Author Topic: Stay true to scale?  (Read 2245 times)

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Ron

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Stay true to scale?
« on: December 29, 2015, 07:52:06 AM »
I received a book for Christmas called "Musical Scales of the World" by Michael Hewitt. I am trying some of them out, but have a question:

Many of the scales used in different parts of the world contain augmented 2nds. I was taught to avoid augmented 2nds if at all possible. However, when constructing chords I encounter situations where a chord, if I stuck to the scale, would contain both a sharp and a flat--something else I was taught to avoid. But, sometimes, there is an enharmonic equivalent that avoids both these problems. So, do I use the enharmonic equivalent, thus distracting from the integrity of the scale, or, do I stay true to the scale and commit minor crimes?

In the attached example I illustrate the problem with two chord spellings. Which is preferable?
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flint

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2015, 09:25:44 AM »
I generally try to stay true to the scale if I'm working in something non-standard.

The exception would be if I writing for keyboard, in which case I would recommend sticking with sharps or flats, but not both (unless you are implying a standard chord).
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2015, 12:01:15 PM »
I don't know. Since my music skirts regular tonality without ever stepping firmly in it, I tend to notate so that each line is logical rather than concentrating on vertical coherence.

this means that I could have two melodic lines that coincide on one note, and each of those lines has it spelled differently.

For example:

soprano descending line - C - Bb - Ab
alto rising line E - F# - G#

the Ab and G# are enharmonic. but it would be illogical in my opinion to transcribe either of those lines to match the accidentals of the other. (of course, I don't literally mean vocal soprano and vocal alto lines here. vocal music raises other issues, and yes, I WOULD make sure that any unisons matched in enharmonic spelling with vocal music)

As Flint remarked, for keyboard music, it's best to keep accidentals within the same family on chords, even if this causes a somewhat incoherent passage from one harmony to another. keyboardists are sort of used to this.
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sandalwood

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2015, 06:54:17 PM »
I received a book for Christmas called "Musical Scales of the World" by Michael Hewitt. I am trying some of them out, but have a question:

Many of the scales used in different parts of the world contain augmented 2nds. I was taught to avoid augmented 2nds if at all possible.

Regarding your puzzlement with the augmented second in the middle eastern "segah" makam (mode), I fear the scale structures of makams are actually more puzzling than that, as seen in the attached excerpt.

Though I know even less about makam music theory than the western one, I'll try to make one further point: to my knowledge (and as this paper underlines) what makes a music "segah" is not only that it employs a certain scale and finalis, but equally important are the various properties of the motivic/melodic structure, its contour and development (it is monophonic or heterophonic music, by the way). I think this is perhaps similar to the renaissance modes or ecclesiastic tuoni being defined not only by a  scale and finalis but by certain styles of melodic lines, skips, ambitus, cadential formulations, points of imitation, etc, as well.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2015, 08:18:02 PM by sandalwood »

Ron

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2015, 08:13:42 PM »
Thanks for the document, Reha. I'm always on the lookout for scales and devices to explore.

Thanks to Flint and Michel also for your helpful comments. I'm using these scales in a work for viola and piano, so I am sticking as close as possible to the scales for the viola and just using enharmonic equivalents when the fingering gets impossible. For the piano, I'm using whatever works in the context, regardless of the scale.
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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2015, 07:30:37 AM »
I would try not to worry as much about traditional Western rules while trying to explore a non-Western system. The point of the exercise would seem to be to have two worlds collide. And when collisions occur, things break. Embrace the conflict!

I would say that in your example A, things look wrong to probably everyone. But it's not because sharps and flats are together -- it's because that particular collection looks very altered out of context. In some contexts, it might make perfect sense.

Many of the scales used in different parts of the world contain augmented 2nds. I was taught to avoid augmented 2nds if at all possible.

Taught to avoid them in what context? It may make sense to avoid them melodically in a vocal line, as they can be hard to sing. Otherwise, I can't think of any reason anyone would want to avoid them. How else can we construct a harmonic minor scale or a diminished 7th chord?

Quote
However, when constructing chords I encounter situations where a chord, if I stuck to the scale, would contain both a sharp and a flat--something else I was taught to avoid.

I wish whoever it was who keeps teaching this idea would stop already. Think of any composer who ever wrote a note since Lassus, and you'll find sharps and flats living together peacefully in chords throughout their pages. Lots of augmented 2nds and even diminished thirds all through Beethoven. For heaven's sake, Guillaume de Machaut was writing diminished octaves in the 1300s!

Ron

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2015, 08:07:12 AM »
In reply to Jamie's comments about "rules"--my music education falls into two widely separated periods. The first, when I was a teenager, learning common practice harmony and counterpoint and writing conservatory of music exams (on which I did extremely well--thank you very much).

The 2nd phase began in my 50's when I went back to university and studied primarily with Deirdre Piper--a committed serialist, despite which she strong encouraged my explorations of more tonal structures. So, there are some conflict within me--that I think probably shows in my music. On one hand, I am aware of the "rules" that were drilled into me as a young student; on the other, I realise that these "rules" are just guideposts that I cannot completely ignore without good reason.

(And the first period explains why turned down an opportunity to study music at the University of Toronto on a scholarship. I could not imagine spending another four years memorizing the rules of common practice--which was my impression of academia at the time. Totally wrong, I now know, but I was 17-18 and didn't know much about the world, though I thought I, like most other 17-18 year olds--knew everything.)
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MikeL

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2016, 02:08:54 AM »
However, when constructing chords I encounter situations where a chord, if I stuck to the scale, would contain both a sharp and a flat--something else I was taught to avoid.

Augmented 6th chords like Ge6 have both a flat and a sharp i.e. Ab,C,Eb,F# in C.
These aren't the chords you're looking for.

saltamontes

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2016, 07:49:44 AM »
Wow, I missed Ron's original post, thanks MikeL for your response today or otherwise it might have escaped me completely.  I was not aware of Hewitt's book, "Musical Scales of the World".  I am certainly interested and will find it today.  Regarding scales with a b9/b2, I have a proclivity for that dissonance (I often use the Insen scale, Phrygian harmony, etc.), perhaps the result of my musical environment when I was a child.  Honestly, I have never really thought about writing a b2.  Anyway, thanks for the tip on the book, I'll give it a look.
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saltamontes

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Re: Stay true to scale?
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2016, 08:46:16 AM »
I read online some of Hewitt's book and it is now on its way  8) via Amazon Prime (a savior when you live in a remote location).  Kindle is also good (and almost instantaneous) for fiction, but I find it awkward when it comes to technical reading.  Thanks again for directing me to this book.

Saltamontes
Hold gently the hearts of those you love. For once they are gone, you will shed a thousand tears for each one you caused and the memory of each callous moment will be your companion.   Saltamontes