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Noodling with scales

How many useful scales are there ““ or how many would be of interest to me? Modes are one set of scales that seem to get an inordinate amount of attention from fingerstyle guitar players (and others) these days. I guess it’s their folky and archaic sound world. Arabic and other eastern scales have been explored by others, notably Davy Graham. There are dozens of the things derived from traditions world-wide and invented. I reckon that all the possible sequence of intervals have been written down and explored. A scale, after all, is simply a stepwise sequence of notes from a root to its octave; how many notes and what intervals are between them are arbitrary to the definition.

For what purpose would I immerse myself in exotic scales? Well, it’s a toughie to answer coherently; I suppose in a way similar to my exploration of harmony, I’m trying to see what all this additional musical vocabulary would do for my writing.

Now, no way would I take (say) a Jewish scale with a view to writing a Kletzmer tune; I would, on the other hand, like to hear what colours I could bring to my writing with this scale on my palette. Also, notwithstanding that I’ve questioned the notion of “modal chords”, I wonder what juxtaposition of chords I might stumble across while noodling around with some of these scales (in a sort of free-association sort of way). That doesn’t appear much like a structured approach, I know, but I have no desire to over-systematize this because I think it would inhibit that curious faculty of intuition which is the precursor of useful musical ideas. Neither do I want to study traditional, cultural or historical use of any of these scales, lest I end up making up pastiches of pre-existing forms. No, this is all about what these scales might mean to me in my writing.

So there it is. I’ll either let you know here how I get on, or I won’t – depending on how successful it all turns out.

5 thoughts on “Noodling with scales

  1. So…How did it turn out? You can get some fun things out of alternate scales. I like a Hungarian scale over the Minor 5th chord, it sounds nice and exotic without being atonal or too terribly conflicting. It’s also really easy to play on Piano…


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  2. Dave! Where’d you go? Don’t get that sucked into those scales now 😉


    – Be sure to check out Berlin’s only true Kentucky Bluegrass Picker @ ! –

  3. Where’d I go? I’ve been in my bed struck horizontal with the ‘flu. A nasty bout. This is the third time snce Christmas that I’ve either had a cold or some other bloody bug. I’m normally resilient to all this and am used to feeling smug when others around are collapsing under heaps of Kleenex and lemon drinks. Anyway, I have hopes that it’s beginning to pass although these bugs can be sly and fool you.

    Before I got sick I was looking at the following scale which I’ve seen described as Gypsy, Byzantine, Double Harmonic and – Charhargah!!

    A – Bb – Db – D – E – F – G#

    I’ve been able to harmonize this (in A major) with all sorts of interesting chords diatonic to the scale – augmenting and diminishing 5ths and 9ths, typically, min/maj7 chords… But this is only a beginning because the nature of the scale and chords invites chromaticism which is more where I’m at.

    I may write this down – with all the diatonic chords I’ve found – as an example of my approach and post it. It might interest some folks. Or maybe someone has a better way.

    I have a new-ish song with a guitar part whose melody I’ve analyzed retrospectively as Locrian with G# root on D pedal bass. It’s recorded and I’ll post it on my main site shortly.

    Right, back to the cold remedies…

    Cheers, Nathan!

  4. Charhargah? That’s an amazing name for a scale. Hell of a lot better than anything I could come up with, anyways – although I was always partial to Julia…


    – Be sure to check out Berlin’s only True Kentucky Bluegrass picker @ ! –

  5. Oh yeah, and get better. Soon.


    -Be sure to check out Berlin’s only True Kentucky Bluegrass picker @ ! –

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