Tritonic scale

For scales containing tritones, see Anhemitonic scale.
Example tritonic scale.[1]  Play 

A tritonic scale is a musical scale or mode with three notes per octave. This is in contrast to a heptatonic (seven-note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale, or a dodecatonic (chromatic 12-note) scale, both common in modern Western music. Tritonic scales are not common in modern art music, and are generally associated with primitive music.[2]



Early Indian Rig Vedic hymns were tri-tonic, sung in three pitches with no octave: Udatta, Anudatta, and Swarita.


In a 1969 study, Mervyn McLean noted that tritonic scales were the most common among the Maori tribes he surveyed, comprising 47% of the scales used.[3]

South America

The pre-Hispanic herranza ritual music of the Andes is generally tritonic, based on a major triad, and played on the waqra phuku trumpet, violin, and singer with a tinya drum. The tritonic scale is largely limited to this ritual and to some southern Peruvian Carnival music.[4]


  1. Bruno Nettl and Helen Myers (1976). Folk Music in the United States: An Introduction, third edition (Wayne Books WB41) Detroit: Wayne State University Press, p. 40. ISBN 9780814315569 (cloth); ISBN 9780814315576 (pbk).
  2. Baidyanath Saraswati (ed.) (1991). Tribal Thought and Culture: Essays in Honour of Surajit Chandra Sinha. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 131. ISBN 978-81-7022-340-5. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  3. Mervyn McLean (1996). Māori Music. Auckland University Press. pp. 239–. ISBN 978-1-86940-144-3. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  4. Raúl R. Romero (19 July 2001). Debating the Past: Music, Memory, and Identity in the Andes. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-0-19-513881-8. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
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