Inadequate Indoctrination (or, a practical instance demonstrating why scales matter)

Scales matter. Piano teachers are renowned for insisting that this is true, examination boards reward mastery of these patterns, and piano students compare speed and distance as if they are training for field and track. I talked before about why I think scales matter, in my Scales as Propaganda post, and this post follows up a lot of the ideas I put forward there. One of the main ideas in the Scales as Propaganda post is that the reason scales are important is not for technical facility per se (finger strength, fluency, tonal control and so forth) but for a broader (and fundamentally imaginative) ideational and geographical facility with the diatonic patterns that underpin music from the Baroque through to the end of the Romantic period (chromaticisms notwithstanding). What this means in practice is that if you know how to play the major scale in each of its 12 permutations you will have a reasonably high fluency in sight reading

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Scale of the Day #2: The Simpsons Scale

Rather than alter the original post (which would make the comments below somewhat hard to follow) I will leave it as is, but point out that “The Simpsons Scale” certainly does have a name within the jazz tradition, the Lydian-Dominant (just as last week’s scale has a name within the tradition of South Indian classical music, “Mayamalavagowla”), so in reality when I call this scale “The Simpsons Scale” I am boldly naming what hundreds of thousands in the world of jazz have named before. (And note that this scale has a name in the South Indian tradition  [Mouli’s comments below]). Now this scale isn’t actually called “The Simpsons Scale”, but since it isn’t actually called anything [in western theory] I have decided to boldly name what no one has named before. In reality the Simpsons scale is the melodic ascending pattern starting on the 4th degree, but it happens to be the pitch pattern used for the tonic harmonies in

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Scale of the Day (on a weekly basis)

2010 has dawned with a lot of people I know participating in a project to photograph some aspect of every day in the year – a lovely discipline to find things of visual and conversational interest in even the mundane moments life brings, I suspect.  I’ve been really enjoying the photographs posted in various networking media. But it led me to thinking: how about, instead of a visual image, a scale of the day? No, not the major and harmonic minor ones we’ve all practiced frantically in the final two weeks before our instrumental examinations.  Last year my most popular post, by some long way, was one I entitled Scales as Propaganda, where I argued that the patterns we learn to play are also the patterns we learn to hear, and the music of our lifetimes is replete with patterns that our [Western] culture,historically, doesn’t believe we should be recognising (otherwise we wouldn’t be able to pass our Grade 8

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The Harmonic Language of Ringtones

I’ve always been a Nokia phone user until now, the arrival of my new generation iPhone, and checking out the new ringtones in such close proximity to writing my Scales as Propaganda blog entry made me listen to my options with slightly different ears.  Each phone I’ve upgraded to has had improvements in the quality of sound used for the ringtone, but each new upgraded phone has also had a completely new suite of tiny compositions competing for my approval. How do these micro-musics reflect the pitch patterns of our day?  A quick analysis of my new iPhone options: To start with let’s subtract from the 25 standard ringtones the non-pitched or single-pitched options:  ‘Bark’, ‘Boing’, ‘Crickets’, ‘Duck’, ‘Motorcycle’, ‘Old Car Horn’, ‘Pinball’, ‘Robot’, and arguably ‘Digital’ which is pitched, but basically just use old-fashioned fax or dialup-style harmonics, ‘Alarm’ which is also a harmonic-derived sound which really only signifies ‘alarm’ in any sonic sense, ‘Timba’ which is a drumming

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