Skip to content

Toney Toney Tone

Every single musical tone is a chord that contains a scale.
The secret scale inside every tone is called the Harmonic Series.

The Harmonic Series begins with the Fundamental, in this case the C. This is the tone that you hear as pitch. If you strike this tone on a piano, the rest of the tones in the Series will sound. These harmonics color the timbre of an instrument. They let you know it is a piano that is sounding.

The first harmonic is a higher C, the octave. The second harmonic is a G, the fifth, followed by another octave C. The fourth harmonic is the Major/Minor Third E.

Together, C, E and G form a C Major chord.

Thus, there is a natural basis to tonality. Scales and Chords came pre-packaged inside every Tone. So it’s no wonder why babies prefer Major keys.

The Harmonic Series is also know as the Lydian Dominant scale. It is an obscure key. I can’t think of one sing-song that uses it.

However, Alexander Scriabin, the Russian tone poet, uses this scale extensively in his Poem of Fire. Below is Scriabin’s favorite chord, The Mystic Chord, which is created from the Lydian Dominant scale.

Thus Spake Zarathrusta by Richard Strauss reveals the origins of music in the harmonic series. The song begins with the Fundamental, C, and adds the other harmonics -- the Fifth, Octave, and Thirds.

Musicologist Robert Fink has a beautiful anaylsis of Zarathrusta. His Origins of Music site has great articles on the natural basis of music.

Well that’s it for this Bloggy! Here’s what we learned today:

1) Every tone is a chord that contains a scale.
2) This scale is called the Harmonic Series, or Lydian Dominant.
3) The Series shows there is a natural basis to pop tonalities.
4) Thus, babies prefer Major keys.
5) Scriabin was obsessed with Lydian Dominant.
6) Richard Strauss is awesome and babies love him.