diatonic

diatonically, adv.
/duy'euh ton"ik/, adj. Music.
1. noting those scales that contain five whole tones and two semitones, as the major, minor, and certain modal scales.
2. of or pertaining to the tones, intervals, or harmonies of such scales.
[1590-1600; < LL diatonicus < Gk diatonikós; see DIA-, TONIC]

* * *

music
      in music, any stepwise arrangement of the seven “natural” pitches (scale degrees) forming an octave without altering the established pattern of a key or mode—in particular, the major (major scale) and natural minor scales (scale). Some scales, including pentatonic (pentatonic scale) and whole-tone (whole-tone scale) scales, are not diatonic because they do not include the seven degrees.

      In medieval and Renaissance music, eight church modes (church mode) dictated the organization of musical harmony. Diatonic harmony arose gradually, in the form of numerous exceptions to the rules of the church modes. In the 16th century the humanist Henricus Glareanus (Glareanus, Henricus) proposed two additional modes (mode), Aeolian and Ionian, based on A and C, respectively, and identical in every way to the modern natural minor and major scales; this was the first recognition of the validity of diatonic modes.

      The major scale can be expressed in a pattern of two adjacent four-note groups (sometimes referred to as tetrachords (tetrachord)), each comprising two whole-tone steps topped off by a half step, so that the half steps occur between degrees III-IV and VII-VIII (I). In the natural minor scale, the half steps occur at II-III and V-VI. Given the crucial importance of the so-called leading tone (the seventh degree of the major scale) in diatonic harmony, however, the natural minor scale regularly becomes subject to chromatic (chromaticism) alteration (in this case, the raising by a half step) of its seventh degree (the harmonic minor form) and often the sixth degree as well (the melodic minor form of the scale, used in an ascending melody). The harmonic minor is, strictly speaking, not really a scale; it is used normally not melodically but as a source set for constructing harmony. The upper tetrachord of the ascending melodic minor scale is identical with that of the major scale. It is the natural minor scale that defines the key signature; altered degrees are indicated by applied accidental signs (sharp, flat, or natural). For examples in musical notation of steps in these major and minor scales, see scale: common scale types (scale).

      Chords in diatonic harmony are generated from the major and minor scales by constructing triads (triad) on each of the diatonic scale degrees. Scale degrees and triads are identified by the same names, and triads may be represented by roman numerals. The seven names are (I) tonic, (II) supertonic, (III) mediant, (IV) subdominant, (V) dominant, (VI) submediant, and (VII) leading tone.

      The diatonic scale, as a model, is contrasted with the chromatic (chromaticism) scale of 12 pitches, corresponding to the white and black notes of the piano keyboard considered together. The different scales belonging to the 12 major and 12 minor keys include these different black-and-white notes, but always just 7 at a time. An accidental sign in front of a note normally signifies either that the tone is notated as the sixth or seventh degree of the minor scale, or that the tone is a chromatic tone (it does not belong to the particular diatonic scale being used in the harmony of the moment). Chromatic tones, for many different reasons, abound in nearly all music composed after 1600, even though most music of the period is transparently diatonic. From the middle of the 19th century, however, diatonic music began to make way for music that is more characteristically chromatic, and more harmonically complex, in the works of Richard Wagner (Wagner, Richard), Franz Liszt (Liszt, Franz), and many others.

      The church modes may be regarded as older diatonic variants of the major-minor system. Certainly diatonic scales occur well beyond the confines of Western art music, including in European and American folk monophony (unaccompanied music with a single melodic line), as well as in some types of African and Asian music. Notwithstanding the complexity of compositional techniques that were developed during the 20th century for music that is not tonal, the diatonic system remained firmly established all over the world at the start of the 21st century, in art music and popular music alike.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Diatonic — Di a*ton ic (d[imac] [.a]*t[o^]n [i^]k), a. [L. diatonicus, diatonus, Gr. ?, ?, fr. ? to stretch out; dia through + ? to stretch: cf. F. diatonique. See {Tone}.] (Mus.) Pertaining to the scale of eight tones, the eighth of which is the octave of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • diatonic — diatónic adj. m.(sil. di a ), pl. diatónici; f. sg. diatónică, pl. diatónice Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic  DIATÓNI//C diatoniccă (diatonicci, diatonicce) muz. Care constă din tonuri şi semitonuri consecutive; format… …   Dicționar Român

  • diatonic — c.1600, from Fr. diatonique, from L. diatonicus, from Gk. diatonikos, from diatonos extending; pertaining to the diatonic scale, from dia (see DIA (Cf. dia )) + teinein to stretch (see TENET (Cf. tenet)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • diatonic — англ. [дайэто/ник] diatonico ит. [диато/нико] diatonique фр. [диатони/к] diatonisch нем. [диато/ниш] диатонический …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • diatonic — ► ADJECTIVE Music ▪ involving only the notes of the major or minor scale, without chromatic alteration. ORIGIN Greek diatonikos at intervals of a tone …   English terms dictionary

  • diatonic — [dī΄ə tän′ik] adj. [Fr diatonique < LL diatonicus < Gr diatonikos, stretched through (the notes) < dia , through + teinein, to stretch: see TEND2] Music designating, of, or using a scale of eight tones that is either a MAJOR SCALE or a… …   English World dictionary

  • diatonic — adjective Etymology: Late Latin diatonicus, from Greek diatonikos, from diatonos stretching, from diateinein to stretch out, from dia + teinein to stretch more at thin Date: 1694 of, relating to, or being a musical scale (as a major or minor… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • diatonic — adjective Within the boundaries of a musical scale, most commonly the Western major or minor tonalities that have octaves of seven notes in a particular configuration Ant: chromatic …   Wiktionary

  • diatònic — di|a|tò|nic Mot Pla Adjectiu variable …   Diccionari Català-Català

  • diatonic — di|a|ton|ic [ ,daıə tanık ] adjective TECHNICAL based on a major or minor musical SCALE …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.