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Symmetric scale

In music, a symmetric scale is a music scale which equally divides the octave.[1] The concept and term appears to have been
introduced by Joseph Schillinger[1] and further developed by Nicolas Slonimsky as part of his famous "Thesaurus of Scales and
Melodic Patterns". In twelve-tone equal temperament, the octave can only be equally divided into two, three, four, six, or twelve
parts, which consequently may be filled in by adding the same exact interval or sequence of intervals to each resulting note
(called "interpolation of notes").[2]

Examples include the octatonic scale (also known as the symmetric diminished scale; its mirror image is known as the inverse
symmetric diminished scale) and the two-semitone tritone scale:

Two-semitone tritone scale on C divides the octave into two equal


parts (C-F♯ & F# to (octave above) C) and fills in the resulting tritone
gaps with two semitones (Db-D, G-Ab).

As explained above, both are composed of repeating sub-units within an octave. This property allows these scales to be
transposed to other notes, yet retain exactly the same notes as the original scale (Translational symmetry).

This may be seen quite readily with the whole tone scale on C:

{C, D, E, F♯, G♯, A♯, C}

Synthesized sample

If transposed up a whole tone to D, contains exactly the same notes in a different permutation:

{D, E, F♯, G♯, A♯, C, D}


In the case of inversionally symmetrical scales, the inversion of the scale is identical.[3] Thus the intervals between scale degrees
are symmetrical if read from the "top" (end) or "bottom" (beginning) of the scale (mirror symmetry). Examples include the
Ukrainian Dorian b9 scale (sixth mode of the Hungarian Major scale), the Jazz Minor b5 scale (fifth mode of the involution of
Hungarian Major), the Neapolitan Major scale (fourth mode of the Major Locrian scale), the Javanese slendro,[4] the chromatic
scale, whole-tone scale, Dorian scale, the Aeolian Dominant scale (fifth mode of the melodic minor), and the double harmonic
scale.
Asymmetric scales are "far more common"
than symmetric scales and this may be
accounted for by the inability of symmetric
scales to possess the property of uniqueness
(containing each interval class a unique
number of times) which assists with
determining the location of notes in relation to
Pitch constellations of symmetric scales.
the first note of the scale.[4]

See also
Modes of limited transposition
Symmetry#In music

Further reading
Yamaguchi, Masaya. 2006. The Complete Thesaurus of Musical Scales, revised edition. New York: Masaya
Music Services. ISBN 0-9676353-0-6.
Yamaguchi, Masaya. 2006. Symmetrical Scales for Jazz Improvisation, revised edition. New York: Masaya Music
Services. ISBN 0-9676353-2-2.
Yamaguchi, Masaya. 2012. Lexicon of Geometric Patterns for Jazz Improvisation. New York: Masaya Music
Services. ISBN 0-9676353-3-0.

Sources
1. Slonimsky, Nicolas (Jul 1946). "Untitled review of". The Musical Quarterly. 32 (3): 465–470 [469].
doi:10.1093/mq/xxxii.3.465 (https://doi.org/10.1093%2Fmq%2Fxxxii.3.465).
2. Slonimsky, Nicolas (1987) [First published 1947]. Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns (https://books.googl
e.com/books?id=RiYPAAAACAAJ). Music Sales Corp. ISBN 0-8256-7240-6. Retrieved Jul 8, 2009.
3. Clough, John; Douthett, Jack; Ramanathan, N.; Rowell, Lewis (Spring 1993). "Early Indian Heptatonic Scales
and Recent Diatonic Theory". Music Theory Spectrum. 15 (1): 48. doi:10.1525/mts.1993.15.1.02a00030 (https://d
oi.org/10.1525%2Fmts.1993.15.1.02a00030). pp. 36-58.
4. Patel, Aniruddh (2007). Music, Language, and the Brain. p. 20. ISBN 0-19-512375-1.

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This page was last edited on 27 October 2018, at 21:15 (UTC).

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