-1+1990 
Introduction to Scale Theory with Applications

What is a musical scale? What is a "mode"? How many scales are there and what are they like?

This course presents some notions from pitch class set theory that are useful in thinking about these questions. From the standard ideas in the first session it develops themes related to scale classification that are the subject of current research. As well as presenting theoretical ideas "in the abstract", the course makes practical connections with the real-life musical activities of learning and making music with scales.

The course takes the form of three illustrated video lectures. A thread for questions and discussion pertaining to each lecture will be created in /r/guitarlessons. Additional printed material can be found in the author's books, all of which are available free online.

Lectures
  1. Foundations

    a. Pitch, notes and pitch classes

    b. Definition of a "scale"

    c. The numbering system

    d. Modality

  2. The Space of All Scales

    a. Binary representations of scales

    b. Counting scales

    c. Some classification methods and their applications

  3. Subsets and Supersets

    a. Harmonizations of scales

    b. "Spectral" analysis and its applications

Prerequisites

The course is largely self-contained, since everything is built from the ground up, although if the student knows nothing about music the pace will most likely be too fast. I assume you have some experience of playing a pitched instrument in some Western tradition (classical, pop etc). You need not be a competent player or be able to read music.

A note to music theorists is in order. I've tried to provide a non-rigorous introduction to the subject, not a college-level course. That means I've sometimes allowed myself some hand-waving in the interests of keeping it accessible and moving along at a reasonable pace.

A note is also in order for practical musicians. The course doesn't teach you how to apply specific scales in your chosen style of music. By the end of Session 3, though, I hope it will have given you some useful tools to help you do that.

Syllabus

The difference between a pitch, a note and a pitch class. Octave equivalence. Pitch class numbers. Transposition invariance of scales. Definitions of "scale". Interval maps. Modality and the definition of "mode".

Binary representations of scales. Simple examples of binary operations (inversion and complementation). How many scales are there? Cardinality, interval composition, modality and symmetry as classificatory attributes. Hamming distance and other metrics (mentioned only).

"Harmonization" of a scale at the root position. Some very basic notions from chord-scale theory. Applications of subsets and supersets of scales; generalisation of these ideas.

Additional information

Although "scale theory" is a somewhat marginal topic in the academic world, almost all of the topics covered on the course are standard and have been in the musicological literature for at least forty years. In one or two places I'll present an idea that I believe to be either original or stated in a non-standard way; I'll give an explicit warning when that happens.

Some representative sources for the course are the following. They're a bit of an odd mixture, and most assume a technical background in music theory that this course doesn't. You do not need to buy or read any of these books to follow the course.

These texts represent very different approaches and this course only presents (at most) a few ideas from each, but they might give some idea of where it's "coming from" to students who already know a bit about the subject.

The instructor is primarily a guitarist and anticipates that a majority of students will be as well. Nothing in the course, however, is guitar-specific and players of other instruments are very welcome.

Teacher qualifications

I received my PhD in the philosophy of music in 1997. Since then I've written three books on scale theory, played and composed in various situations and taught guitar regularly. I now teach freelance full-time. Feel free to contact me on reddit.

Latest Update
Intro to Scale Theory session 3 is now available (2013-03-01 21:32:39)

"The third and final lecture in the UReddit Scale Theory course is now available. Sorry for the delay -- I hope you get something useful out of it.

Rich"

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914. adzash
915. STFUandLove
916. i_am_squish
917. Fitzy257
918. DEADBEEFdd
919. bobbibee
920. leonbasin
921. maicorral
922. NihilisticPriest
923. jaxmanation
924. SandBoxKing
925. moondesu
926. cmcmorrow
927. gfunkel
928. raineou
929. dml1989
930. Advils_Devocate
931. teddy16246
932. PanKarol
933. fitofrijolito
934. luxarus
935. BallinDalin
936. Scarlet_honey
937. lifeinpancakes
938. heepster
939. dnptrs
940. Dreadneck22
941. Evangelion92
942. shradha
943. gasquie
944. voidofman
945. bobbydylan.12
946. jowhica
947. senoresteban
948. brentshermana
949. DamnyouMongarians
950. Dusando
951. mattzimel
952. rough_ER
953. futurespacecadet
954. blobmoe
955. aviator1
956. alexwjohnson
957. Anjello
958. Urca
959. anphex
960. cheef_resident
961. bonhasgone
962. gtarjohnson
963. MasonHoberg
964. pipin574
965. MADXT
966. corntastic
967. Shadeslayr
968. E-than8211
969. prncezmimi
970. crastinator
971. bluffles
972. sl4327
973. Reggeatron
974. Bennymoonbase
975. keller452
976. funkshake
977. soniclizard
978. VSVWB
979. jd95
980. Seacrab
981. jonyuhas15
982. conorobrien50
983. Delusi0n
984. losergetsnothing
985. circulo
986. jayashraj
987. redditreporter424
988. daCostaDave
989. christianblough
990. Djmoyer
991. sfg
992. complainerslament
993. Merallak
994. Jamesjkr
995. LarryThreezor
996. conspiracyofqueens
997. iwishiwasryan
998. dergster
999. learning_stuff
1000. infaustment
1001. jibicationaire
1002. fariq1mohd
1003. yippohappo
1004. katiewiththeboyds
1005. Lazydude88
1006. braindamage
1007. maagjoel
1008. thephotograph
1009. smk2541
1010. bernardosgr
1011. fotwentylife
1012. Bazzabazza
1013. AliceSAysNo
1014. sssnuff
1015. simha
1016. beachmouse
1017. rvramesh20
1018. drewstoned
1019. Anayansi-Iris
1020. raptor_rapture
1021. tbrown983
1022. gonnadoit
1023. Rebel375
1024. HexedFable
1025. tmascia
1026. andreeacrisnina
1027. Kanti
1028. hvc10a
1029. HexMerck
1030. RoyCharlesWilliams
1031. pookeye
1032. Novec
1033. siemprelearner
1034. HumanNumber2
1035. RyanHingorani
1036. samoftheforrest
1037. jagraves