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Related to diatonically: diatonic scale, diatonicism


1. of, relating to, or based upon any scale of five tones and two semitones produced by playing the white keys of a keyboard instrument, esp the natural major or minor scales forming the basis of the key system in Western music
2. not involving the sharpening or flattening of the notes of the major or minor scale nor the use of such notes as modified by accidentals



a seven-tone system, all of whose tones can be located in perfect fifths. The medieval modes and natural modes, including the common Ionian mode (natural major) and Aeolian mode (natural minor), are all strictly diatonic.

Modes and modal formations that may be treated as a part of the diatonic scale—the pentatonic system, the medieval hexachords, and a number of tetrachords and trichords—are also diatonic. All such modes consist only of whole tones and semitones. Any intervals or chords that can be formed from the tones of diatonic modes are also considered diatonic.

The diatonic system is the foundation of European modal folk and professional music. In a wider sense, any modes that do not include chromatics (the raising or lowering of the basic tones of the scale) are categorized diatonic. There are both conventional diatonic modes (the harmonic and melodic minor and major) and modified diatonic modes. In several of these modes there are augmented seconds, as well as whole tones and semitones.

Nondiatonic elements are formed not only by the use of chromaticism but also by mixing various diatonic elements simultaneously and sequentially (polydiatonics). The modal harmonic work of contemporary composers is often polydiatonic.


Katuar, G. L. Teoreticheskii kurs garmonii, part 1. Moscow, 1924.
Sokhor, A. “O prirode i vyrazitel’nykh vozmozhnostiakh diatoniki.” In the collection Voprosy teorii i estetiki muzyki, fasc. 4. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Tiulin, Iu. N. Uchenie o garmonii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1966.
Pereverzev, N. Problemy muzykal’nogo intonirovaniia. Moscow, 1966.
Sposobin, I. V. Lektsii po kursu garmonii. Moscow, 1969.
Berkov, V. O. Garmoniia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Vincent, J. The Diatonic Modes in Modern Music. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1951.
References in periodicals archive ?
The decision to have the children work in pairs was influenced by Marsh (1995); to have exploration experiences included in the design, by Ashby (1995), Kratus (1989), and Levi (1991); to have each of the barred instruments equipped with 13 pitched bars and arranged diatonically from a lower C to a higher A by Kratus (2001), and to use non-traditional notation, by Aug and Walter (1999).
After all, Nielsen was not so progressive as to embrace emancipation of the dissonance, and Fanning quotes a letter of 1913 in which the composer speaks of 'getting away from keys and yet still having a diatonically convincing effect' (pp.
The participants were asked to sing up and down a perfect fifth, diatonically, articulating all of the five vowels /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, /u/, each vowel being sung on both an ascending and descending five-tone scale.
Notes can be continuously deleted backward, dragged chromatically or diatonically, assigned courtesy accidentals (without parentheses
We are also given versions of some of the pieces arranged for other instruments: two for keyboard, three for angelique (a lute tuned diatonically to produce a bell-like overlap of sound), and six with their contreparties so that they can be played as lute duets.
While Wagner prolongs an E-flat major chord diatonically, Adams projects C major across his two-dimensional tonal surface.
So when Frohlich writes that many players 'divide the positions into three principal positions', this could be taken to mean that many still played in A on flat stays, although it may refer to the conceptual leap from thinking diatonically (three Hauptzuge) to thinking chromatically (seven Zuge or Stellungen) on the same instrument.