music scales

Written by Matthieu. Posted in Non catégorisé.

last update : 10/08/2017 (full article rewrited including our approach of tuning, explanation about notation and all our handpan scales with sample video)

Our Approach to Handpan Tuning :

Shellopan is the name of a collective project, artisans carrying this project do not seek to create identical Handpans. Everyone has his style and his own quest for the type of instrument he prefers. It is one of the fundamental richnesses of our project. Below is a presentation of the work of the two co-founders of the Shellopan cooperative and the handpan scales we manufacture.

 

Matthieu: "I have a melodic approach to Handpan and I prefer instruments with more notes (9 to 11 notes on the upper shell).
I create the membranes of each note preferring sensitivity and a soft touch of the surface is enough to activate a note. The outline of my notes is delimited in a fine and clearly visible way. My instruments usually have a long sustain and I do not recommend them for a high intensity percussive play.
Placing more notes on an instrument can result in more coupling between notes and give more texture to the sound. A 9-note instrument usually has a purer sound than an 11-note version. The list of scales that I realize is visible below. "

 

Delphine: "I am building mostly 8+1 notes handpans by developing a tuning technique favoring a gradual integration of the notes on the shell. These wider and smoother edge conditions greatly influence the timbre of the sound of each note and the timbre of the instrument in its wholeness.
I am currently focusing on a high/medium range of scales: from G AkeBono, F Equinox, D Minor Celtic, to C# Amara, for example... and any other specific request, to be studied on a case by case basis."

 

Explanations about notation and music scales :

Notes are written with English notation, translation in French is : C = Do, D = Ré, E = Mi, F = Fa, G = Sol, A = La, B = Si. D# = Eb = Ré dièse = Mi bémol

The number of semi-tones between 2 notes, starting from the tonic are written in a list like this one : 2212221. All the components in a music mode have names :

  • Tonic = the first note of a scale, most of the time it’s not the central note but the note in front of your belly when the instrument is on your lap
  • m2, M2 = minor second or Major second
  • m3, M3 = minor third or Major Third. If the scale include a m3, it’s a minor scale
  • 4th = fourth
  • Triton = 6 semi-tone from the tonic, dissonant note
  • 5th = fith, the dominant of the scale
  • m6, M6 = minor sixth, Major sixth
  • m7, M7 = minor and Major seventh
  • 8th = octave of the Tonic
  • 12th = fith after the octave of the tonic

A heptatonic scale contains 7 notes per octave. A hexatonic scale contains 6 notes per octave, the missing note compared to the closest heptatonic scale is mentioned with : (-M2), it means that the Major 2nd is missing on the instrument. A pentatonic scale contains 5 notes per octave, the pentatonic instruments cover the largest register from low to high notes, they are easy to play intuitively but you may feel that it’s harder to create different atmosphere.

All the scales have “poetical” names like “Equinox” or “voyager” or names coming from their related Greek mode like “Aeolian” or names coming from their cultural origin like “Ake Bono” or “Hijaz”. To help to understand some music theory, I always wrote the name of the first musical mode you can find in the scale (ie : Ab Major hexatonic (-M2)).

About Greek modes, they are the most well-known modes in western music. The Ionian mode is also called the Major mode, the Aeolian mode is also called the natural minor mode. When you define what is the tonic (starting point), the mode becomes a scale. C  Ionian have the same notes than D Dorian than E Phrygian than F Lydian than G Myxolydian than A Aeolian than B Locrian.

Most of the time, the central note is a bass in the scale and the note is always written in front of the scale name, but it’s not the tonic. Some notations add confusion : E Aeolian should be written E/A Aeolian because the E is a 4th under the first complete octave and the A is the real first note of the Aeolian scale.

 

All our handpan scales :

Scales inspired by the 7 Greek modes.

 

Ionian (Major mode, well-known in western musique - 2212221) - Tonic M2 M3 4th 5th M6 M7

AEGEAN

C E G B C E F# G B – G major pentatonic (-M2 -5th ) also called Aegean, this is a double bass scale.

Demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=10m14s

 

VOYAGER

D F A C D E F A C – F major pentatonic (-M2 -4th ) also called Voyager / magic Voyage / magic hour. If you consider this scale with a double bass (D and F) this scale is a A minor pentatonic (-M2 –m7), this scale is really easy to play with all the A or D minor scales.

Demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rop-QBr1E-M

 

EQUINOX

F Ab C Db Eb F G Ab C – Ab major hexatonic (-M2) also called Equinox. This scale include the C Phrygian hexatonic (-m7) also called F/C Integral.

