8.22 Alternative scales

 

Category: Harmony | Tags: Scales, Ear training: scales

Theory

Apart from the major and minor scale, there are several other scales. In this chapter you will learn about church modes, the gypsy scale, pentatonic scale, blues scale, whole-tone scale and octatonic scale. You will also learn to distinguish church modes by ear.


1. Church modes

The church modes were used in church music in the Middle Ages. There are six different church modes, these have names derived from the ancient Greek music theory. Church modes are using the notes of white-note scales, starting on C, D, E, F, G or A. The term mode or modus can be described as a type of musical scale.


Ionian

The Ionian mode consists of the following sequence: whole - whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half.

The Ionian mode
The Ionian mode, starting at C, is comprised of the notes C D E F G A B C.

The Ionian mode became the major scale and therefore sounds exactly like the major scale.

cd Ch.8.22 Alternative scalesThe Ionian mode starting on C.


Dorian

The Dorian mode consists of the following sequence: whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half - whole.

The Dorian mode
The Dorian mode, starting at D, is comprised of the notes D E F G A B C D.

The Dorian mode sounds like the minor scale with a raised sixth tone.

cd Ch.8.22 Alternative scalesThe Dorian mode starting on C.


Phrygian

The Phrygian mode consists of the following sequence: half - whole - whole - whole - half - whole - whole.

The Phrygian mode
The Phrygian mode, starting at E, is comprised of the notes E F G A B C D E.

The Phrygian mode sounds like the minor scale with a lowered second tone.

cd Ch.8.22 Alternative scalesThe Phrygian mode starting on C.


Lydian

The Lydian mode consists of the following sequence: whole - whole - whole - half - whole - whole - half.

The Lydian mode
The Lydian mode, starting at F, is comprised of the notes F G A B C D E F.

The Lydian mode sounds like the major scale with a raised fourth tone.

cd Ch.8.22 Alternative scalesThe Lydian mode starting on C.


Mixolydian

The Mixolydian mode consists of the following sequence: whole - whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half

The Mixolydian mode
The Mixolydian mode, starting at G, is comprised of the notes G A B C D E F G.

The Mixolydian mode sounds like the major scale with a lowered seventh tone.

cd Ch.8.22 Alternative scalesThe Mixolydian mode starting on C.


Aeolian

The Aeolian mode consists of the following sequence: whole - half - whole - whole - half - whole - whole.

The Aeolian mode
The Aeolian mode, starting at A, is comprised of the notes A B C D E F G A.

The Aeolian mode became the minor scale and therefore sounds exactly like the minor scale.

cd Ch.8.22 Alternative scalesThe Aeolian mode starting on C.


The major scale originated from the Ionian mode. The minor scale originated from the Aeolian mode. This took place from the middle of the 17th century.


2. Gypsy scale

The gypsy scale corresponds with our (harmonic) minor scale, in which the fourth tone is raised.
The occurrence of twice an augmented second (1 1/2 step) is typically for this scale.

 

Examples

note example

This scale is used in folk music of the Balkans, Spain and Portugal and in gypsy music in North Africa.


3. Pentatonic scale

The pentatonic scale is a scale that uses only five different notes within the octave. The Greek word penta means five.
There are many different ways to create a pentatonic scale.
The most used is is based on the major scale without the fourth and seventh tone.

 

Examples

note example

The black keys on a piano keyboard comprise a pentatonic scale.
Chinese musical scales are all based pentatonic scales and are used for thousands of years. Black key improvisations sound "Chinese".


4. Blues scale

The blues scale is a pentatonic scale with an extra tone (half step) added between the fourth and fifth tone.
This scale originated in the late 19th century.

 

Examples

note example


5. Whole-tone scale

The whole-tone scale is entirely made up of whole steps.
Since the notes of the whole-tone scale are the same distance apart, they all seem to be of equal importance. None automatically stands out as a tonic or dominant. The fifths in this scale are all augmented.

 

Examples

note example


6. Octatonic scale

The octatonic scale has eight different tones within the octave. Octa means eight.
This scale is comprised of alternating a whole step and a half step.

 

Examples

note example


7. Practise

Harmony exercise 8x: practise recognizing alternative scales.

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8. Ear training

 

Practise

Ear Training exercise 8f: Distinguishing the difference between Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian by ear.


Ear Training exercise 8f: Distinguishing the difference between Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian by ear.


Ear Training exercise 8f: Distinguishing the difference between all church modes by ear.

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Example question

Which church mode do you hear?

Choise 1: Ionian

Choise 2: Dorian

Choise 3: Phrygian

Choise 4: Lydian

Choise 5: Mixolydian

Choise 6: Aeolian

 

Practical steps

Sing the mode being played to form an idea of this mode. Decide which mode is being played.

Answer: Lydian.