Welcome back! In our previous blog, Understanding Scales, we discussed the basic structure of a scale, the intervals between the notes of a scale, as well as what makes a scale major or minor. Today, we would like to talk about a few non-traditional scales, including the harmonic minor, melodic minor, and pentatonic scales. After that, we will share a little bit about transposing a piece.
The Harmonic Minor Scale
These scales are actually quite similar to the natural minor scale. The only difference is that the seventh note has been raised half a step to create a leading tone into the tonic. This means that the difference between the seventh and eighth note is a half step instead of a whole step. It also creates a bigger distance between the sixth note and the seventh, which leads to a one and a half step.
The Melodic Minor Scale
This scale is just another version of the minor scale, much like the harmonic minor scale is. However, in this scale, the sixth and seventh notes have both been raised half a step. The most important thing to note, however, is that these alterations only occur as you climb the scale. Once you begin descending, you must sing or play the same way the natural minor scale descends.
The Pentatonic Scales
In the word “pentatonic,” the “penta” portion means “five.” As the name suggests, these scales only have five notes. These scales still need to pass through each of the notes to reach the tonic on the other end of the octave, so each note has a gap of more than a half step.
These scales and any other scales that don’t follow any of the traditional interval patterns that the diatonic and pentatonic scales follow are referred to as “nondiatonic scales” These scales do not have a tonic that can be identified.
A great example of a nondiatonic scale is the chromatic scale. Every single pitch is only a half step apart, which makes it impossible to find a tonic. The same idea applies to a whole tone scale, which is made of whole steps. There is no tonic present in this scale, either. The blues scale, which is a chromatic variant of the major scale, has flat thirds and sevenths which alternate with normal thirds and sevenths. When blues players use this scale, it creates an alternating sound that gives it the blues feeling.
Scales always have a certain key they are placed in, but scales can begin on any note and create a scale right there! It’s all about repeating the patterns. Transposing a song or scale is a great way to make playing a certain song less complicated, or perhaps bring it to a range where a singer would be more comfortable.
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