February 5th, 2010 by Andres Gallo
To start this article on scales, I want to mention that you may skip my lecture to the bottom of the article, where you can download some poster size printable diagrams on 3 exotic scales, as well as the harmonic minor, natural minor, and major scale. It also probably makes sense to point out what a scale is. In encyclopedia terms, it is a group of notes organized in ascending or descending order based on the pitch of the notes. This does not mean, however, that every time you play a scale you have to play every note in order. If that was the case, most music would sound eerily similar.
There are many uses for scales, but the main use of them which I can see in most western music is for structure. Most western music is based around the major scale, which becomes obvious when one improvises or composes using melodies and chords from the major scale. It just has that sound. Other techniques used with scales involve using for example, say, the major scale for the harmonies, and an exotic scale for the melodies thus creating a distinct mood to the song. This which is more advanced is an invaluable tool for creating unusual melodies, and I say its more advanced as leaving the natural major scale tones can introduce lots of dissonance with some note combinations. The key here is to exploit this dissonance for dramatic effect, or to simply stick to the notes of the scale that also show in the chords. I really feel I should add another tutorial for some basic rules on resolution and dissonance, but for the meanwhile let your ears be the judge; I for one love dissonance if used in the right places.
â€œUsing the previous tutorial, you will see how to find 5ths, or whatever interval. Fifths for example resolve amazingly well, yet if moved just a semitone, while playing the root can begin to introduce sweet dissonance.â€
Before I can finish the article, I have to share my favorite technique when it comes to learning new scales, as well as composing outside the box. If major and minor scales are the common thing, dissonance could be the solution many of us curious explorers want. Some of the so called “exotic scales” for example introduce a lot of intervals which can be dissonant or consonant, yet still which are worlds different in their sound compared to those in a natural scale. With this said, if we grab an exotic scale and start harmonizing several of its notes into chords, we achieve a melody that sounds unusual. A lot of composers find this technique to be a waste of time, but trust me. The sounds created this way are a very exciting technique for the musician or experimentalist looking to expand his/her sound. The Hungarian Minor scale for example gives you a minor addb6 in its root chord, and a Majorb5 on its 2nd chords, and augmented on its third and so on. Thought it sounds complex, its only a matter of mixing the notes that come in the scale. Feel free to email me suggestions on what you’d like to see me cover next time.
Scale Diagram Poster Link for Download here.
Print at tabloid size (11×17)