How do you define diatonic?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by giggedy, Sep 6, 2008.

How do you define diatonic?

  1. The major scale

  2. Any 7 note scale

  3. Other - please specify

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  1. giggedy

    giggedy Member

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    I'm thinking the official definition is the major scale and theory based off of it, but I would like to know what you think.
     
  2. GAD

    GAD Wubbalubbadubdub Silver Supporting Member

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    My teacher uses the term "diatonically" all the time. I understand it to mean using only the notes within the key, whatever that key may be.

    GAD
     
  3. 5E3

    5E3 Member

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    I use the dictionary :)

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Megatron

    Megatron Member

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    I usually just tell my students it's when stuff we're playing, chords, scales, arps, relate and comply with the major scale(for whatever key we're working from).
     
  5. teddys

    teddys Member

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    Other::roll

    Its what I order at the bar:
    a Tanqueray and diet tonic
     
  6. texwest

    texwest Member

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    Well first I would like to introduce myself because I haven't posted here before. My name is Wes Howard. I've been teaching music for over 20 years. I live in Urbana , IL and have two degrees in music theory including a masters.

    So everyone above is correct but everyone has said that diatonic relates to all the theory that derives from a major scale. It seems to me that we could also speak of the diatonic chords derived from any other scale such as harmonic minor or melodic minor. So diatonic would mean the chords spelled directly from the notes of any particular scale.

    For example, Diatonic chords from an A harmonic minor scale would be Am, Bdim, C+, Dm, E, F, G#dim
     
  7. giggedy

    giggedy Member

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    ah ha, so now I've got people with degrees in contrast with one another, I knew this might happen. What would be a good way to get to the bottom of this? Or is there just more than one definition, none of which is necessarily correct?
     
  8. texwest

    texwest Member

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    I really don't think I'm disagreeing. Just expanding on what others have said!

    Diatonic can also refer to other keys than major keys thats all.

    The word diatonic refers to the idea of building up chords from a particular scale, strictly from the notes of that scale.

    GAD and 5E3 both said this too. I just wanted to say that its not just about major keys.
     
  9. Sadhaka

    Sadhaka Member

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    Wes is correct.

    But seriously... Two degrees in Music Theory??? Man, I thought a bachelor of music in performance had enough theory. Well done at that mate.

    Welcome aboard. This place is a great time waster!!!
     
  10. lifeinsong

    lifeinsong Member

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  11. JonR

    JonR Member

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    The original definition is in the quote SE3 posted (from the Greek).

    The Greek is vague enough ("through the tones", "across the tones"?) for the definition to encompass various kinds of scale. But it's come to mean any 7-note scale composed of tones (whole steps) and semitones - although it can include harmonic minor, which has one 3-semitone step.

    As our music (over centuries) has become focussed on major and minor keys, it's also come to mean "related to a key" (major or minor), and describes any notes OR chords that are witihin that key, derived from that scale.
    (A minor key has variable 6th and 7th degrees, so various conflicting chords could be diatonic to a minor key.)

    The opposite - in this sense - is "chromatic", which means "outside the key" (from the Greek for "colour" - "chroma").
     
  12. giggedy

    giggedy Member

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    tex, you didn't disagree with anyone here, I got other info from someone else I know with a music degree. I've always thought that diatonic can also include melodic minor, harmonic minor, and harmonic major as well.

    I'll have to have a chat with my friend, well, more of a discussion.
     
  13. sinner

    sinner Member

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    What about "altered scales" that do not happen naturally, are "tweaked"? Still diatonic within that key but not pulled out of the major key.

    So other?
     
  14. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    Depends on how you're using it. If your "altered" scale defines the overall tonality (meaning that the chords used have the same alterations), then, yes, it is diatonic. If you're using an alteration over something (say, a #11 over a Imaj7 in C major), then, no, it would not be diatonic. But if your tonality is actually Lydian, that same #11 would be diatonic and the 4 would be an alteration.

    Within the Key.
     
  15. giggedy

    giggedy Member

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    of course, there's the altered scale as well, the 7th mode of melodic minor.
     
  16. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    I don't think the major scale and its modes has any special claim to the term. I have always been told it just means "of the key". So whatever key you are working with at the time.
     
  17. xk49w

    xk49w Member

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    OTOH, it is predominant, in western music at least.
    Perhaps operating about a key center allows for alterations? I've always considered the whole point of the term to be that there are no alterations from the designated scale, whether the Ionian is one of the modes or not. I would say then it means "of the scale" rather than "of the key".

    I got into this a little bit the other night on stage with the B3 player, just prior to the downbeat of Impressions. The drummer was staring at us like we were from Mars.
     
  18. giggedy

    giggedy Member

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    ok, so for my site, I'm putting the definition "pertaining to a certain key" or something along the lines of that. I'm going to include the harmonization of major, melodic minor, harmonic minor, and harmonic major.

    sound good?
     
  19. Slowesthand

    Slowesthand Member

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    This is much easier than everyone is making it. Although making it easier may not be all that conducive to good discussion!

    Anyway, here's what I've always said:

    Diatonic is: Not parallel. Unless there is a "key" based on the whole tone scale I have not heard of, this very simple definition should work. Yes?
     
  20. JonR

    JonR Member

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    :confused: Not really. What do you mean by "parallel"? Anything that's not "diatonic"? ;)
     

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