F Equinox 8+1 notes made by Delphine : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BWt19e5axw

F Equinox 8+1 notes : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=01m08s

F Equinox 10+1 notes : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxTmSAePBik

F Equinox 8+1 notes played by Matthieu : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcPFymSGE4w

 

Dorian (minor mode used in Western music - 2122212) - Tonic M2 m3 4th 5th M6 m7

DORIAN

E A B C D E F# G A – A Dorian : close from Aeolian, just the 6th is augmented (F#). Same notes than D myxolydian.

E/A Dorian 9+1 notes : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx7Svwdb-II&t=292s#t=02m06s

 

A D E F G A B C D – D Dorian with A central note.

A/D Dorian 8+1 notes : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=0m15s

 

Phrygian (old minor mode from the Pythagorean tetrachords - 1222122) - Tonic m2 m3 4th 5th m6 m7

PHRYGIAN

D A Bb C D E F G A  - A Phrygian  also called Annazyska by some makers

 

KURD / INTEGRAL

D A Bb C D E F A C D – A Phrygian hexatonic (-m7) also called Integral scale or Kurd. This version is a 10 notes scale easy to play intuitively with D/A Celtic minor or the Voyager

 

Lydian (uncommon Major mode - 2221221) - Tonic M2 M3 Triton 5th M6 M7

This mode can be found in a hexatonic version in the “E La Sirena 9” if you consider the G as the tonic

 

Myxolydian (another common Major mode - 2212212) - Tonic M2 M3 4th 5th M6 m7

YSHA SAVITA

Db Ab C Db Eb F Gb Ab Db – Ab Myxolydian Hexatonic (-M2) : also called YshaSavita, a very happy scale.

Db YshaSavita 8+1 notes : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=05m38s

 

MYXOLYDIAN

A D E F# G A B C D – D Myxolydian

 

Aeolian (natural minor mode - 2122122) - Tonic M2 m3 4th 5th m6 m7

DEEP SHELLO

C Eb G Bb C D Eb F G – G Aeolian Hexatonic (-M2) : also called DeepShello, this is a double bass scale including Eb major Pentatonic (-M2 -4th) and G minor Hexatonic (-M2). This scale include the Raga desya todi and the Celtic minor/ Amara. Very low scale inspired by the Deep sky from Spacedrum.

DeepShello 8+1 notes : https://youtu.be/5IQSSdmr_NE

 

RAGA DESYA TODI

Db F Ab Bb C Db Eb F Ab – F Aeolian Hexatonic (-M2) : Deeper Raga Desya Todi, include a Db Major (-4th ) if you consider the central note as the tonic. Close scale from the celtic minor, only the position of the central note is different.

Deeper RDT 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=08m37s

Deeper RDT 8+1 notes played by Matthieu : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUZpw8zKcrI

 

D F# A B C# D E F# A – F# Aeolian Hexatonic (-M2) also called Raga Desya Todi (RDT), include a D major (-4th) if you consider the central note as the tonic.

One of the first finished handpan Matthieu made, the RDT 8+1 notes : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhSJ1WOAFlc

 

CELTIC MINOR / AMARA

C# Ab B C# D# E F# Ab B – Ab Aeolian hexatonic (-M2) also called Amara or Celtic minor

C# Amara 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=06m24s

 

D A C D E F G A C D – A Aeolian hexatonic (-M2) also called Celtic minor, 9+1 notes. Considering the D as the tonic, this scale is a D minor too (-m6). Easy to play with F major instruments (the same notes).

D Celtic minor 9+1 notes 6 steels demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZWUFQyr0lo

D Celtic minor 10+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=04m01s

D Celtic minor 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=04m44s

D Celtic minor 8+1 notes played by Cyrille LECOQ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcqoJwztIKs

 

AEOLIAN

C# F# G# A B C# D E F# - F# Aeolian also called Chandra by some maker.

C#/F# Aeolian 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=09m24s

E A B C D E F G A – A Aeolian.

E/A Aeolian 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=02m39s

 

COOPAN

D A C D E G A C D – A Aeolian Pentatonic (-M2 –m6).

D/A Aeolian penta 8+1 notes demo (cooperative’s handpan 2015) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQIMLgDuQn8

 

LA SIRENA

E G B C# D E F# G B E – B Aeolian hexatonic (-m7) with 2 bass (E and G) also called E La Sirena with 8+2 notes. You can find the E Dorian and the G Lydian inside this scale. With a special taste coming from the last note.

