I’ve been digging through the Slonimsky book for a couple of weeks now. It uses several terms that are a bit unusual, so I recommend anyone trying it to keep a good music dictionary or music theory dictionary at hand. And before we get started, let’s get the true definition of “theory” as it is used in music.
There are multiple definitions of theory in the dictionary. The one that seems to be stuck in most people’s mind is: “
The guiding approach of Slonimsky is far more than just a diminished scale. There are over 1,000 examples in the book of scales and melodic patterns. The guitar version doesn’t contain all of those due to range limitations.
Slonimsky’s principle is based on dividing the octave in to equal divisions. The first one shown is called the Tritone progression. This progression divides the octave into 2 equal parts. In the key of C, you have C, F# and an octave higher C. The scales and patterns add additional notes between the principal tones. And here he uses a few couple of coined terms. The first is Interpolation, which means inserting one or more notes between the principal tones. Infrapolation is the insertion of a note below the principal tone. Ultrapolation is the addition of a note above the next principal tone. These can be combined.
The principle is often seen in jazz, especially in the bebop era. The approach notes (as they are referred in jazz) are part of melodic patterns in the classical approach from Slonimsky. Nos. 392 and 393 in the Sesquitone Progression are the half-whole step and whole-half, respectively, 8 tone scales that we call the diminished scale. The current one that I’m working through is No. 403 which is a 3-note pattern with the principle tone notes (C, Eb, F#, A, C, which is dividing the octave into 4 equal parts) with the Ultrapolation of a b5 and a major third for each principle tone. This gives you C F# E, Eb A G, F# C Bb and A Eb D. It’s written in 16th notes in the book which can be a challenge in itself.
The book can be ordered from Amazon and a number of other online retailers. Grab a copy and work with it. It will take a while but I’m certain it’s worth it. Let me know your experiences and thoughts this here or on the Facebook page.