Japanese mode

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The Japanese mode is a somewhat inaccurate term for a pentatonic musical scale which is used commonly in traditional Japanese music. The intervals of the scale are major second, minor second, major third, minor second, and major third (for example, the notes A, B, C, E, F and up to A) - the formula relative to a natural minor scale in Western music theory would be 1 2 b3 5 b6. The more correct term would be kumoijoshi, as given by William P. Malm for one of the three tuning scales of the koto[1] adapted from shamisen music.

However, this scale has been misnamed and misinterpreted many times. It can also be synonymous to the Phrygian dominant scale, otherwise known as the harmonic minor.

In addition to being used almost exclusively in traditional Japanese compositions, it is found frequently in video game music and the pieces of contemporary composers such as Anne Boyd.


  1. ^ Harich-Scheider, Eta (1973) [1922]. A History of Japanese Music. London: Oxford University Press. p. 520. ISBN 0-19-316203-2.