Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization – Part 3

The Seven Principle Scales

In this part in this series we are going to look at the Seven Principle Scales of George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. There are actually eleven member scales in total (there are also Four Horizontal Scales) with the Seven Principle Scales being “chord parenting”.

 

The Seven Principle Scales… are the Principle Chord-Producing Scales of the LYDIAN CHROMATIC SCALE. They exist as the PRIMARY PARENT SCALES for all traditionally definable chords of Western Harmony. 1

I think it is significant that these scales come first in the theory. They are closely aligned to the lydian scale in the sense that they all contain the augmented fourth (+IV). The order in which they appear is also significant because “their order reflects the sequence of derivation from the fundamental tonal order of the Lydian Chromatic Concept”.

Let’s make a start.

Recall that we derive the lydian scale by stacking 6 intervals of a 5th on top of each other. Here’s the example of F lydian created by stacking 5ths from the root note, F.

F   C   G    D    A    E    B
I   V   II   VI   II   VII  +IV

The notes are listed in the order they appear as you stack fifths. Actually, this order is significant to Russell, as we’ll see later. Of course, in practical usage you’d rearrange them in note order.

Remember that the last note is an augmented 4th (notated as +IV) as opposed to the perfect 4th of the major scale.

You probably won’t be surprised to find that the Lydian Scale is the first of the Seven Principle Scales.

The Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity

Circle of FifthsRussell seems to have asked the question, “what happens if we continue adding 5ths and extend beyond an octave?”

Well, we continue to move around the cycle of 5ths and eventually use all available 12 tones to end up with the chromatic scale. Hence ‘chromatic’ in the Lydian Chromatic Concept perhaps?

However, to Russell the order in which they appear is significant. More on that later.

Anyway, we end up with an additional 5 notes on top of the lydian scale:

F    C    G    D    A    E    B      Gb    C#    Ab    Eb    Bb
I    V    II   VI   II   VII  +IV    bII   +V    bIII  bVII  IV

The example above shows a C# but then a bunch of flats. The reason for mixing flats and sharps is simple. The V in F lydian is C so the +V must be C# (we are just augmenting the fifth). This applies to the other notes too. For example, the II in lydian is G so the bII must be Gb, etc.

Russell seems to have tried using this order of notes as the basis of deriving further scales – more on this soon – but he presumably had mixed results because he decided to skip a 5th between the seventh and eighth tones of the Lydian Chromatic Scale. So what he actually used was the following:

F    C    G    D    A    E    B       C#    Ab    Eb    Bb   Gb
I    V    II   VI   II   VII  +IV     +V    bIII  bVII  IV   bII

Note we go from B (+IV) to C# (+V), skipping the Gb (bII) which we append to the end of the series. This arrangement of tones is called The Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity and is used as the basis of deriving further scales.

This oddity – skipping the bII – is important and, frankly, a bit confusing when reading the original book so why did he do it? Well essentially, as I understand it, he felt doing so allowed him to better accommodate Western harmony.

Deriving further scales

What Russell now did is he took the Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity, starting with the original seven notes of the lydian scale, and used the additional five notes to make substitutions in the original scale.

For example, if we start by taking the +V – the first ‘extra’ note – and use that in place of the original V of the lydian scale we get the following (reorganised in note order).

F    G    A    B    C#    D    E
I    II   III  +IV  +V    VI   VII

Russell calls this scale the Lydian Augmented Scale. It’s the second of the Seven Principle Scales and you might recognise it in conventional terms as the 3rd mode of the melodic minor scale.

Taking this approach the next substitution would be the bIII.

F    G    Ab    B    C    D    E
I    II   bIII  +IV  V    VI   VII

This is the Lydian Diminished Scale. In more conventional terms this exotic sounding scale could be thought of as a mode of the Harmonic Major scale but Russell got here as the third scale in his theory!

Russell’s system continues making substitutions in much the same way although he does deviate somewhat and starts to use multiple substitutions and additions to create a series of increasingly dissonant scales. In fact, the scales go from what Russell terms ingoing  (close) scales to outgoing (dissonant) scales as we use tones further to the right of the Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity.

The full list of the Seven Principle Scales

So, here we will look at the Seven Principle Scales with examples in F. The first four scales Russell describes as being of “lydian derivation” and the last three as “auxiliary scales”. The auxiliary scales use more than one note substitution.

