Physics of Music - Notes

Scales: General Comments

A musical scale is a set of notes used by musicians to play music. Musical scales are not defined by science, though in some ways we can understand why a scale may be the way it is through the application of science.

Musical scales have been known and studied since before the time of Pythagorus (ca. 550 BCE). A detailed list of many experimental measurements of scales, as measured in the mid- to late 1800's, is contained in the book by Helmholtz (most of these were added by the translator, A J Ellis, see refs), only a small fraction of these are mentioned on this web site. When you look at lists of various scales, what is usually presented is the closest equal-tempered approximation to what is played.

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