Synthetic Scales - Part II

Carrying on from last week's introduction to Synthetic Scales, it’s time to look at some more! We investigated the Hungarian Major, now it’s the turn of the Hungarian Minor…

Often called the Gypsy Minor Scale. This scale is like a Harmonic Minor with a #4. It was used a lot by Franz Lizst in the Hungarian Rhapsodies. Although it is called a Hungarian scale, it isn’t just particularly from that region. They were more used by the Roma bands who performed in the area, hence the use of the term Gypsy Minor Scale. The scale has also been used in Greek folk music where it is called Niaventi. The scale probably came from Arabic sources, in fact it can be made from starting on the 4th degree of the Arabic Scale. It also appears in Indian Carnatic music.

Less common than the above scale. This scale can be thought of as the Aeolian (natural minor) Scale with a #4. This note gives it its characteristic feel. It is sometimes called the Magyar Scale. Its most famous use was in Scherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov.

As you can see the difference is that the descending form has a 4th instead of a #4.

This scale really is an enigma! It was set as a challenge by the Milan Musical Gazette to any composer to harmonize it. They called it ‘Scala Enigmata’. Verdi took up this challenge, and wrote a piece using it. He didn’t think much of what he wrote, he viewed it more as an exercise, little did he know it would become one of his most famous pieces…. Ave Maria!!!

As always, have a go at playing the scales yourself, it always helps to get the sounds of each in your head and your fingers!!

Until next week, have fun!!

-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist

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