Diminished Scales and More: Nicolas Slonimsky

The diminished scale has always fascinated me. I understand the 8 notes, half-step, whole step or whole step, half step variations. Lots of musicians from many different genres have used it such as John Coltrane, Jaco Pastorius and Frank Zappa. But after seeing a post by Joe Hubbard on No Treble, I began to see a little more about it’s derivation.

In 1947, Nicolas Slonimsky published a book called Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. I recently acquired a copy adapted which is arranged for guitar by Dave Celentano and contains a large part of the original book. This edition also comes with a CD containing all the material played on guitar.

Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns

Slonimsky takes the twelve tones of western music and divides the octave
(or octaves) into equal parts. This goes far beyond just the diminished scale. The first set of patterns is based on dividing the octave into 2 even parts referred to as the Tritone progression. In the key of C, that is C, F# and C one octave above. Slonimsky uses some terms from the Greek and Latin names notes above and below the notes mentioned. These are commonly referred to in jazz theory as approach notes.

The diminished scale is the division of the octave into 4 equal parts, which gives us the minor 3rd movement of notes that we commonly call the diminished scale. Slonimsky calls the diminished scale the Sesquitone progression.

I’m now working my way through this book, a bit at a time. I’ll post regularly on my progress and where it leads me.





About Dwight Mabe

I've playing music since the age of 5...a really, really long time. I've been teaching bass guitar and double bass for over 30 years, writing about music and bass guitar for nearly as long.
This entry was posted in Advanced, Chords, Intermediate, Music Theory, Scales and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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