The Comprehensive Scale Catalog
The Comprehensive Scale Catalog is an extensive set of scales that can serve to inspire melodies in your flute playing. Many players use them to “get out of a rut” and expand their music.
The catalog is meant to be a tool for exploration of scales from world
music traditions. Most players of Native American flutes use a very small number
of alternate scales, so please do not feel compelled to try to learn the full set of scales in the catalog.
Several versions of the Scale Catalog are available:
- The PDF files described and provided on the bottom portion of this page. These provide 66 scales for use on Native American flutes, available in a variety of fingerings:
- with “common” fingerings for contemporary six-hole Native American flutes
- fingerings specific to Northern Spirit A minor flutes, and
- fingerings specific to High Spirits Mid-Tone A minor flutes.
- The Comprehensive Scale Catalog web pages on this site, which provide 945 scales. You can access these pages using the [next] button at the upper right of each page, or by clicking on these links:
- Two-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Three-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Four-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Four-tone Scales, Alternate Temperaments
- Five-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Five-tone Scales, Alternate Temperaments
- Six-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Seven-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Seven-tone Scales, Alternate Temperaments
- Eight-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Nine-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Ten-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Eleven-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Twelve-tone Scales, Equal Temperament
- Twelve-tone Scales, Alternate Temperaments
- A Unicode text version of the Comprehensive Scale Catalog information, available for download in a single text file. See the Text/Unicode Version of the Scale Catalog.
Design of the Comprehensive Scale Catalog
The scale catalog maintains information on a wide variety of scales, including:
- Scales in 12-tone equal temperament as well as other temperaments (called “alternate temperaments” within the catalog).
- Scales that may or may not contain the octave tone (defined as the exact double of frequency, or 1,200 cents).
- Scales that may or may not be octave-repeating.
- Scales that appear in various sources, as well as “pattern scales” that originate from an un-named pattern of scale steps. These pattern scales are used to provide complete coverage to all possible patterns of steps for scales of less than five tones.
- Scales that are bi-directional, as well as variants played in ascending and descending directions. These variants are not treated as separate scales, as long as they have the same pattern of scale steps (in semitones or in cents).
However, although the Catalog can accomodate a wide range of possibilities, the scales in the catalog are predominantly
octave-repeating, bi-directional scales in 12-tone equal temperament that do contain the octave tone.
Scales that are specifically ascending or descending are not considered separate from bi-directional scales. In other words two octave-repeating scales with the same pattern of scale steps, but with different “directionality” are treated as one scale, but the names or alternate names indicate their bi-directional, ascending, or descending use. Note that some scales have an ascending and a descending version, such as Melodic Minor Ascending and Natural Minor, which is the name in this catalog for Melodic Minor Descending; some scales have a bi-directional version and a descending version, such as Enigmatic and Enigmatic Descending.
The listing of scales on the next group of Web pages is broken down based on the temperament and number of tones in the scale. The listing for each scale provides:
- Fingerings for Native American flutes with contemporary six-hole mode 1/4 tuning as well as Anasazi-7 tuning. Fingerings are only included if they stay within the first register of the instrument and do not use half-hole techniques.
- Scale steps in semitones (for equal temperaments) or cents (for alternate temperaments).
- Scale degrees — the number of semitones or cents as measured from the root of the scale.
- The names of any chords that correspond to this scale.
- Pitches of the scale beginning from C. Sharps and flats are listed, for example, as C♯ and D♭. In the case of alternate temperaments, the nearest
quarter-tone is shown. Quarter-sharps and quarter-flats are listed, for example, as C+ and C–.
- Staff notation showing the scale. If the scale has sharps or flats, it is shown in two versions. Quarter-sharps and quarter-flats are shown, for example, as:
- A list of other scales that are modes of that scale.
- How I arrived at the name of the scale.
- The names of the scale as shown in the various sources.
- Links to specific articles in Wikipedia for the scale.
- Specific notes and references on that scale.
Text / Unicode Version of the Comprehensive Scale Catalog
See the separate web page on the
Text / Unicode version of the Comprehensive Scale Catalog.
Notes and Limitations
- This catalog makes no distinction as to starting pitch or frequency for the scale. A “scale” in this catalog is a set of pitch relationships, and the starting pitch or frequency is not specified.
- The name I have chosen for each scale is somewhat arbitrary. It is often based on sources that I have found, but I have made modifications to keep the names unique and to prefer terms that are in common use in the Native American flute community.
- This scale catalog does not contain the full set of scales found in Scala.
- All scales are listed in ascending order of scale steps and scale degrees, even if their use is as a descending scale. Even for scales which were historically listed as descending scales, such as Ancient Mesopotamian scales, this catalog lists their scale steps in ascending order.
- Scales with enharmonically equivalent tones are considered the same scale if they produced the same frequency. This typically occurs when a scale uses an equal temperament.
For eample, two scales are not considered unique if they both use 12-TET if one uses F# and the other uses Gb. In a more complete example, these two scales are treated the same when they use 12-TET. In some other systems, they might be separate scales named “C Super-Locrian” and “C Altered”:
- Note that Chromatic scales have been provided for most of the alternate temperaments, to provide a reference for those temperaments.
This Comprehensive Scale Catalog is a concordance of many sources of information on scales and musical temperaments. The main sources of information are:
The List of Musical Modes that accompanies the Scala system, developed and maintained by Manuel Op de Coul
([Coul 2010] ).
The current version of this Comprehensive Scale Catalog is based on information in Scala's List of Musical Modes as of February 10, 2015. The latest version of this file is available at the Stichting Huigens-Fokker web site.
The Piano Room of the on-line Chord House at LookNoHands.com developed by Erik van der Neut.
The current version of this Comprehensive Scale Catalog is based on ChordHouse information as of June 25, 2015. A notation on the ChordHouse site indicates that the scales database was last updated July 14, 2009.
While Wikipedia cannot generally be relied on as an authoritative source,
there are a number of pages (“articles”) on Wikipedia relating to scales that do appear stable and well-researched. Information has been drawn from these pages:
The Piano Encyclopedia
This resource is available on-line at the Piano Scales section of The Piano Encyclopedia web site. This information was collected by Simon Parker and made available as a spreadsheet on his Jolly Ninja web site. The current version of this Comprehensive Scale Catalog is based on Simon's spreadsheet as of April 24, 2016.
The Scale Omnibus
A freely-available resource published by Francesco Balena, available on-line at the Saxopedia web site. This scale list includes only equal temperament scales with five or more pitches.
The current version of this Comprehensive Scale Catalog is based on Francesco's Scale Omnibus version 1.02 published on June 8, 2014 and accessed April 25, 2016.