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Thread: What scale degrees did Johann Sebastian Bach use?

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    What scale degrees did Johann Sebastian Bach use?

    Hello, I'm a new member here and hope someone can answer this question. Bach published a small book/let showing the scale degrees of all the scales he used. Does anyone know where I can get this information online, or buy/locate the booklet?

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    Did you find any info about theory there? There doesn't seem to be the information I need at jsb.org. That's a huge website and if if has theory, I can't find it.

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    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringalong View Post
    Bach published a small book/let showing the scale degrees of all the scales he used. Does anyone know where I can get this information online, or buy/locate the booklet?
    Hello. Not sure what you mean here, can you provide more details?

    In addition to the familiar major/minor tonality, Bach was heavily influenced by the older systems of modes which were at the core of the Lutheran liturgy and which persisted in Germany a lot longer than elsewhere in Europe.

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    Hello, Jumping Jack, Well, maybe what I mean is that I need to know the structure (scale degrees) of the Lutheran liturgy modes! That might be what I'm looking for! I'll google that and see what I can find. Do you or anyone here know how to find these modes? If I find them, I will post them! Thanks, JJ!

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    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringalong View Post
    Hello, Jumping Jack, Well, maybe what I mean is that I need to know the structure (scale degrees) of the Lutheran liturgy modes! That might be what I'm looking for! I'll google that and see what I can find. Do you or anyone here know how to find these modes? If I find them, I will post them! Thanks, JJ!
    The ecclesiastical or "church" modes have a long and complex history that has been the subject of numerous books and articles so it can't be done justice here, but essentially the modes included Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes, and to make it easy, you can think of these as these corresponding to the white notes on the piano starting on D,E,F and G respectively. Ionian and Aeolian modes were added later (white notes starting on C and A). You should be able to find more details fairly easily (but as always, take what you read on the Internet with a pinch of salt).

    Music of the Lutheran liturgy was built on chorale melodies which had been previously composed according to the modes. Several chorale melodies have been attributed to Martin Luther himself who (unlike other reformers) was a passionate musician.

    Lutheran composers (of which JS Bach is the most famous), typically took the chorale melody and set it in various different ways, adding harmony and such. Because of this, many of Bach's chorale settings sound essentially tonal to our ears today, but the modal elements become apparent if analysed appropriately, and actually played a significant role in how Bach approached the works.

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    Thank you again, JumpingJack -- I will play around with these four modes/scales and see what I come up with! Maybe this is the complete information I was looking for!

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