|C, D, E, F♯, G, A, B♭, C|
|Number of pitch classes||7|
In music, the acoustic scale, overtone scale, Lydian dominant scale, or Lydian ♭7 scale, is a seven-note synthetic scale which, starting on C, contains the notes: C, D, E, F♯, G, A and B♭. This differs from the major scale in having a raised fourth and lowered seventh scale degree. It is the fourth mode of the melodic minor ascending scale. The term "acoustic scale" is sometimes used to describe a particular mode of this seven note collection (e.g. the specific ordering C-D-E-F♯-G-A-B♭) and is sometimes used to describe the collection as a whole (e.g. including orderings such as E-F♯-G-A-B♭-C-D).
The acoustic scale appeared sporadically in the nineteenth century, notably in the works of Franz Liszt, and appears very frequently in the works of Claude Debussy. It also plays a role in the music of other twentieth century composers, including Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók and Karol Szymanowski influenced by folk music from the Polish Highlands. It plays a major role in jazz harmony, where it is used to accompany dominant seventh chords starting on the first scale degree. (That is, the scale C-D-E-F♯-G-A-B♭ is used to accompany the chord C-E-G-B♭. The term "acoustic scale" was coined by Ernő Lendvaï in his analysis of the music of Béla Bartók.
The name "acoustic scale" refers to the resemblance to the eighth through 14th pitch-classes in the harmonic series. Starting on C1, the harmonic series goes C1, C2, G2, C3, E3, G3, B♭3, C4, D4, E4, F♯4*, G4, A4*, B♭4*, B4, C5 ... The bold notes spell out an acoustic scale on C4. However, in the harmonic series, the notes marked with asterisks are out of tune; F♯ being almost exactly halfway between F4 and F♯4, A being closer to A♭4 than A4, and B♭ being too flat to be generally accepted relative to equal temperament.
The acoustic scale may have formed from a major triad (C E G) with an added minor seventh and raised fourth (B♭ and F♯, drawn from the overtone series) and major second and major sixth (D and A). Lendvaï described the use of the "acoustic system" accompanying the acoustic scale in Bartok's music, since it entails structural characteristics such as symmetrically balanced sections, especially periods, is contrasted with his use of the golden section. In Bartok's music the acoustic scale is characterized in various ways including diatonic, dynamic, tense, and triple or other odd metered, as opposed to the music structured by the Fibonacci sequence which is chromatic, static, relaxed, and duple metered.
Another way to regard the acoustic scale is that it occurs as a mode of the melodic minor scale, starting on the fourth degree (relative to the minor root), thus being analogous to the Dorian mode. Hence the acoustic scale starting on D is D, E, F♯, G♯, A, B, C, D, containing the familiar sharpened F and G of A melodic minor. The F♯ turns the D minor tetrachord into a major tetrachord, and the G♯ turns it Lydian. Therefore, many occurrences of this scale in jazz may be regarded as unsurprising; it shows up in modal improvisation and composition over harmonic progressions which invite use of the melodic minor.
See also 
- Persichetti, Vincent (1961). Twentieth-Century Harmony. New York City: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-393-09539-5. OCLC 318260658.
- Berle, Arnie (1997). "The Lydian Dominant Scale". Mel Bay's Encyclopedia of Scales, Modes and Melodic Patterns: A Unique Approach to Developing Ear, Mind and Finger Coordination. Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay Publications. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7866-1791-3. OCLC 48534968.
- Fewell, Garrison (February 1998). "Sessions: Lydian-Dominant Strategies". Guitar Player 32 (2): 154–155.
- Lendvaï, Ernő (1971). Béla Bartók: An Analysis of his Music. introd. by Alan Bush. London: Kahn & Averill. p. 27. ISBN 0-900707-04-6. OCLC 240301. Cited in Wilson, Paul (1992).
- Bárdos, Lajos cited in Kárpáti 1994, 171
- Tymoczko, Dmitri (2004). “Scale Networks in Debussy.” Journal of Music Theory 48.2: 215–292.
- Tymoczko, Dmitri (2003). Stravinsky and the Octatonic: A reconsideration. Music Theory Spectrum 25.1: 185–202.
- Wilson, Paul (1992). The Music of Béla Bartók, p. 7. ISBN 0-300-05111-5.
- Leta E. Miller, ed. (1988). Lou Harrison: Selected keyboard and chamber music, 1937–1994, p.xliii. ISBN 978-0-89579-414-7.
- "The Lydian Mode", Piano-Play-It.com.
- "Scale of the Day #2: The Simpsons Scale", Elissa Milne. January 14, 2010.
- The Acoustic Scale or Lydian Dominant Scale mapped out for guitar
- The Acoustic scale (Lydian dominant), all keys, for ocarina