Scales in Music
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Published: Mon, 02 Oct 2017
“Life is like a piano, the white keys represent happiness and the black show sadness. But as you go through life’s journey, remember that the black keys also create music” – “Unknown” Music was and will always be universal, personal, and close to millions of hearts anywhere in the world. Music would not have been created if it wasn’t accompanied by musical instruments and the uniqueness of all the different scales that were and are used today in music. “A musical scale is a series of notes differing in pitch to a specific scheme.” Music is a universal language that people understand and is never outdated. Scales were originally formed in the early Medieval and Renaissance periods which date back to 500 AD. Everything was created in the early western classical music periods even though only primarily one scale was typically used during that time frame up until the Modern period.
Two of the most common scales are called Major and Minor. Back in the Medieval and Renaissance periods, Major and Minor scales were used and coming from one specific term called “Church modes” or Gregorian modes. There are eight different types of Church modes: “The Lydian, Hypoaeolin, Hypolydian, Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Hypodorian and Aeolian.” One example of a Church mode would be a Gregorian scale. In natural major scales, typically the first solfege note begins and ends with Do. A typical Gregorian scale starts on Mi. The Gregorian model/scale is used for the piece “Song of Prayer”. This is an example of the Gregorian scale because the key starts on something else besides Do. The Gregorian scale itself starts and ends on a half step. Typically for most scales, there is a whole step between the first and second note. Every scale has their own sequence of half steps, whole steps and even thirds as well.
“The Pentatonic scale dates back to Greece, and the word Pentatonic derives from Greek and means pente, meaning five.” “The Tonic meaning tone.” When you put both names together you get pentatonic and it’s referred to as a five-note scale. It’s also quite similar to a Pentascale which is also a five note scale. The Pentatonic scale was also believed to be used in the past in ancient times. For example, Claude Debussy, who was very well known as an influential composer in the Romantic Period, used Pentatonic Scales in his own original pieces. One of his works, “The Sonata for Cello and Piano” used a Pentatonic scale in the key of D minor which was composed in 1915. When Major scales get transposed, they change into it’s relative Minor scale.
For Minor Scales, there are 3 different types of scales: A Natural Minor, A Harmonic scale and a Melodic scale. All three scales are very different but still are very similar to each other. A Natural minor Scale is a sequence of whole and half steps where all the keys are all pure natural keys that are not sharped or flattened. A Harmonic minor scale is written just like a Natural scale but written with one added accidental. Accidentals are symbols which are: sharps, flats and naturals that ended on the musical staff by accident. A melodic minor Scale is just like a Harmonic minor scale except it has two added accidentals on the 6th and 7th note of the scale. The Minor scales are very commonly used in music and the easiest scale to incorporate is the Natural minor.
The natural minor scale is also known Aeolian scale and it’s the complete opposite of a natural major scale. The qualities of the chords, the sound of the keys, and the whole and half pattern of notes are completely different. The sound of the natural minor scales are less high pitched than natural major scales. The tones of a natural minor scales are more darker and have a gloomier sound when you play the scale. For example, Green Day’s song “Holiday” is played in F minor and if you listen to the song you would automatically hear that it has a gloomy sound to the composition. When it comes to playing different scales and switching up the keys to make songs sound more unique, that’s when you have your Harmonic minor scale.
“The Harmonic minor scale derives it’s name from the harmonic function created by it’s 7th degree.” The Harmonic minor scale has a really pretty and soothing sound to it. Whenever I play the E harmonic minor scale, I think the scale sounds heavenly. Also, “The raised 7th gives this distinctly minor sounding scale a sense of authority.” Another example of a Harmonic minor scale would be “Easy Please Me” by Katy B, it’s solely based on the harmonic key in B flat minor. It doesn’t really sound heavenly but It definitely has more out-there sound and is completely unique. The last type of a minor scale is the most complicated one out of all of them.
The Melodic minor scale is quoted as the most commonly used minor scale. The Melodic scale is also quoted as the most complicated minor scale in Music Theory. The Scale has a nickname called “The Jazz Scale.” The Melodic minor scale has a raised 6th and 7th note in the scale to satisfy the harmonic part of the scale. One reason why the Melodic scale is difficult is because it creates conflict with the other scales. Another reason why the scale complicates things is because it’s in many different keys all at one. One example of the scale would be “Chelsea Bridge” by Billy Srayhorn because of its’ chords that sound dark and creepy. The first and most common scale that would come to people’s minds would be the major scale.
The Major scale is one of the four most commonly used scales in music today. Major is always mentioned in any type of scale;Major Pentascales, Major Natural Scales, Major Triads etc. The Major scale is referred to as the joyful and happy tune when you play any major scale. For Example, in Taylor Swift’s song “Ours”, It’s a crush worthy song that makes a person smile about the guy that their missing. The song is played in C major. Another Example of a Major key is Taylor Swift’s Song “Safe and Sound” featuring the Civil Wars. Despite it’s sound, it’s still written in major key even though it’s actually more on the gloomier and deeper side rather than the piece sounding cheerful. The song was written in G major. Imagine writing a song for key that’s easy to read and then writing a song for a key that’s so uncommon you have never heard of it.
“The Octatonic Scale is a eight note scale that consists of starting off a scale with half steps rather than whole steps.” The Octatonic Scale is the one scale that has a fully Diminished sound to it and that’s why it’s also called “The Diminished Scale”. One of the three modes of a Octatonic scale is a OCT (0,1) which starts off a half step to first and second note of the scale. The Second mode of the scale is an OCT (1,2) which is similar to the first mode because it starts off with a half to the first and second note as well. The last mode is called (Oct 0,2) which it’s pattern starts off with a whole step rather than half.
In conclusion, Music has always been there for me and anyone else who loves creating and listening to music. Imagine if the world had no music, all of us would have a heart attack. It’s really fascinating and wild how the generations have passed down music. It’s interesting how much there is to learn in music despite how challenging it is. In the end, It’s worth the stress to learn but to remember to never forget what you love the most: Music.
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