E La Sirena 8+2 notes demo (cooperative’s handpan 2016) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=03m16s

E La Sirena 8+4 notes played by Matthieu : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZPp25G2jjk

 

AKEPYGNOX

F G Ab C Db Eb F G Ab C – F Aeolian hexatonic (-4th ) called F AkePygNox. This versatile scale includes F low Akebono (penta), F low Pygmy (penta), G locrian hexatonic (-m3), Ab major hexatonic  (-M2) or Equinox and C Phrygian hexatonic (-m7) also called F/C Integral. One of the most versatile scale with 10 notes and the tonic as the central note. This scale is hard to build in F and some instruments may have a more textured sound.

F AkePygNox 10 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=01m50s

F AkePygNox 10 notes played by Adrian J Portia : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivJ5vu1BnWk

F AkePygNox 10 notes played by Jona : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Smev7ovwTXw

 

F# G# A C# D E F# G# A C# - F# Aeolian hexatonic (-4th) called F# AkePygNox. This versatile scale includes F# low Akebono (penta), F# low Pygmy (penta), G# locrian hexatonic (-m3), A major hexatonic  (-M2) or F# Equinox and C# Phrygian hexatonic (-m7) also called F#/C# Integral. One of the most versatile scale with 10 notes and the tonic as the central note.

F# AkePygNox 10 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx7Svwdb-II&t=292s#t=05m54s

 

Locrian (less common minor mode - 1221222) - Tonic m2 m3 4th Triton m6 m7

 

Scales inspired by the melodic minor mode (under construction)

Melodic minor (2122221) - Tonic M2 m3 4th 5th M6 M7

Bartok (4th degree of the melodic minor - 2221212) - Tonic M2 M3 triton 5th M6 m7

Hindou (5th degree of the melodic minor - 2212122) - Tonic M2 M3 4th 5th m6 m7

 

Scales inspired by the Flamenco, Oriental, Indian or Gypsy modes

Harmonic minor (2122131) - Tonic M2 m3 4th 5th m6 M7

HARMONIC MINOR

E A B C D E F G# A – A Harmonic minor. Only the 7th is augmented compared to the A Aeolian and give the typical taste of the Arabic mode.

 

G C D Eb F G Ab B C – C Harmonic minor.

G/C Harmonic minor demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a-yxOZR1lg

 

Phrygian Major / Hijaz (5th degree of the harmonic minor mode - 1312122) - Tonic m2 M3 4th 5th m6 m7

HIJAZ

B F# G A# B C# D E F# - F# Hijaz : lowest Hijaz we can build. This scale is hard to build in B and some instruments may have a more textured sound.

B / F# Hijaz 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=11m57s

 

C G Ab B C D Eb F G – G Hijaz.

C / G Hijaz 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=11m03s

 

C# G# A B# C# D# E F# G# - G# Hijaz.

C# / G# Hijaz 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=07m04s

 

A Bb C# D E F G A Bb D - A Hijaz. 10 notes version, central note is the tonic. Made with 51cm shell diameter.

A Hijaz 10 notes played by Matthieu : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMW43m5qsNw

 

KLEZMARA

C G C Db E F G Ab C – C Hijaz hexatonic (-m7). Double bass scale also called C Klezmara.

C Klezmara 8+1 notes played by Adrian J Portia : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o52zv0dlT6k

 

Dorian #4 / Romanian (4th degree of the harmonic minor mode - 2131212) - Tonic M2 m3 Triton 5th M6 m7

ROMANIAN HIJAZ

C F G Ab B C D Eb G – F Dorian #4 also called Romanian Hijaz or Shiraz

 

Bhairava / Hijaz Kar (Indian and Arabic mode - 1312131) - Tonic m2 M3 4th 5th m6 M7

Gypsy (1312212) - Tonic m2 M3 4th 5th M6 m7

Harmonic Major (4th degree of the Gypsy mode 2212131) - Tonic M2 M3 4th 5th m6 M7

Bohemian (1311312) - Tonic m2 M3 4th Triton M6 m7

 

Pentatonic Scales

BANSHIKI-CHO

C# F G# Bb C# Eb F G# C# - F minor Penta and G# Major Penta : also called Banshiki-Cho and Shang-Diao.

C# / F Banshiki-Cho 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cETMY1iIY0A

 

AKE BONO

G C D Eb G Ab C D Eb – C minor pentatonic : also called Ake Bono. A well-known Japanese scale.

G Ake Bono 8+1 notes demo : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QjPrq6Zsk#t=0m39s

G Ake Bono 8+1 notes played by Rafael Sotomayor : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUL_ESebS4s

 

 

 

 

 

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