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The Creation of musical scales Part I

The Creation of musical scales Part I

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Published by MikeSufi
Theory of musical scales
Theory of musical scales

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Published by: MikeSufi on Jun 25, 2008
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01/02/2013

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The creation of musical scales
from a mathematic and acoustic point of view, part I,
by Thomas Váczy Hightower 
 
The focus will be on the acoustic laws behind the musical scalesand how numbers and mathematic plays a part in creation of the intervals inthe octave. Which factors have significance for creating a musical scale?Why is the division of the octave so basically common in different musicaltradition, and what make them variously? Why is the ancient Greek Pythagorean scale basically identical with the old Chinese scale? Whatcause the modern Western musical scale, the Equal Temperament, to be so"disharmonic" compared to the Eastern scales?Music has a often played an important part in shaping a culture. Some saythat music is the hidden power in a culture. In ancient societies it wasconsidered as a serious public matter, a fundament for the culture. Themusical scale itself and the right tuning of intervals can make all thedifferences in how emotions and ideas are expressed. It also insure thathumans are in accordance with earthly as well as celestial influence.The more meta physical aspects of music and sound and its influence of thelevel of consciousness and healing can be studied in my second part,TheMusical Octave II,where I will mix different levels and categories into alarger picture.
 
In this thesis I will perform an analysis of four different musical traditionand their basic scales:
 
the ancient Chinese
 
the Indian musical tradition
 
the old Greek music
 
the following European musical scales.
 
By looking at the many tuning systems worldwide, one common factor isoutstanding, theoctave. It derives from Latin and means the eighth. It is the8
th
step in the diatonic scale consisting of 7 tones, containing of 5 full tonesand 2 semi tones. The eighth tone in the diatonic scale, which is the mostcommon in the world, complete the octave on a pitch, that in frequency isthedoubleof the fundamental tone.This universal unit, that divide the realm of sound with the factor 2, can besubdivided in three basic ways:
 
1) By ageometricprogression, with any number of equalintervals, such as the common Western mode, the Equal Temperament with 12 semitines aand other numbers.
A geometric progression is a sequence in which each term (after the first) isdetermined by multiplying the preceding term by a constant. This constant is calledthe common ratio of the arithmetic progression. The octave sequence is also ageometric progression; so is the golden section. 
2) Byproportionswith low number ratios, E.g.. Just Intonation with itstriads of major Thirds, or by other harmonic relations to the tonic (Modalmusic), E.g.. Pentatonic or Septonic (E.g. Indian music).
 System of proportions are used in Modal music, E.g. the harmonic mean and thearithmetical mean in the division of an octave. 
3) BygeneratingFifths, E.g. Pythagorean Tuning or The Chinese Scale.
 There are hybrids too, such as the. Mean tone Temperaments. 
The habits of hearing
The reason there are so many different ways to divide the octave and displaysuch a bouquet of scales, can be found in the fact that there are no formulathere can fit the octave perfectly - unless some notes or keys sounddisharmonious. The different ratios expressed in numbers are prime inter-related so acommondivisor is not possible in an octave.Different musical traditions embrace this schism depending of what theyconsider best fit for their musical expression. The culture in which themusical scale has emerged is a profound reflection of that particularlyculture.The Eastern music tradition consider the fine tuned intervals of much moreimportance than the Western, which prefer harmonious chords in any keyfirst. Consequently there are intervals which are perceived consonant in theWest but are considered dissonant in the East.What it comes down to is habits. A musical scale is deeply ingrained. Itshapes the way one hears tones in succession in a fixed pattern. There has tobe at least three elements for a definition of a mode, just as three notes areneeded to define a chord.In the modulatingcyclicsystems, where very sound is mobile, it isnecessary to repeat the "body of harmony", (tonic, fifth or fourth and octave)in order to establish the meaning or mood of the note, but in themodal system one note alone, by changing its place, can produce the effect of achord.
 
 
Themodalframe, being fixed and firmly established in the memory of thelistener, have no needs for constantly repeating the chords as in harmonicmusic, in order to express the numerical relationship.That shape of ingrained intervals comes more or less out of tune, whenchange of keys or transposition moves the frequencies up or down. It is theway enharmonic notes arise. Increasing the pitch with a half tone is not thesame as decreasing with a half tone. It is two different notes.Expressed graphic the frequencies ratios behaves exponential - in a nonlinear curve - (which is displayed e.g. with logarithmic spacing of the fretson the neck of the guitar), so a discrepancy is produced by moving the setframe up or down. This discrepancy is expressed in the different commassuch as the Pythagorean comma or the smaller Syntonic comma, (thecomma of Didymos).
 
The notion of harmony is different too. In the West the perception of harmony is "vertical" - meaning as chords played at once. The Easterntradition of harmony is "horizontal". Each tone is carefully played and intime by attention add up by memory the harmonious chords.
 
Law of acoustics
Before we deal with the creations of musical scales, we have to dwell on theunder laying foundation of scales, namely the physical laws of sounds.Acoustics is a branch of physic that is complicated and extensive, so I haveonly chosen - in a brief form - those parts we need to look at in order tounderstand the invention of musical scales.
Sound wave
Sound is vibrations, but 3 conditions have to be in place, if a sound can beheard:1) The vibrating source for the sound, an oscillator.2) A medium in which the sound can travel, such as air, water or soil.3) A receiver for the sound, such as a functional ear or microphone.
 
The sound wave is a chain reaction where the molecules of the medium byelastic beats push the other molecules in thelongitudinaldirection quietsimilar to a long train getting a push from a locomotive.It is a longitudinaldisplacementof pressure and depressor in a molecularmedium such as air or water. Any sound is initiated by an oscillator, whichcan be a huge range of devices and instruments. Each one have its owndefinite characteristic sound.
 

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