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[citation needed], and are generally associated with indigenous and prehistoric 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]

See also


  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. ^ Onkar Prasad, "Tribal Music: Its Proper Context", in Tribal Thought and Culture: Essays in Honour of Surajit Chandra Sinha, edited by Baidyanath Saraswati, 131–49 (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1991): 131 (accessed 18 January 2020) ISBN 978-81-7022-340-5
  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.