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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.