Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use this for?

For experienced improvisers, this may help you find modes and scales outside your normal "comfort zone", which could add new and interesting flavours to your solos. Similarly for composers.

For beginners to improvisation, it may be useful in helping understanding which modes of which scales can be used over a given chord. However, there is no substitute for playing and listening to the modes!

If you find this useful for whatever reason, please let me know!

What styles of music can this be used for?

It was created with jazz in mind, but could definitely be applied to other styles. Different styles of music tend to use different types of scales, so you would have to bear that in mind when selecting which scales to use for matching.

Why didn't you include the double augmented locrian Mongolian gypsy scale, or <insert my favourite scale here >?

Well, there are a lot of scales out there for sure. Some were deliberately left out, such as pentatonics which are truncations of other scales, and the blues and bebop scales which can both be derived by adding a passing note to notes from modes of the major scale, and consequently have a melodic function rather than a harmonic one.

But if you think I really should add your favourite scale in, let me know.

What is a mode in music?

Putting things as simply as possible, if you have a scale with (say) 7 notes which repeat every octave, then there will be 7 modes for that scale. The 1st mode will use the 1st note as its tonic, the 2nd mode will use the 2nd note as its tonic, and so on. Despite all the modes of a scale being constructed from the same notes, each mode creates a very different impression on the listener's ears due to the different tonic note. For more information, see the Wikipedia article on musical modes.

I expected an F# but it's showing a Gb - what's going on?

Enharmonic equivalence is deliberately taken into account, so for example if your chosen chord contains the note F#, scales may be returned which contain the note Gb (assuming that they also contain all the other notes in your chosen chord). Without this, the usefulness of the results would be severely limited.

What technology did you use?

The application was built entirely with Free Software. The website is built using Ruby on Rails. All the musical calculations are done in Ruby, using a set of libraries which I wrote from scratch (and aim to release as a gem eventually). The notation is generated using GNU LilyPond.

Hasn't this already been done?

Yes, but not like this. As far as I'm aware, this site is unique for having all of the following features:

  • Displays the results as musical notation.
  • Shows the notes within each resulting scale which uniquely identify that scale.
  • Uses the correct note names rather than their enharmonic equivalents.
  • Has a rich chord catalogue.
  • Has a rich scale catalogue.
But here are some similar sites for reference:

Is this available as a standalone app for mobile phone / tablet / computer?

It's a web application, and should run perfectly on any mobile phone, tablet, or computer which is connected to the internet. There will never be a standalone app for Android or iOS, because there is no easy way to build apps with Ruby on Rails or LilyPond on those platforms, so the only way would be to do a total rewrite from scratch which is completely out of the question. I could make an app which is simply a pretty icon serving as a bookmark which would launch the website, but there's not much point so I probably won't.

It is possible to run the Rails app on a machine without internet access, but this is not something I want to support because it's a lot of extra hassle for very little reward. Having said that, if you have a burning need to do it, get in touch and we can talk about it.