The α (alpha) scale is a non-octave-repeating musical scale invented by Wendy Carlos and first used on her album Beauty in the Beast (1986). It is derived from approximating just intervals using multiples of a single interval without, as is standard in equal temperaments, requiring an octave (2:1). It may be approximated by dividing the perfect fifth (3:2) into nine equal steps (3:2)1⁄9, or by dividing the minor third (6:5) into four steps (6:5)1⁄4.
Carlos' α (alpha) scale arises from...taking a value for the scale degree so that nine of them approximate a 3:2 perfect fifth, five of them approximate a 5:4 major third, and four of them approximate a 6:5 minor third. In order to make the approximation as good as possible we minimize the mean square deviation.
The formula below finds the minimum by setting the derivative of the mean square deviation with respect to the scale step size to 0.
Though it does not have an octave, the alpha scale produces, "wonderful triads," (Play major (help·info) and minor triad (help·info)) and the beta scale has similar properties but the sevenths are more in tune. However, the alpha scale has, "excellent harmonic seventh chords...using the [octave] inversion of 7⁄4, i.e., 8⁄7 [Play (help·info)]."
|septimal major second||3||233.90||8:7||231.17||+2.72|
- Carlos, Wendy (1989–96). "Three Asymmetric Divisions of the Octave", WendyCarlos.com. "9 steps to the perfect (no kidding) fifth." The alpha scale, "splits the minor third exactly in half (also into quarters)."
- Milano, Dominic (November 1986). "A Many-Colored Jungle of Exotic Tunings", Keyboard. "The idea was to split a minor third into two equal parts. Then that was divided again."
- Carlos, Wendy (2000/1986). "Liner notes", Beauty in the Beast. ESD 81552.
- Benson, Dave (2006). Music: A Mathematical Offering, p.232-233. ISBN 0-521-85387-7. "This actually differs very slightly from Carlos' figure of 15.385 α-scale degrees to the octave. This is obtained by approximating the scale degree to 78.0 cents."
- Sethares, William (2004). Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale, p.60. ISBN 1-85233-797-4. Scale step of 78 cents.