The Architecture of Music


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Scale Formulas

documenting scales in binary

Scales are the blueprint for writing music. They represent the totality of all the notes played in a song, or at least a portion of a song. Scales, like chords, are comprised of unique formulas. These formulas determine which notes will sound “in-key.” Chord and scale formulas work in the exact same way, except that the notes of a chord are played simultaneously, whereas the notes of a scale are typically not played all at once. The key note, similar to the bass note in chord formulas, tells which note to begin a scale’s formula from.

Scale formulas, like chord formulas, can be defined in a few different ways. They can be described using the whole-step/half-step (W/H) method (Suspended Pentatonic = W, W+H, W, W+H, W). They can also be described in binary using 1’s and 0’s as well (Suspended Pentatonic = 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1). In fact, all the possible unique scale formulas can be calculated using the simple and elegant binary equation 2^11 = 2,048.