Friday, January 22, 2010

Double Harmonic Scale

Otherwise known as ARABIC or BYZANTINE scales. Rock'n awesome, I know. This is not, however, to be confused with the Arabic modes, which are built on quarter tones. The simplest Arabic mode just happens to resemble what Westerners call the Double Harmonic Scale. This scale also resembles the North Indian Thaat, Bhairav, and the South Indian Melakarta, Mayamalavagowla. So here is the lowdown on the Double Harmonic Scale.

Structure
The sequence of tones in the Double Harmonic Scale is:
half – augmented second – half – whole – half – augmented second – half.

Or, relative to the tonic, m2, M3, P4, P5, m6, M7

A really interesting feature about the double harmonic scale is it's symmetry around its root note. Breaking up the three note chromaticism and removing this symmetry by sharpening the 2nd or flattening the 7th note respectively by one semitone yields the Harmonic Major and Phrygian Dominant (more on this to come) mode of the Harmonic Minor scales respectively, each of which, unlike the double harmonic minor scale, has a full diminished chord backbone.Like most heptatonic (seven pitches in the octave) scales, the double harmonic scale has a mode for each of its individual scale degrees. The most commonly known of these modes is the 4th mode, the Hungarian gypsy scale, most similar to the harmonic minor scale with a raised 4th degree.

The second mode is somewhat of a hybrid between the blues scale (contains a #4) and bebop scale (both #6 and 7).

Use
The double harmonic scale is uncommonly used in Western music, because it does not closely follow any of the basic musical modes, nor is it easily derived from them. It also does not easily fit into common Western chord progressions such as the authentic cadence. The Arabic scale (in the key of E) was used in Nikolas Roubanis's "Misirlou", and Claude Debussy used the scale in "Soirée dans Grenade", "La Puerta del Vino", and "Sérénade interrompue" to evoke Spanish flamenco music or Moorish heritage.

This has always been one of my favorite scales, evoking a very exotic feel. Perfect for when you want to meditate, or feel like spicing up your day, play some music in a Double harmonic mode. Get your daily dose of Middle East!

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