Remember that the order of tones in the Lydian Chromatic Order is significant. The scales are presented an order based on how far to the right of the Lydian Chromatic Order tones are pulled in. In other words, the further to the right notes are used the more outgoing (dissonant) the scale will be.

Note also that none of these scales use the fourth (IV). This interval is reserved for the Four Horizontal Scales to be presented in the next post in the series. In fact, to Russell, the absence of the fourth lends a vertical quality to these scales; the tension inherent in the fourth is absent. To Russell the fourth is – at least in part – responsible for forward or horizontal motion in music.

Lydian Scale

F    G    A    B    C    D    E
I    II   III  +IV  V    VI   VII

No note substitutions. Just the result of stacking six intervals of a fifth.

Lydian Augmented Scale

F    G    A    B    C#    D    E
I    II   III  +IV  +V    VI   VII

Substitute the V with the +V.

This corresponds to the 3rd mode of melodic minor which goes by the same name.

Lydian Diminished Scale

F    G    Ab    B    C    D    E
I    II   bIII  +IV  V    VI   VII

Substitute the III with the bIII.

Lydian Flat Seventh Scale

F    G    A    B    C    D   Eb
I    II   III  +IV  V    VI  bVII

Substitute the VII with the bVII.

In conventional terms this is the Lydian Dominant scale, the 4th mode of melodic minor (see this post for more information about Lydian Dominant).

Auxiliary Augmented Scale

F    G    A    B    C#    E
I    II   III  +IV  +V    bVII

Substitute the V and VII with the +V and bVII respectively.

NB: We’ve lost a note here too, the VI! There are only 6 notes in this scale.

Auxiliary Diminished Scale

F    G    Ab    B    C#    D    E
I    II   bIII  +IV  +V    VI   VII

Substitute the III and V with the bIII and +V respectively.

Auxiliary Diminished Blues Scale

F    Gb    Ab    B    C    D    Eb
I    bII   bIII  +IV  V    VI   bVII

Substitute the II, III and VII with the bII, bIII and bVII respectively.

This scale is very similar to the Half-Whole Diminished scale except you skip the 4th note. In the F example that would be an A. Pop the A back in and you’ve got Half-Whole Diminished.

By skipping that note you create an augmented 2nd between the bIII and +IV which is exotic sounding. There are also elements of the minor pentatonic scale here: I, bIII, V and bVII. The +IV (or flattened fifth if you prefer) is the ‘blue’ note commonly used in the blues.

Tone orders and tonal gravity levels

Russell attempts to give an overview of the Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity with the following illustration.2

I found this illustration a bit tricky at first, so lets take a look in more detail.

Russell refers to tone order. See the numbers at the bottom of the diagram going from 1 to 12? Numbers 1 to 7 correspond to the first 7 notes on the cycle of fifths – the lydian scale. So the lydian scale has a 7 tone order.

As we recruit notes further to the end of the Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity the tone order increases. So, for example, the Auxiliary Diminished Blues scale includes the bII (note 12) so it has a 12 tone order.

As we use the notes beyond 7 things get increasingly dissonant or outgoing as the tone order increases. In other words, as we move from 9 to 12 tone order things get more and more outgoing. Russell categorises the scales into ingoing, semi-ingoing, semi-outgoing and outgoing tonal gravity levels that correspond to increasing tone order.

The 9 tone order – also called it the Constant Nucleus – is significant because Russell says it contains all the chord types of the Western harmonic spectrum.

. . . the nine-tone order houses the fundamental chord types of the Western harmonic spectrum: major, minor, seventh, augmented, and diminished. For this reason the nine-tone order . . . is referred to as the CONSTANT NUCLEUS of the Lydian Chromatic Scale. 3

Wrapping up

We have taken a look at the Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity and how it was derived. We then looked at how this order was used to generate new scales by making note substitutions. This resulted in the Seven Principle Scales.

At some point we’ll get to how we use these scales but before we do that we need to look at four more scales: the four Horizontal Scales. Remember there are eleven member scales in total but we’ve only looked at seven. That will be the subject of the next post.

Back to Part 1 (index to posts in the series)

References

  1. Russel, G (2001). The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, 4th Edition, p.14
  2. Russel, G (2001). The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, 4th Edition, p.14
  3. Russel, G (2001). The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, 4th Edition, p.14

Leave a Reply

avatar

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of

Site Footer