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Encyclopedia > Diatonic

In Music theory, the diatonic major scale (also known as the Guido scale), from the Greek "diatonikos" or "to stretch out", is a fundamental building block of the European-influenced musical tradition. It is sometimes used to refer to all the modes, but is generally used only in reference to the major and minor scales. It contains seven notes to the octave, corresponding to the white keys on a piano, obtained from a chain of six successive fifths in some version of meantone temperament, and resulting in two tetrachords separated by intervals of a whole tone. If our version of meantone is the twelve tone equal temperament the pattern of intervals in semitones will be 2-2-1-2-2-2-1. The major scale begins on the first note and proceeds by steps to the first octave. In solfege, the syllables for each scale degree are "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do".

The natural minor scale can be thought of in two ways, the first is as the relative minor of the major scale, beginning on the sixth degree of the scale and proceeding step by step through the same tetrachords to the first octave of the sixth degree. In solfege "La-Ti-Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol." Alternately, the natural minor can be seen as a composite of two different tetrachords of the pattern 2-1-2-2-1-2-2. In solfege "Do-Re-Mé-Fa-Sol-Lé-Té-Do."

Western harmony from the Renaissance up until the late nineteenth century is based upon the diatonic scale and the unique hierarchical relationships created by this system of organizing seven notes. It should be kept in mind that most longer pieces of common practice music change key, but this leads to a hierarchical relationship of diatonic scales in one key with those in another.

These unique relationships are as follows: Only certain divisions of the octave, 12 and 20 included, allow uniqueness, coherence, and transpositional simplicity, and that only the diatonic and pentatonic subsets of the 12 tone chromatic set follow these constraints (Balzano, 1980, 1982). The diatonic collection contains each interval class a unique number of times (Browne 1981 cited in Stein 2005, p.49, 49n12). Diatonic set theory describes the following properties: maximal evenness, Myhill's property, well formedness, the deep scale property, cardinality equals variety, and structure implies multiplicity.


See also

Further reading

  • Johnson, Timothy (2003). Foundations of Diatonic Theory: A Mathematically Based Approach to Music Fundamentals. Key College Publishing. ISBN 1930190808.
  • Clough, John (1979). "Aspects of Diatonic Sets", Journal of Music Theory 23: 45-61.


  • Balzano, Gerald J. (1980). "The Group Theoretic Description of 12-fold and Microtonal Pitch Systems", Computer Music Journal 4: 66-84.
  • Stein, Deborah (2005). Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195170105.
    • Browne, Richmond (1981). "Tonal Implications of the Diatonic Set", In Theory Only 5, nos. 1 and 2: 3-21

External links

  • Diatonic Scale (http://www.ericweisstein.com/encyclopedias/music/DiatonicScale.html) on Eric Weisstein's Treasure trove of Music

  Results from FactBites:
Diatonic Accordion (2832 words)
The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) resembles a small piano accordion, except where the piano-accordion has piano-style keys, the diatonic has one or more vertical rows of buttons - hence the title "button box".
The diatonic accordion was developed in Germany in the middle years of the 19th century, taking on pretty much its modern form in the 1890's.
The development of a range of harmonica-type instruments and the concertina from the 1820s onwards clearly played a part in the development of the button box, which became one of the most popular instruments in the world in the early 20th century.
Diatonic scale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (597 words)
In music theory, a diatonic scale (from the Greek diatonikos, "to stretch out") is a seven-note musical scale comprising five whole-tone and two half-tone steps, in which the half tones are maximally separated.
There is significant evidence that the evolution of the diatonic scale is natural, because it's based on the most basic harmonics of any scale's first note, and that it has actually occurred many times over the course of human history.
There is even circumstantial evidence that a flute used by neanderthals 32,000 years ago was based on a diatonic scale[1], as was a song recorded on a clay tablet in ancient Syria, 3,400 years ago.
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