• Here’s How Scales Are Classified According To Note Aggregate

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    In this lesson, we’ll be  learning how scales are classified according to note aggregate.

    There are so many ways to classify a scale — ranging from culture area, to usage, to tonality, etc. But we’re focusing on the classification of scales according to note aggregate which is concerned with the number of tones in the scale per octave.

    But before we do so, let’s refresh our minds on the concept of scale.

    A Quick Review On The Concept Of Scale

    There are so many ways to define a scale.

    However, according to Jermaine Griggs, “a scale is a succession of notes in ascending or descending order, with a fixed distance between successive notes”.

    I believe the above definition is self-explanatory. For example, playing a succession of notes from C:

    …to C:

    …on the piano, this produces the C natural major scale:

    …which is the most basic scale on the piano that almost everyone got started out on the piano with.

    “Besides  The Major Scale…”

    There are a variety of other scales and these scales are classified according to any of the following:

    Culture area

    Usage

    Tonality

    However, we’re focusing on the classification of scales according to note aggregate in this lesson.

    The Classification Of Scales According to Note Aggregate

    The classification of scale according to note aggregate is concerned with the number of tones in the scale per octave.

    There are a handful of scale classes according to note-aggregate, let’s check them out.

    Monotonic Scales

    A monotonic scale has one note per octave and is found in African folk music. For example, within the compass of one octave (C to C):

    …there’s just one scale tone (C):

    Ditonic Scales

    When a scale has two notes per octave, such a scale is said to be ditonic. There are tons of ditonic ethnic instruments in different parts of the world.

    Check out some of these ditonic scales:

    C-C#-C:

    C-D-C:

    C-Eb-C:

    C-E-C:

    C-F-C:

    C-F#-C:

    Attention: The term ditonic should not be confused with the term diatonic. In the term ditonic, di means two and tonic means pertaining to tones. So, a ditonic scale pertains to two notes per octave.

    Tritonic Scales

    Any scale that consists of three notes per octave is a tritonic scale.

    The term tritonic can be broken down into tri and tonic; tri meaning three and tonic means pertaining to tones.  Therefore, a tritonic scale pertains to three notes per octave.

    Here are some of them:

    C-Db-Eb-C:

    C-Db-E-C:

    C-D-Eb-C:

    C-D-E-C:

    Attention: Tritonic scales are not to be associated with the tritone for any reason.

    Tetratonic Scales

    Tetratonic scales are basically four-note scales. So, there are four notes per octave in all tetratonic scales.

    The term tetratonic can be broken down into tetra and tonic; tetra meaning four and tonic meaning pertaining to tones.  Therefore, a tetratonic scale pertains to four notes per octave.

    Here are some of them:

    C-Db-Eb-F-C:

    C-Db-E-F-C:

    C-D-Eb-F-C:

    C-D-E-F-C:

    Pentatonic Scales

    A pentatonic scale consists of five notes per octave. The term pentatonic can be broken down into penta and tonic; penta meaning five and tonic meaning pertaining to tones.

    Therefore, a pentatonic scale pertains to five notes per octave.

    Here are some of them:

    C-D-E-G-A-C:

    C-D-F-G-Bb-C:

    C-Eb-F-Ab-Bb-C:

    C-D-F-G-A-C:

    C-Eb-F-G-Bb-C:

    Hexatonic Scales

    Hexatonic scales have as much as six tones within the compass of an octave. Check out some of them:

    C-D-E-G-A-B-C:

    C-D-Eb-G-A-B-C:

    C-D-Eb-G-A-Bb-C:

    C-D-E-F-G-A-C:

    C-D-E-F-G-Ab-C:

    Heptatonic Scales

    Any scale that consists of seven notes per octave is a heptatonic scale.

    The term heptatonic can be broken down into hepta and tonic; hepta meaning seven and tonic means pertaining to tones.  Therefore, a heptatonic scale pertains to seven notes per octave.

    Here are some of them:

    C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C:

    C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C:

    C-D-Eb-F-G-A-B-C:

    C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C:

    C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C:

    Octatonic Scales

    Octatonic scales are eight-note scales. So, there are eight notes per octave in all octatonic scales.

    The term octatonic can be broken down into octa and tonic; octa meaning eight and tonic meaning pertaining to tones.  Therefore, an octatonic scale pertains to eight notes per octave.

    Check out these octatonic scales:

    C-Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C:

    C-D-Eb-F-F#-G#-A-B-C:

    Final Words

    I’m doubly sure that from what you’ve learned from this lesson you’ll be able to classify any given scale according to note aggregate.

    The scale below:

    …consists of five notes per octave — A, B, C#, E, F#, A — consequently, it’s a pentatonic scale.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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