Originally Posted by: shredevilI'm having trouble using Nicolas Slonimsky's book entitled Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns whick I bought last month.

The purpose of the book was to give the "modern musician" (circa early 1900's) a resource for playing all the weird patterns that modern classical composers were putting into their weird pieces.

Typically, when a musician practices, they work on scales, chords and permutations of those because that is what they will encounter in actual musical pieces. In "modern classical" (atonal, polytonal, serial, pandiatonicism, etc.) regular tonal patterns were completely avoided. So when it came time to attempt actually playing these pieces many musicians were very ill-equipped (ed. note: which is not a bad thing IMO :p ).

Slonimsky's book was one way of dealing with problem. But it was done based up a very specific premise: he "splits the octave" in non-standard divisions, and then proceeds to methodically apply various permutations.

"Splitting the octave" means to arbitrary divide an octave or more of notes into equal segments and then play those segments as if they had musical function unto themselves. (Which frequently they don't but that is another discussion).

So let's take an octave of notes starting on C:

c-c#-d-d#-e-f-f#-g-g#-a-a#-b

And "split it" in "two equal pieces":

(c-c#-d-d#-e-f-) (f#-g-g#-a-a#-b)

Leaving the space between f and f sharp at the "center". This is why the first exercise (one of the first?) has c and f#. Then you "approach" the notes c and f# from one step below and above and call it "interpolation" and "extrapolation", etc.

Try a more complicated one: an octave of notes starting on C:

c-c#-d-d#-e-f-f#-g-g#-a-a#-b-c

And "split it" in three equal pieces:

(c-c#-d-d#) (e-f-f#-g) (g#-a-a#-b)

Then you have the "nodes" c - e - g# - c to work with (augmented) in various permutations. But here's where things get even weirder: using more than one octave and splitting it in unusual places.

2 octaves (later he does 5, 7, 11 octaves!):

c-c#-d-d#-e-f-f#-g-g#-a-a#-b-c-c#-d-d#-e-f-f#-g-g#-a-a#-b

And "split it" in three equal pieces (later in 4, 6, 12 parts, etc.):

(c-c#-d-d#-e-f-f#-g) (g#-a-a#-b-c-c#-d-d#) (e-f-f#-g-g#-a-a#-b)

The "nodes" are c - g# - e over two octaves with all the permutations written out.

Supposedly, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and other jazz giants used this book to practice really "outside" lines and come up with ideas of "outside" lines to play. I've been told Shawn Lane found it quite fascinating also. The most I have ever been able to use it for is "interesting things to play over the V7 chords of jazz tunes."

While this does generate some interesting patterns the entire premise is somewhat misleading: splitting the octave amongst any given pattern gives no guarantee of musical function. In fact, splitting the octave based upon counting half steps will almost guarantee you are working against the actual acoustical nature of sound.

Last additional thought: the octave is already "split" in half by physics: the ration of frequency from any note to its octave is 2:1. And the half way between every pair of octaves is the fifth of the scale: from 1st scale degree to 5th scale degree is 1.5:1.