two are commonly used in jazz and more sophisticated R&B and blues:
    there are 29-different 8-tone-combinations, within the simple-12-tone-chromatic scale.
    slowlybilly
    Octatonics still confuse me...ahhh...chromatics too...I love pentatonics, and diatonics though....Could I get the formulas for these scales though...I don't feel like working them out right now...if not I'll just dig 'em up later...and any advice for octatonics/chromatics is greatly appreciated.
    firebirdg
    Man (or woman), your lesson is cool! Very well explained. As it's been probably already said, the 8-tone scale is called like that because it has 8 different tones, and notes (Lol just noticed they're anagrams). The E is repeated but in a different pitch. And just to add a bit of info, another 8-tone scale I know is the Symmetrical Scale: E|-0-1-3-4-6-7-9-10-12-| Meaning: Root note, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone... And so endlessly. You can see why it's called symmetrical. Good luck! =D
    Night_Lights
    crazysam23_Atax wrote: I'm surprised you didn't mention the Harmonic Minor Scale.
    harmonic minors not exactly unorthodox...
    ChamsRock
    That's pretty cool, I like it. I'd enjoy a sequel, because I love exotic scales!
    Krieger91
    CPDmusic wrote: Krieger91 wrote: dude did someone ask you to do this from youtube?????..murders2012?? Yup
    THANK YOU MAN ahahah.
    CPDmusic
    Cmd. Cool wrote: Also, isn't the Chinese scale the major pentatonic? Or have I missed something?
    Ya, it is. I just wanted to see who noticed that
    DasiusPsycho
    Also, isn't the Chinese scale the major pentatonic?
    If I'm not mistaken, the major pentatonic goes from the G# to the A#, and this to the B. Also great article, always love to learn exotic sounding scales.
    Gliu330
    DasiusPsycho wrote: Also, isn't the Chinese scale the major pentatonic? If I'm not mistaken, the major pentatonic goes from the G# to the A#, and this to the B. Also great article, always love to learn exotic sounding scales.
    You are mistaken. The Chinese scale described here is none other than the major pentatonic: root, major second, major third, perfect fifth, major sixth, and root.
    hildesaw
    I've never used the Hungarian Major, but I use the Hungarian Minor just about as much as the natural minor. I just love the mischievous feel to it.
    CPDmusic
    Krieger91 wrote: dude did someone ask you to do this from youtube?????..murders2012??
    Yup
    CPDmusic
    Krieger91 wrote: CPDmusic wrote: Krieger91 wrote: dude did someone ask you to do this from youtube?????..murders2012?? YupTHANK YOU MAN ahahah.
    Anytime
    MonsterOfRock
    What about the Enigmatic scale? The most ridiculous scale of all time! Its like: half, tone and a half, tone, tone, tone, half, half. No perfect 4th or 5th and both major and minor 7ths are present.
    CPDmusic
    MonsterOfRock wrote: What about the Enigmatic scale? The most ridiculous scale of all time! Its like: half, tone and a half, tone, tone, tone, half, half. No perfect 4th or 5th and both major and minor 7ths are present.
    I was actually anticipating on doing that one next time around.
    AeolianWolf
    First thing you will notice is that the second note in the Hungarian major is a minor third of the root
    it's that 0-3-4-6-7-9-10-12 scale, yes? in that case, the second note is not a minor third, it is an augmented second.
    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 its called the 8-tone).
    haha, how is that ironic? besides, it's not weird. it has 8 tones. the first and the last note are an octave apart - i.e., they are the same note (pitch frequency 2:1, yes, but still the same note). the standard major scale is considered a heptatonic scale -- seven tones. as for other scales that have nine (eight distinct) notes, the bebop scales are the only ones i can think of. other than that, well written article (except that changing the notation from one string to a couple of strings isn't transposition), but when i saw "tonalities", i was hoping to read about more than playing a couple of scales. some context would have been nice, too -- there's more to music than scales.
    CPDmusic
    AeolianWolf wrote: it's that 0-3-4-6-7-9-10-12 scale, yes? in that case, the second note is not a minor third, it is an augmented second.
    An augmented second and a minor third are enharmonic. Both the minor third and the augmented second are three semitones, correct?
    m3tal_R3dn3ck
    I really liked this article. One issue I had with it was trying to read your intervals. I think it would have been easier to read and most likely write with just numerical intervals, based off of the major scale. EX Hungarian Major - 1 2# 3 4# 5 6 7b 8. (I think I wrote that right, but I have difficult following the written directions). Just an idea for your next article.
    AeolianWolf
    CPDmusic wrote: An augmented second and a minor third are enharmonic. Both the minor third and the augmented second are three semitones, correct?
    right, but there's a reason there are two names. in this case, it would be an augmented second. take m3tal_r3dn3ck's scale formula, for example. it's correct. it's 1 #2 3 #4 5 6 b7 8. 1 to #2 is an augmented second. if you called it a minor third, it would have to be 1 b3 3 #4 5 6 b7 8. let me build this scale on C. it would be C D# E F# G A Bb C. C to D# is an augmented second. a minor third from C is Eb -- so if you called that a minor third, you'd have to make your scale C Eb E F# G A Bb C, which is unwieldy to the eye since it contains two kinds of Es. enharmonics have to do with how a note sounds. D# and Eb may sound the same (at least in our standard 12-TET tuning system), but they're different notes.
    xHellbound
    I love Hungarian scales. I've been messing around a lot with the major and minor scale patterns. If you like Asian scales, check out Kumoi and Hirajoshi.
    CPDmusic
    slowlybilly wrote: Octatonics still confuse me...ahhh...chromatics too...I love pentatonics, and diatonics though....Could I get the formulas for these scales though...I don't feel like working them out right now...if not I'll just dig 'em up later...and any advice for octatonics/chromatics is greatly appreciated.
    What do you find confusing about octatonics and chromatics? Basically, a chromatic is 12 tones, each evenly spaced (1 semitone), making it a non-diatonic scale. An Octatonic scale is just what it says, an eight-tone diatonic scale. It's just like how a pentatonic scale has 5 tones, an octatonic has eight. If you can tell me exactly what you want to know, I can probably help you a bit more.