The Diminished Heptatonics

When I first started messing with all of this modal harmony junk (Intro to AHM), I only allowed room in my study for four of the six 7-note scales without consecutive halfsteps. The other two I discounted because they were simply subsets of the 8-tone octatonic scale, and didn’t seem worth my time to use as a separate entity to the full diminished scale. Recently, however, with all of this work I’ve done with Brightness/Darkness and Dissonance, I feel like I should at least give these two scales the courtesy of a deeper investigation, even if they weren’t going to be particularly useful to me for harmonic purposes (I haven’t started into the contrapuntal aspects of any of this yet…that may take some time)

So here’s the revised list of the Andihemitonic Heptatonics. The two Diminished Heptatonics fit nicely within the naming scheme we’ve got going, check it out.

Melodic Major (1 2 3 4 5 6 7)
Melodic Minor (1 2 b3 4 5 6 7)
Melodic Diminished (1 2 b3 4 b5 6 7)
Harmonic Major (1 2 3 4 5 b6 7)
Harmonic Minor (1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7)
Harmonic Diminished (1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 7)

So what do the modes look like? Well…messy. It was impossible to name them based upon the Greek modes like I have been doing without adding two or more alterations, to the point where it became rather meaningless, and I started making up fun names instead (Ridicu-Lydian!) I’m sure these modes have much more colorful and meaningful names in non-Western traditions, and if I were going to go into the melodic aspects of them in more detail I’d read up on that, but I’m going to stick to the messy system I have here for now. Applying Characteristic Pitch Theory to these modes is difficult because there are three diatonic tritones. There is in fact only one pitch in every mode with is not on a tritone (an anti-characteristic pitch?). Saying that these pitches give the mode it’s characteristic color is stretching it, since the color is shared so tightly with the other modes in the scale, so I didn’t bother trying. Integrating these modes into the harmonic schemes I’ve created, like Gradational Modulation, doesn’t look very likely.

Anyway, here they are, click for a larger image.

My next thought was to figure out if they fit into the Brightness/Darkness model I created around the Dorian mode. Here’s how they break down.

Brightness Melodic Diminished Mode
+6 Ridicu-Lydian
+3 Lydian b3, #5
+1 Lydian b2, b7
0 Ionian b3, b5
-2 Dorian b2, b4
-3 Aeolian b5, bb7
-5 Locrian b4, bb6


Brightness Harmonic Diminished Mode
+5 Lydian #3, #5
+3 Lydian #2, b7
+2 Ionian b3, #5
0 Phrygian #4, nat. 6
-1 Aeolian b5, nat. 7
-3 Locrian b4, nat. 6
-6 Ridicu-Locrian

You’ll notice again here that, like the other parent scales, there are an equal number of “bright” to “dark” modes in each diminished heptatonic, and one “neutral” scale. The sum of the brightness ratings in each scale is zero, and, like the Harmonic Major/Minor scales, modes of opposite brightness polarity in the opposite scale system invert to one another. For example, the Harmonic Diminished mode Locrian b4 nat. 6 has a brightness of -3, so it inverts to the Melodic Diminished mode Lydian b3, #5. And, of course, Ridicu-Lydian inverts to Ridicu-Locrian.

There’s a few weird things that happen, though. A couple of these modes have augmented and diminished imperfect consonance (#3, bb6). Because they are enharmonic to perfect consonance, they tend to screw around with our perceptions of dissonance and brightness/darkness, and things start to “flip.” I noticed this effect of extreme brightness starting to sound dark and vice versa with Lydian #2, #5 and Locrian b4 bb7 in the non-diminished scale systems, but it’s far more pronounced here. Ridicu-Lydian sounds dark and bluesy to me because the first tetrachord is enharmonic to (1 b3 4 b5) and Ridicu-Locrian feels a lot brighter than say, regular Locrian because of the enharmonic perfect 5 and major 6 (bb6 and bb7).

I considered going more into the relative stability of voicings in these Diminished Heptatonics in grading them on the scale of Dissonance I set up, but after toying with them again, I can see why I discounted them the first time. They’re just far too messy to work with harmonically outside of the context of symmetrical 8-tone diminished harmony. Taking one tone away from the diminished scale seems to throw everything out of balance, and trying to force these scales into the mold that works well for the non-diminished parent scales doesn’t help me. Now, these reservations apply solely to harmony and not to melody, because I haven’t really begun exploring counterpoint and melody for these modes. I felt like I should at least classify them and “be aware” of them before going into studying the wide open world of melody. However, they just don’t work for my harmonic system.

Stay tuned for more insanity!



3 Responses to “The Diminished Heptatonics”

  1. 1 jude December 21, 2012 at 4:28 am

    can you tell me the name of this 8-tone scale:

    1 2 3 b5 #5 6 b7 7
    if it started on the second degree at might look like this

    1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 6 b7

    I have not gone through each degree to compare with other scales I have found on the internet

    perhaps you will recognize it by ear.

    thank you for your help, j

  2. 2 Derick Collins June 8, 2013 at 5:12 am

    You shouldn’t rely on Greek names for most of these when they have racial, and ethnic origins based on geographical location and association by each cultural groups sounds and characteristics which is part of your problem..
    For example idk why most people think Harmonic Minor’s real name is Greek when in the Middle Eastern it’s referred to as it’s authentic name as the “Mohammedan” scale seeing how in their system it functions entirely different under their “Maqam” system. It’s an often way too common mistake music theorists make, they assume things to much from a European perspective, and don’t see things as they are in nature.

  1. 1 Teen Town « Adam Neely Trackback on June 12, 2010 at 4:50 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Welcome to Adam Neely's blog/website. Check out his compositions, links, and information about lessons on the top bar, and enjoy the music!

Twitter Updates

March 2010
« Feb   Apr »

%d bloggers like this: