## Spelling in artificial scales.

Musicologo
KVRist

250 posts since 10 May, 2008, from Lisboa, Portugal
Let's say I build up an artificial scale with raised fourth and lowered sixth.
c-d-e-f#-g-ab-b-c

1) How do I notate this? Do I use any key signature or not?

Does it make sense to use accidentals on the go permanently? Or "borrow" the g key signature and apply flats on all "a"s? or whatever?

2) The same for chord spelling. My chord built up on second degree would be d-f#-ab. is this a "pretty thing" to do? I imagine a pianist crying with this. Shall I notate it d-f#-g# instead?...

3) Not to mention modulations and transpositions of artificial scales...

If I "follow" the theoretical rules, it is good because it is clear WHY and how the pitches show up. But they can be very ambiguous and cumbersome for the players, specially pianists who like to sight-read and already know how to read "conventional chords" by heart by just looking at their shape.
Play fair and square!
Jafo
KVRAF

1654 posts since 20 Dec, 2002, from State of Denial
As a general rule of thumb: if it feels lowered, write it with a flat; and if it feels raised, write it with a sharp. This is why you sometimes see ## or bb (those should come through as a pair of sharps and a pair of flats). Hence your use of F# and Ab is appropriate -- as you say, you have a raised fourth and a lowered sixth.

As for key signature, I've seen it both ways: each accidental notated as such, and with both a sharp and a flat in the same staff.

I'd notate the second degree chord as D-F#-Ab, since the Ab is acting as a flattened fifth rather than a raised fourth.

If you really want to avoid ambiguity you could notate semitones by number: 1, 3, 5, 7, and so forth. (Or try a 0-based indexing scheme if you really want to annoy people!) Still, there's a reason why this never caught on.
"Wait... loot then burn? D'oh!"
Aroused by JarJar
KVRian

1049 posts since 15 Oct, 2008
Jafo, although your first sentence is correct on the level of typical practical practice today, it's not technically correct and this matters if you move out of the mainstream into historical performance or more esoteric modern stuff.

Sharps higher/flats lower comes from what's called "expressive intonation", which used to be explicitly taught before the War. It's how I learned and it has remained in practice even though most musicians aren't consciously aware of it. It is ultimately based on what's called Pythagorean tuning, which means that pure fifths are the foundation. For Mozart and Bach, for example, it was the other way around. In the 19th century the fundamental thinking of what tunings are based on returned to how it was in the Middle Ages: pure fifths. In those intervening centuries the most important thing was the pure major third, not the pure fifth. Without going into the "math" (bonehead easy stuff you can do all by ear, actually, but anyway), one approach makes D# higher than Eb, the other the other way around.

Double flats and sharps are the result of functional harmony. How much any of this stuff matters to a musician depends on how much they work with acoustic instruments, horn ensembles, orchestras, choirs, etc. For any of these groups with serious chops, a differently notated note is literally a different pitch.
fmr
KVRAF

5365 posts since 16 Mar, 2003, from Porto - Portugal
If it's an "artificial" scale (ultimately, all scales are artificial), I would notate all accidentals as occuring. Key signatures are for tonal music, and you are no longer in a tonal universe, so, using a key signature could create more confusion than it would avoid.
That's why atonal music is usually written without key signatures, even when you have piles of accidents.
Last edited by fmr on Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
Fernando (FMR)
Aroused by JarJar
KVRian

1049 posts since 15 Oct, 2008
Musicologo wrote:?

2) The same for chord spelling. My chord built up on second degree would be d-f#-ab. is this a "pretty thing" to do? I imagine a pianist crying with this. Shall I notate it d-f#-g# instead?...

F# to Ab is a diminished third, not a major second. It depends on whether you intend your music to be performed "on the grid" or not.

Heh, if we could sit down for a couple of beers singing and playing we could straighten this out pronto. Do you know an excellent trombone player? Tell them the drinks are on you and they'll give the straight dope.

You can't really get the most solid answer over the internet because you have to sing it and play it and work it out "hands on".
JumpingJackFlash
KVRian

1212 posts since 10 Oct, 2004
Musicologo wrote:If I "follow" the theoretical rules...

Keep in mind that most "theoretical rules" you might have heard generally refer to tonal music and functional harmony. If you're not writing in that style, then none of those rules apply.

The advantage here is that it frees you to do whatever you like. The disadvantage is you will have to invent your own "rules" or it will sound just like random noise.

People like Schoenberg invented their own systems or "rules"; look into serialism and set-theory for example.
Unfamiliar words can be looked up in my Glossary of musical terms.
Also check out my Introduction to Music Theory.
Musicologo
KVRist

250 posts since 10 May, 2008, from Lisboa, Portugal
Thanks for all the replies so far.

Then, this would lead to another issue. Are you telling me I'm not doing tonal music?...

The moment I use all rules and conventions of tonal functional harmony, all algorithms to the building of chords, all conventions for form, melody, accompaniment, I believe I'm doing the same thing - tonal music and functional harmony.

The only difference is that instead of using C major, G minor, I'm using C#4b6 or whatever... I'm just making a small change in the color of the bricks, but the construction method is the same... I don't know if this makes sense.

By altering the color of the bricks, some ambiguities and conflict of interest between theory and practice arise... basically performers are not very used to see key signatures with both flats and sharps written out, or chords having these changes and that might confuse them. It's just a problem of readability, communication.
Play fair and square!
JumpingJackFlash
KVRian

1212 posts since 10 Oct, 2004
Musicologo wrote:Then, this would lead to another issue. Are you telling me I'm not doing tonal music?...

Well, this is a rather complex question because there are several definitions of "tonality" and what constitutes "tonal music".

Some people have used a very wide definition (which would include modal music, Indian Ragas and so on) but in order for the word to be meaningful and useful, others (including myself) believe the word has to have a meaning specific to music created using the established system of major and/or minor keys.

So, if you're not primarily writing in a major or minor key then as far as I'm concerned, the music isn't strictly tonal (I wouldn't necessarily say it was "atonal" though, that's another musicological debate).

Obviously that doesn't preclude chromaticism, modulation, borrowed chords and what have you; you can use all of these and still be writing "tonal" music.
Unfamiliar words can be looked up in my Glossary of musical terms.
Also check out my Introduction to Music Theory.
DSmolken
KVRian

1173 posts since 20 Sep, 2013, from Poland
I think it was Schoenberg who wrote somewhere in the Harmonielehre that when it comes to notating weirder harmonies, do it in the way that's gonna be easiest for a player to read and play correctly.

So, if I see a chord spelled D F# Ab out of nowhere that would be weird, and I can see "a pianist crying at this", but D F# G# in a piece that also has plenty of G naturals and no A naturals or A#s, well, that's probably even worse. With D F# Ab at least you'd get used to it after a few bars.

I'd stick both the sharp and the flat in the key signature, and repeat the key signature at the beginning of each line as a reminder. If I was handed something using that scale in real life and expected to sight-read it, that would give me the best chance to get it right.
tapper mike
KVRAF

4208 posts since 19 Jan, 2008
I'm very much with JJF on this.

Pat Martino has actually created several systems but even he couldn't hold them all together. Most notably "sacred geometry" After having to learn music all over again as well as playing he went back to superimposed subsitions based on his "subsitute pentatonics most notable the minor 6th pentatonic. I-bIII-IV-V-Vi
Regardless while he's fun to watch nothing he does is memorable to me. And he doesn't venture out of even temperment.

Those guys that do venture into "micro tonality" on a more serious level like Ornette Coleman. I love some of Colemans phrases and I can tolerate it as wallpaper or incidental background music but not for very long. Again I've heard the music quite long and dilligently but none of it remains.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8V6gW6_RLQ

Pushing the boundries further to lets say.... Sun Ra. Someone may have enjoyed the experience of making sound the way Jackson Polack creates art but I cannot stomach it personally.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwNtxFH6IjU

The tonal plexus keyboard and the wilson microzone keyboard probably offer the widest variety of nusanced or nuaunced tonal possiblity. The question ultimately becomes how far do you want to go and what are you willing to leave behind.

While Pat Martino focused on "Sacred Geometry" Earv Wilsons work is more like Trigonometry He built scale structures of increasing complexity based on extensive equations. The microzone board on first inspection looks like a janko / chromatone on first inspection of the keys more so then that c-thru music thing built on harmonic relationships. But that's only where the story begins due to how complex microtonal systems can be implimented.

http://www.thesonicsky.com/

Wilson for all of his tonal idiosyncrasies has a way of retaining some rhythmic stability. This guy has some serious chops.

Music is societal. One cannot bring a change in music that is beyond a societies ability to adapt. A change in rhythm or in temperment will not rock the foundational perceptions of music that a society may hold. However stray to far off the beaten path, while you yourself may derive great pleasure from it, don't expect society to do the same.
Aroused by JarJar
KVRian

1049 posts since 15 Oct, 2008
The safest way to notate it, and the way that's most likely to reflect the conception (educated guess no way to know without hearing the piece) is in the key of G, with a flat accidental on each a. Then most musicians are going to say heh, C Lydian flat 6th.
Musicologo
KVRist

250 posts since 10 May, 2008, from Lisboa, Portugal
Well, thanks again for the replies, specially Tapper Mike for nailing down such examples and thinking ahead. I guess we all try to evolve in some direction.

I mean, my "dearest" project of snowboy and crow, discussed several times around this forum, is already an example of something that sounds very dear to me, sounds also very "tonal" to me, still uses an artificial scale and gave me a lot of headache when trying to notate it.

I'm a thinker and I'm constantly struggling with my own ideas how the sound translate into notation and how I can model that "kind of sound" into a scheme to help me then develop that sound in a coherent way and communicate it to others.

So far, I guess I'm still pretty much inside the tonal realms and "conventional timbres". However, with symbolic composer and sculptor and the likes I'm already foreseeing other worlds a little bit far off... time will tell.
Play fair and square!
tapper mike
KVRAF

4208 posts since 19 Jan, 2008
Simple answer.... Through out notation and attempting to please the masses.

Ornette Coleman had both his supporters and his detractors, He went on regardless Some of his supporters were huge names like Gershwin.

Erv Wilson students have wrote scores for major motion pictures including Disney productions. He through out conventional notation methods and created these 30 models he'd have laying about the house. They were to him what a guitar grimore would be to an aspiring guitarist. A visual representation of his notation system as a reference point.

What instrument(s) you would use to represent your idea's would be another matter.
Personally I'd opt for a Haken Continuum
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCM-WBqDZ-Q

It transmits to midi so you could simply play into something that records to midi so you would have a semblence of representation in notation.
Last edited by tapper mike on Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Aroused by JarJar
KVRian

1049 posts since 15 Oct, 2008
Mike Tapper, Erv Wilson is an influential tuning theorist, the musician you're talking about is Stephen James Taylor (who uses many of Wilson's sonic structures).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwp048KtIjI
jancivil
Suspended
I'm going to advocate for the signature giving you what's in the scale as it is a 'true statement', very simply, full stop. I believe you knew what you were doing when you spelled it.
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