Musical Scales with Consonance

  • Thread starter gatztopher
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  • #1
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I'm making a story that involves creatures that speak a language which is base-something. Maybe binary, maybe hexidecimal, probably something else. Only, instead of speaking "one zero zero zero one" they would have musical notes. So imagine a random arrangement of your fav musical scale, where each note corresponds to a number.

My question is this... what musical scale has the most consonance? If these notes are going to be randomly arranged, they have to sound good in *any* order. I was thinking of using a pentatonic scale (which would mean a quinary language), because I heard it's particularly blessed with consonance. Where did I hear this? Someone made a random music machine, with hamsters and a pentatonic scale. http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/eceprojectsland/STUDENTPROJ/2002to2003/lil2/ [Broken]

Quinary would be a really slow language though, even if spoken really quickly. Are there any scales with the same or better consonance but more notes (in the same octive)?

Comments, solutions, all are appreciated. Thanks!
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Well the ultimate one for you would be the C major arpeggio for simplicity, but, it's still only five notes.

The problem with anything more than that is you start to introduce dissonance. So you may just want to consider using all notes (12) to give you a wide range and use the differences in sound to express emotion (in much the same way that a major chord is seen as happy and a minor sad, or something along those lines).
 
  • #3
Pythagorean
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I'd say pentatonic.

If you want to analyze consonance, look at the harmonic series (music version, not mathematical)

If you strike a fundamental note, the harmonic series will also ring, and the higher up in the harmonic series you get, the more faint the harmonics get. So it stands to reason that the harmonics closer to the fundamental are more harmonic with the fundamental.

If you convert these harmonics into their musical theoretical equivalents, you get:

1. the fundamental (say, C)
2. the octave (C)
3. the fifth (G)
4. the octave (C)
5. major third (E)
6. the fifth (G)

(note if you were to play these three notes: C E G, you would have a C chord. It's not coincidence that a good sounding chord contains notes from the harmonic series of the fundamental)

But you will also notice (looking at the wiki on harmonic series for music) that the variance is adding up as you get higher into the harmonic series.

This is because our musical scale does not respect the actual physics of frequency scaling, so we get this nasty thing called a syntonic comma (google it for a deeper explanation) and we can try to throw around this error and distribute it with tuning techniques like "equal temperament" tuning.
 

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