Tip #119 – Understanding the Hanumatodi Scale

The Carnatic music of South India has 72 scales (melakartas) comprised of seven different notes in either an ascending (arohana) or descending (avarohana) fashion. These scales are used in a kind of India music called rāga and are extremely beautiful. In addition these scales are grouped into different chakras, based on certain similarities.

Today’s melakarta is the Hanumatodi scale (meaning “break”), the second scale from the second chakra.

Below is a representation of the scale as if it was put into Western notation:

Notice that this is also the Phrygian mode.

Try playing around with the scale, possible harmonies, and progressions!

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Tip #118 – Building a Hybrid Scale

Just like a hybrid-powered car, your scales can come from being a combination of two or more different scales.

A simple way to construct a hybrid scale is to take one-half of one scale, and combine it with one-half of the other.

So, for example; you can take the first half of the Phrygian scale and mix it with the second half of the Mixolydian scale.

Another way of constructing a hybrid scale is to take a known scale an alter certain notes by raising or lowering them.

Don’t be surprised either if your “hybrid scale” turns out to be an actually scale!

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Tip #117 – Using the Arabic Scale

Besides the weekly discussions of scales from rāga music in South India, you can also use the “Arabic scale” to get an exotic tonality to your composition.

To construct an Arabic scale, basically lower the second and sixth scale degrees of a major scale:

From there, use the tendency tones of resolution within the scale to write a melody:

And there you go! An exotic foreign-sounding melody just from lowering two scale degrees.

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Tip #116 – Key Change with a Predictable Melody

Once you established an “earworm” melody in the listener’s… ears of course, you have the ability to pull out the rug from underneath them and do a key change.

How?

Well, first take a look at the composition below:

Say that the first four measures is the original motif/chorus/theme… whatever you want to call it. We know that on every repeat the second measure of the four measure pattern the melody is an A4.

However, that pitch can be harmonized in a multitude of ways. Looking back at the example above, the pitch is now harmonized with an A major triad instead of an A minor triad. This chord then acts as a IV chord in a IV-V-I progression taking us to the key of E Major.

This sounds smooth to the ear because we were already expecting that A to happen… just not the other notes around it.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #12

Continuing with the recent weeks talking about making artistic comparisons, a songwriter can do so with a simile.

A simile is a comparison of two different things using “like” or “as”

You can compare two similar objects like:

  • Soft as a pillow
  • Hot like fire

Or compare two different things in a contrasting (almost sarcastic) juxtaposition:

  • He’s as alive as a tombstone
  • Strength like a feather

Regardless of how you choose to use a simile, be sure it enhances the creative and descriptive poetry of the song.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 13.) Pitch-Class Collections of Natural Minor Scales

Continuing with the idea of pitch-class collections and how they can form scales, let’s introduce a new scale: the natural minor scale.

To make a natural minor scale, one has to have a collection of pitches that in ascending order go in an intervallic pattern of whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, and whole-step back to the original pitch. One can also think of this as M2-m2-M2-M2-m2-M2-M2.

Take a look at the composition below, write the pitch-class collection, and then arrange the pitches into an ascending manner fitting the pattern of the natural minor scale:

If you did it correctly, you would get {F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#}, which means this composition uses a F# minor scale…

…but wait, don’t the same pitches used also make up the A Major scale?

That is correct! For every major scale, there is its own relative natural minor scale. All you have to do is go down a minor-third interval (or up a major-sixth interval) from the original major scale to find the relative minor scale. So C major is A minor, G major is E minor, E major is C# minor, etc.

Now, how can well tell if a song is using a major or minor scale? well, that will be saved as a topic for next time.

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Tip #115 – Altering the Fifth of a Chord

One thing you can do to make a simple harmonic progression more interesting is by altering the fifth of the triad chord.

Most people think adding upper extensions like the 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th, are the only way to make a chord harmony more interesting, but altering the inner core of the triadic chord itself is a great way.

Take a look at the progression below:

Notice how the simple I-ii-V-I progression was repeated again but with a b5 of a #5 (or both!).

Some alterations way not work, so an in-depth discussion on what is the correct way to alter certain types of chords will be done in the future.

Till then, experiment!

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