Monkey Raptor

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some of Japanese Exotic Scales: Hirajoshi, Iwato, and Kumoi

Geisha with shamisen
Japanese folkwoman playing shamisen.
1904 photo from collection of Christopher Wagner.

Taken from Wikimedia Commons
Either you're a hiphop-er, or rap god, or guitarholic, or piano mania, or drum junkie, or other musical stuff fanatic, you should listen to traditional music. They're neat. The sound of earth captured by humans. Those tunes and chants will remind us how majestic and beautiful life really is.
Have you ever listened to Japanese folk music? Those have soothing melody and rhythms.
I'm gonna show you some of cool pentatonic scale types used in those compositions.
I usually listen to koto and flute. Ya know, from video games back then. I spent so many coins on those addicting software. Samurai Shodown was so epic. Man, not really good at it anyway. But the music, well, I can't remember any of the melody, but they were so calming, and mystical at once. The word "eerie" perhaps can describe the feeling. But it doesn't have the horror side.
So, koto, is like a slide guitar, but with its own sweet tuning. More like harp, plenty of strings. In India, there's the sitar, the equivalency of koto. Um, not really. More like a big shamisen (the picture above). Sitar looks like a very funky and huge guitar, with giant neck and the oval body (banjo kinda thing). It also has its own unique tuning.

Let's take a look at the exotic scales, shall we?

I have 3 pentatonic scales, derived from koto tuning:
  • Hirajoshi
    Hirajōshi scale, or hira-choshi (Japanese: 平調子; Hepburn: hirachōshi; chōshi = tuning; hira = even, level, tranquil, standard/regular) is a tuning scale adapted from shamisen music by Yatsuhashi Kengyō for tuning of the koto. The hirajoshi, kumoijoshi, and kokinjoshi scales are Western derivations of the koto tunings of the same names.
    ~from Dear Wikipedia

    Plenty of musicians use this scale to get the "fresh" sounding. Especially in Fusion or Progressive thingy genre. You'll hear unorthodox things going on in there. Anyway, I'm referring to Kotska and Payne: Tonal Harmony book for this.
    Therefore, the sequence of Hirajoshi scale is:
    If we play that in the key of C, then:
    This has, sort of, sad mood.
  • Iwato
    Iwato is more like Locrian mode (scale that starts from the 7th note of the major scale). The Locrian looks like: 1-♭2-♭3-4-♭5-♭6-♭7 (honestly, I never remember those steps).
    Iwato is without the ♭3 and ♭6. So, it's a pentatonic, consists of 5 basic notes.
    The sequence of Iwato is:
    If we play that in the key of C, then:
    This sequence has the "adventurous" mood. Um, pretty much.
  • Kumoi
    I'm referring to Guthrie Govan's Creative Guitar 2: Advanced Techniques for this. A super neat writing by Mr. Govan by the way, you should collect his books and read them.
    Apparently, not much of documentation I could find on the web about Kumoi. But, referring to the Hirajoshi opening paragraph on Wikipedia, I suppose this one is also taken from koto tuning thingy. It sounds like Hirajoshi, but the last note is naturalized.
    Yea, probably. It's brought back to its "natural" pitch.
    This one I heard a lot in 90s video games.
    The sequence of Kumoi:
    If we play that in the key of C, then:
    Sad and "adventurous" mood in one.

I made some awesome flash players here to show how the different scales will sound.


Whoops, your browser doesn't support Flash object: HIRAJOSHI

Whoops, your browser doesn't support Flash object: IWATO

Whoops, your browser doesn't support Flash object: KUMOI

Have fun clicking and listening. See ya again next time.

This is an HTML5 one octave piano tool on Port Raptor to scramble either scale above or standard chromatic scale with your mouse/keyboard: Oneveno H5

Some of Japanese Exotic Scales: Hirajoshi, Iwato, and Kumoi

No comments

Post a Comment

Tell me what you think...