About the Author
Yona studied music professionally at Hyattsville Middle School, Suitland High School, and Jacksonville University. She originally majored in Vocal Performance at JU, but switched to Music Business in order to add space for her growing passion for marketing. She specializes in Hip Hop, Funk, R&B, House, Jazz, and much more. You can checkout her work at Yona Marie Music.
This article is to help musicians discover and understand unique musical scales
I've always been a huge fan of melodic acrobatics when it comes to singing and playing instruments. Not only does it showcase skills and a great ear, but it's also super fun to hear and to try and mimic.
To achieve these types of musical feats, you need to have the basics, like a good sense of pitch and rhythmic control. But even more than that, it's always a great idea to have a knowledge of musical scales and modes to channel when freestyling your melodic arrangements.
There are some great concepts to imitate, yet while maintaining your unique style.
I'm going to share some of my all-time favorites.
While we all love the regular major and minor scales, I'll be skipping those and diving into some of the lesser-known gems.
Feel free to ask questions via the comments section below!
Hungarian Minor Scale
The Hungarian Minor is a unique and exotic scale with the following intervals:
- Minor Second
- Major Third
- Sharp Fourth (Augmented Fourth)
- Perfect Fifth
- Minor Sixth
- Major Seventh
With its unique augmented second interval, the Hungarian minor scale has an Eastern European sound, creating a feeling of mystery. This is ideal for creating captivating guitar solos or melodic riffs, especially in genres like metal, fusion, and progressive rock.
The double harmonic scale, also known as the Byzantine Scale, is very similar and useful, except it has a perfect fourth instead of an augmented fourth.
The chromatic scale contains all the natural notes (letters A to G) as well as the sharps (#) and flats (b) in between. Since this scale gives you all twelve notes, it offers endless possibilities for both vocalists and instrumentalists.
For example, if you are notating the chromatic scale starting on C, the notes would be notated as C-C#/Db-D-D#/Eb-E-F-F#/Gb-G-G#/Ab-A-A#/Bb-B-C.
Qualities and implementation of the Chromatic scale
Chromaticism can give a listener a sense of surprise and can be used to emphasize certain words or phrases within a song. To show off a bit, skilled singers and guitar players can use chromaticism to add complexity and sophistication to their riffs.
Although it's rare for songs to exclusively adhere to the chromatic scale throughout (since doing so will result in a challenging and dissonant sound), many exceptional compositions incorporate chromaticism in some capacity.
Whole Tone scale
The whole tone scale, which has all whole steps, lends a dreamy and trance-like quality to both vocals and guitar riffs.
Unlike regularly used scales such as major and minor, which incorporate a mix of half and whole-step intervals, the whole-tone scale stands out with its consistent two semitones (also called half-steps) between each note.
How to play/sing the Whole Tone scale
There are only two ways to play or sing through the whole tone scale. You can either start your scale with C and follow with D E F# G# A#, or you can start with C# and follow with D# F G A and B. You can actually start the scales with any notes in either of the two ways you play it, but notice that both scales do not share any keys.
In the key of C, the notes of the blues scale are:
- C (Root)
- Eb (Minor Third)
- F (Perfect Fourth)
- Gb/G# (Diminished Fifth/Blue Note)
- G (Perfect Fifth)
- Bb (Minor Seventh)
It's perfect for adding some soul to your riffs and runs when you adlib. Vocalists can infuse their runs with the sliding and bending techniques inherent in the blues scale, creating emotive and powerful vocal performances. Guitarists can use the blues scale to generate soulful and gritty riffs, incorporating bends, slides, and vibrato to emulate the vocal nuances of blues music.
Ukrainian Dorian Scale
Also known as the Ukrainian Dorian mode, this scale is a variant of the Dorian mode with a raised fourth degree. It's a beautiful and exotic scale that can add a unique Eastern European flavor (similar to Hungarian Minor) to your riffs and melodies. Here are the notes of the Ukrainian Dorian scale in the key of C:
- C (Root)
- D (Major Second)
- E (Minor Third)
- F# (Raised Fourth)
- G (Perfect Fifth)
- A (Major Sixth)
- Bb (Minor Seventh)
Qualities of the Ukrainian Dorian scale
The raised fourth (F# in the key of C) adds a touch of exoticism, allowing singers and instrumentalists the ability to create intriguing and memorable vocal lines. It can be particularly effective in folk, world music, or fusion contexts. For the more flavorful scales like the Ukrainian Dorian scale, try going for slower ornaments like melismas that can draw out the scale and really emphasize the unique intervals.
Whatever scale you use, work slowly to develop muscle memory, accuracy, and control over the different intervals and patterns.
Remember, developing your riffs, runs, and ornaments takes time and consistent practice. Be patient with yourself, stay dedicated, and enjoy the journey of exploring the expressive possibilities of your musical knowledge!
If you have questions about these scales or you'd like to get in touch, hit the comments section below or checkout my blog Yona Marie Music!
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