Hungarian scale

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The Hungarian scale is a heptatonic scale that can be built using the following intervals between notes: 1, ½, 1½, ½, ½, 1½, ½.

The fifth mode of this scale (one with intervals ½, 1½, ½, 1, ½, 1½, ½) is known as the Byzantine scale. The names Egyptian scale, Arabic scale, double harmonic major scale, or gypsy scale are also used.

One example of the Hungarian scale is A, B, C, D#, E, F, G#. This example is shown below in traditional notation and in guitar tablature notation.

Hungarian scale in traditional notation

Hungarian scale in guitar tablature notation

Click Play to hear the Hungarian scale.

Play the Hungarian scale

The Byzantine mode of this example would be E, F, G#, A, B, C, D#. This scale is shown below in traditional notation and in guitar tablature notation.

Byzantine scale in traditional notation

Byzantine scale in guitar tablature notation

One way to think of the Hungarian scale is to take the natural minor scale and to raise the fourth and seventh note. For example, take the natural minor A, B, C, D, E, F, G and raise the D and G to D# and G# respectively to obtain A, B, C, D#, E, F, G# (similar to the harmonic minor scale but different by one note: the raised fourth. The harmonic minor scale takes the natural minor scale and raises the seventh. The Hungarian scale goes on further to raise the fourth as well.)

Another way to think of the Hungarian scale is to take the Phrygian scale (for example E, F, G, A, B, C, D) and to raise the third and seventh of that scale to get the Byzantine scale above. The Phrygian is used in flamenco where alternating between the third and the raised third and between the seventh and the raised seventh are common. Using the raised third, for example, allows the use of the major E chord (the major tonic triad).

Modes of the Hungarian scale

The fifth mode of the Hungarian scale is known as the Byzantine scale and has steps ½, 1½, ½, 1, ½, 1½, ½.

Three-note chords on the Hungarian scale

The following are common triads built on the notes of the Hungarian scale.

  • On the root of the scale (on the tonic): minor chord (e.g., Am composed of A, C, E), suspended chord (Asus2 = A, B, E), or diminished chord (Adim = A, C, D#).
  • On the second note (on the supertonic): there are no common triads.
  • On the third note (on the mediant): augmented chord (Caug = C, E, G#).
  • On the fourth note (on the subdominant): there are no common triads.
  • On the fifth note (on the dominant): major chord (E = E, G#, B), suspended chord (Esus4 = E, A, B), or augmented chord (Eaug = E, G#, C).
  • On the sixth note (on the submediant): major chord (F = F, A, C), minor chord (Fm = F, G#, C), or diminished chord (Fdim = F, G#, B).
  • On the seventh note (on the leading tone: major chord (G# = G#, C, D#), minor chord (G#m = G#, B, D#), or augmented chord (G#aug = G#, C, E).

Click Play to hear these three-note chords on the Hungarian scale in the order, in which they are listed above.

Play the three-note chords on the Hungarian scale

Four-note chords on the Hungarian scale

The following are seventh chords built on the notes of the Hungarian scale.

  • On the first note: minor-major seventh chord (e.g. Ammaj7 composed of A, C, E, G#).
  • On the second note: there are no common four-note chords.
  • On the third note: augmented major seventh chord (a major seventh chord with a sharp fifth, Cmaj7#5 = C, E, G#, B).
  • On the fourth note: there are no common four-note chords.
  • On the fifth note: major seventh chord (Emaj7 = E, G#, B, D#) or augmented major seventh chord (Emaj7#5 = E, G#, C, D#).
  • On the sixth note: dominant seventh chord (F7 = F, A, C, D#), major seventh chord (Fmaj7 = F, A, C, E), minor seventh chord (Fmin7 = F, G#, C, D#), half-diminished seventh chord (a minor seventh chord with a flat fifth, Fm7b5 = F, G#, B, D#), or a minor-major seventh chord (Fmmaj7 = F, G#, C, E).
  • On the seventh note: there are no common four-note chords.

Click Play to hear these four-note chords on the Hungarian scale in the order, in which they are listed above.

Play the four-note chords on the Hungarian scale

Intervals on the Hungarian scale

The Hungarian scale is composed of the following intervals.

  • A major second, e.g., the interval between A and B is equal to two semitones.
  • A minor third, e.g., the interval between A and C is equal to three semitones.
  • An augmented fourth, e.g., the interval between A and D# is equal to six semitones.
  • A perfect fifth, e.g., the interval between A and E is equal to seven semitones.
  • A minor sixth, e.g., the interval between A and F is equal to eight semitones.
  • A major seventh, e.g., the interval between A and G# is equal to eleven semitones.

See also:
Scale, Scale (index)



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