This scale, starting on D as shown above, is my favourite scale of all time. It feels unbelievably wonderful under the hand – three black notes in a row, four white notes in a row. And as good as it is to play in similar motion hands an octave apart, just wait til you try it thirds or sixths apart (magic), or contrary motion (strange and wonderful).
What makes this my favourite? Well, it has all my favourite features: the raised 4th of the Lydian mode which communicates curiosity and optimism; the flattened 7th of the Mixolydian mode which communicates a lack of tension and a trusting approach to life; and then to top it off we have the flattened 2nd which imbues any scale with exoticism and sensuality.
How could anyone not like this scale?
If you’ve been following the scale of the day you will notice that this is almost the same as last week’s Simpsons Scale - the only change is that flattened 2nd. But this one change means that the pattern is no longer from the pitch class of major modes, or of melodic ascending modes, and it doesn’t belong to the harmonic minor pattern either. This scale is one of the modes of the pattern I call the melodic diminished. Keeping the same notes we have in the scale shown at the start of this post, let’s just start on a different note:
So one option for giving a name to my favourite scale of all time is to call it “Melodic Diminished on the 4th degree”, but this approach to labelling is forensic rather than evocative, creating little incentive for the newcomer to make the acquaintance of this scale.
Naming is a powerful thing. When we know the name of something, our ability to know the thing itself is transformed. Naming is about classifying a thing, making a judgement as to how it works and what it does. So choosing to give an obtuse and derivative title to a scale implies that the scale’s meanings are equally obtuse and derivative.
So, what should we call this pattern? And what names has it been given in traditions outside of classical Western music theory?
Do you know any pieces of music that feature this pattern? And do you enjoy the sound and the feel of this pattern as much as I do?!