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Thread: What is a diatonic Scale?

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    Default What is a diatonic Scale?

    What is a diatonic scale? Sounds easy, doesn't it? Of course we all know the easy answer: it's a 7-note scale.
    But let's go beyond that. What are some more characteristics of our diatonic scales in CP? Are there any requirements intervalic-ally or spatially? Where did they come from?

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    "Diatonic," in modern usage (let's forget ancient Greece), pertains basically to the common practice, major-minor system which uses the major scale and several forms of the minor. The "required" intervals are the ones present in those scales, without chromatic alteration or "in between" notes. By extension we could call other, "modal" scales diatonic and compose music based on them with or without chromatic notes.

    I don't know whether its usual to call both the ascending and descending forms of the so-called melodic minor scale diatonic, since the ascending form sharps the sixth and seventh degrees to match the major scale. I'm inclined to call it diatonic, but it does show the greater tendency of minor tonalities toward chromaticism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    "Diatonic," in modern usage (let's forget ancient Greece), pertains basically to the common practice, major-minor system which uses the major scale and several forms of the minor. The "required" intervals are the ones present in those scales, without chromatic alteration or "in between" notes. By extension we could call other, "modal" scales diatonic and compose music based on them with or without chromatic notes.

    I don't know whether its usual to call both the ascending and descending forms of the so-called melodic minor scale diatonic, since the ascending form sharps the sixth and seventh degrees to match the major scale. I'm inclined to call it diatonic, but it does show the greater tendency of minor tonalities toward chromaticism.
    No, let's not forget about the Greeks, because I might want to talk about tetrachords.

    And let's not call it "several forms of the minor." I prefer to think of the major/minor system to mean "natural minor" scales which are related to their major counterparts through key signatures and modally (Ionian and Aeolian). Another reason I prefer NOT to "forget the Greeks."

    I think it's better to think of melodic and harmonic minor as chromatically-altered forms of natural minor.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-06-2020 at 01:33.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    No, let's not forget about the Greeks, because I might want to talk about tetrachords.

    And let's not call it "several forms of the minor." I prefer to think of the major/minor system to mean "natural minor" scales which are related to their major counterparts through key signatures and modally (Ionian and Aeolian). Another reason I prefer NOT to "forget the Greeks."

    I think it's better to think of melodic and harmonic minor as chromatically-altered forms of natural minor.
    As you wish. .............

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    Are we including temporal with spatial?

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    We just did this seven months ago. You got a complete answer on the first page of this thread:

    Why Is C Major Called A "Diatonic" Scale"? What Does "Diatonic" Mean?

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    The wiki article suggests that the ascending melodic minor scale shouldn't be called diatonic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatonic_scale

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    We just did this seven months ago. You got a complete answer on the first page of this thread:

    Why Is C Major Called A "Diatonic" Scale"? What Does "Diatonic" Mean?
    Who are you talking to?

    You mean this?

    The term diatonic comes from Ancient Greek theory, where it designates one of three standard genera of tetrachords. Tetrachords are four note series dividing the interval of a perfect fourth. The three standard genera were diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic. Diatonic tetrachords comprise two tones and a semitone. Chromatic tetrachords comprise a minor third and two semitones. Enharmonic tetrachords comprise a major third and two quarter tones. The Greeks built modes by stacking tetrachords. For example, if one stacks the tetrachord B-C-D-E on top of the tetrachord E-F-G-A, one has the complete set of pitches to define a mode. This is a diatonic mode because both tetrachords are diatonic.


    When carried over into modern theory, the term diatonic indicates any mode or scale of seven notes comprising two diatonic tetrachords. This includes major and natural minor scales and all the standard Greek-named modes. C major is among this group and so is a diatonic scale.

    Then why didn't you copy it and paste it? Too much work, I guess.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-07-2020 at 17:04.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    The wiki article suggests that the ascending melodic minor scale shouldn't be called diatonic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatonic_scale
    I agree, and in my post #1 hinted at the same thing: Are there any requirements intervalic-ally or spatially?

    It would be nice if this were stated explicitly, instead of just posting a link and referring to it, without quoting. I guess my work ethic is stronger.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I guess my work ethic is stronger.
    Gosh. He's agreeing with you.

    Are your biceps stronger too?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Gosh. He's agreeing with you.

    Are your biceps stronger too?
    Who's agreeing with who? No, my index finger is stronger! Ha ha haaaa!

    More "real meat" for the discussion:

    The key signatures follow the circle of fifths, proving that the CP system is not really "chromatic" in an important sense. Why?

    There are only two intervals which, when projected (or "stacked") produce the entire chromatic scale before repeating: the fifth (and its other-direction inversion, the fourth) and the minor second.

    Thus, the CP system is built on progressions of fifths/fourths, not chromatics.

    Postulate 1: The interval-distance of a fifth is 7 semitones; a fourth is 5 semitones.

    Postulate 2: 12 (the chromatic collection within an octave) is divisible by 7 only when we reach 7x12=84. Similarly, 5x12=60. Both 84 and 60 lie well-outside the bounds of 12; they are the result of outward travel "outside" the octave.

    Postulate 3: The minor second interval distance is 1, and 1x12=12. this interval stays "within" the octave, is recursive within an octave.

    Postulate 4: Therefore, CP's "chromatic" nature is arrived at via the fifth/fourth, and is thus not "truly" chromatic as a "real" chromatic minor second is.

    The "CP chromatic collection" will still use diatonic principles: one example is that it will "divide" the octave at the fifth, not the tritone. For true chromaticism, the tritone is the true dividing point of the octave (6+6=12).
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-07-2020 at 18:01.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I agree, and in my post #1 hinted at the same thing: Are there any requirements intervalic-ally or spatially?

    It would be nice if this were stated explicitly, instead of just posting a link and referring to it, without quoting. I guess my work ethic is stronger.
    Ok, it's the intervals described by the white notes on a piano. Do you think that took a strong work ethic?

    A recurring feature of these threads is that you like to present very basic musical principles, or in some cases just definitions of simple terms, as deep insights. Those of us who choose to engage with them go in assuming you're trying to express a substantive idea, and waste a lot of time trying to figure out what it is.

    In this case, if I understand your last post correctly, your point is that the common practice system is based on root movements by fifths/fourths. That's true. Good job, I guess?

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Who are you talking to?
    Anyone who wants to avoid a rehash of a rehash.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    You mean this?
    Yes, that. It succinctly answers all the questions you raised in the OP, including the intervallic requirements and where they came from.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Apr-08-2020 at 01:48.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    Ok, it's the intervals described by the white notes on a piano. Do you think that took a strong work ethic?

    A recurring feature of these threads is that you like to present very basic musical principles, or in some cases just definitions of simple terms, as deep insights. Those of us who choose to engage with them go in assuming you're trying to express a substantive idea, and waste a lot of time trying to figure out what it is.

    In this case, if I understand your last post correctly, your point is that the common practice system is based on root movements by fifths/fourths. That's true. Good job, I guess?
    No, your problem is that you accept axiomatic definitions without really discovering them for yourself. This much is obvious. And it's very boring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    ...For example, if one stacks the tetrachord B-C-D-E on top of the tetrachord E-F-G-A, one has the complete set of pitches to define a mode. This is a diatonic mode because both tetrachords are diatonic.
    You fail to mention if there is a whole or half step between the tetrachords.

    Your H-W-W + H-W-W doesn't add up, because this is not specified.

    It makes more sense to stack C-D-E-F on top of G-A-B-C, with a whole step between, as in: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-08-2020 at 13:37.

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