topic posted Sun, January 7, 2007 - 3:40 AM by  Rick
well as long as we are on these last fascinating threads about the theory and practise of Bulgarian music,

Anyone one take on the description of what scales (including 1/4 note embellishment , if any)
that characterize Bulgarian music?

Also, do these scales vary much from Hungarian and other Balkan musics?

I know that the Western mode Lydian: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8va
has always sounded Balkan to me.

I've also been using a Lydian flat 7 scale a lot recently 1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7 8va
which sounds more Indian (I know it is a Rag, but so are all of the Western Modes in Indian music)

Would that be a no no in tradtiional Bulgarian singing?
posted by:
  • Unsu...


    Fri, January 12, 2007 - 1:15 PM
    I honestly couldn't tell you, cause I'm not good at music theory and I only know unaccompanied vocal music. I THINK it totally depends on what music from what region you're talking about. lots of vocal music from the west of bulgaria is in a very small range - less than an octave. is that what's called a pentatonic scale? also, certain regions use slides (rhodope) - which has nothing to do with a scale. also, vocal ornaments are significant components of the genre but cannot be transcribed in a scale, given that the intervals are very small. i can think of songs with a flat 3rd where the fourth tone is a smidge more than a whole step from the third, but I wouldn't even call it a 1/4 note. also lots of Shop songs use a minor pentatonic scale where the second is between a 1/2 and whole note from from the 1.

    Ask a gadulka or tambura player - they would probably be able to answer. they have more strings...

      Sat, December 22, 2007 - 10:56 PM
      im not going to be able to masterfully explain things to you, but maybe i could try to help clarify some concepts i feel i've gathered. you realize that when you're dealing with exposure to western music, and only how its most recently been developed, it is equitempered, meaning the 12 tones are given even spacing between one octave and the next. so, most older forms of theory dont' describe music on these terms, because after all, the divisions of harmonics are not equivalent to the evenly-spaced tones. so as far as i know, arab and greek theory was developed based harmonics which were divided against lower harmonics to reach the tonal range of one octave (one octave is the first harmonic). bulgarian music is likely influenced by greek music--just listen to all that tambura music and how it resembles the greek style. and through turks, it was also exposed to arab concepts of tuning--im guessing (not an authority!)
      so i don't know much about what types of tunings are considered decent by bulgarians, but i wouldn't be surprised that they are not perfectly in alignment with tonality used in common western music.
      i can say a pentatonic scale means five notes to an octave. so a lot of oriental scales used this, to my knowledge. it has the range of an octave, like other scales, though. technically it can be anything with 5 notes, the 6th is the octave. i think a natural minor scale is common to bulgarian, just like western. of course major is. and also hicaz. do you know that? its just this
      D Eb F# G Ab Bb C D
      i think people say neda voda nalivala is considered pentatonic, that's basically the form of hicaz without the 6 and 7th scale degrees, so i guess its fair to say its a five note scale, but it seems obviously modeled on the normal heptatonic hicaz.
      i don't think i've ever heard something in a lydian mode , may i ask what song it is?
      but this shouldn't be surprising, if its anything close to greek music, you can imagine bulgaria is a good candidate for absorption. good luck with things, i wouldn't mind a definitive answer myself, sorry if i couldn't help enough :)

        Sat, December 22, 2007 - 11:11 PM
        oh yeah i also think that its the resting place in terms of meter that characterizes the music of a culture. like how you use a scale and where in the music will certain scale tones occur. like you said, indian music, as arab and western will use a form of the natural minor scale. but how is it interpreted? where, in terms of the main beat, will certain chord transitions occur? this is maybe an idea.
        also, the concept of arab makam where descending forms will change in the progression of a scale is carrired throughout balkan music of many types which i've heard. i can think of albanian, bulgarian, armenian music which all bears the form of natural minor in ascending, but then lowers the 2nd when descending, approaching the tonic.

        additionally, i know that what i call the vlach sound is a different form of the hicaz, and i believe is probably traced as a characteristic mode of the vlach tribe, probably originally inhereted through greek culture when the vlach lived in or around greece. i mean the greeks definitely have this mode, and it is common to northern bulgaria, and southern rumania--the ancient vlach kingdom. its just like if the hicaz starts on d, imagine the "vlach" mode starts on c, with almost the same intervals: C D Eb F# G A Bb C --the A is raised i think, but i could be wrong--i better do more studying!
        ok have fun
        • Unsu...


          Fri, January 4, 2008 - 8:41 PM
          i second the makam-like nature of change in progression of the scale depending on ascending or descending - this definitely happens in bulgarian singing. I've also heard Haig Manoukian say that the 1/4 tone notes in the makam (i know they are called something else but you know what I mean) are higher or lower depending on whether you are further north west (e.g. bulgaria) or south east (e.g. lebanon) in the turkish makam-influenced world.

          again, I don't speak music theory, but there is also something different about the tonic in some regions - because a melody can "resolve," if you will, a second above the tonic and not because it switches modes at the last minute - it's just the way bulgarians like to end songs.....
          • Re: BULGARIAN SCALES

            Sat, January 5, 2008 - 12:00 AM
            this file lists 3 of the more common scales used:

            you might find this page interesting as well:

            for the most part bulgarian instrumental music is tempered - no quarter tones. this is because the instruments we use are in western tuning. this isn't a rule... and there are certainly exceptions.

            best, ryan francesconi.

            • Re: BULGARIAN SCALES

              Sat, January 5, 2008 - 12:04 AM
              btw, in correction to the post above, hijaz in D would contain an A natural.
              D Eb F# G A Bb C D

              and with leading tones:
              D Eb F# G A [Bb (B)] [C (C#)] D

              the raised 6th and 7th are used ascending, and the flat descending. again, not a rule - but quite common.
            • Unsu...

              Re: BULGARIAN SCALES

              Mon, January 7, 2008 - 8:11 AM
              vocal music, however, is not tempered, and when women sing songs that have not been fitted to an orchestral accompaniment the melodies are full of untempered tones. and it's worth remembering that up through the mid 19th century, dance music, now almost entirely orchestral, was not as instrumental as it is now - dancing was almost always accompanied by women's diaphonic singing, with maybe a tapan and gaida/kaval following the melody. Donna Buchanan's book "Performing Democracy" has a great chapter (#3) about the rise of the bitov ensembles, and the move to tempered tuning in the new orchestras - a move influenced not only by the entrance of new instruments (accordion, violin,clarinet) but also by the fact that the orchestra structure itself was new, and required musicians to tune to each other, something musicians hadn't had to do previously, either because there was only one instrument playing, with perhaps a percussion accompaniment, and/or because musicians and listeners were more comfortable with the sound of instruments playing out of tune with each other. I think a similar sound that sounds out of tune, if you will, is in the "table song" genre, in which the instrumentalist accompanying the singer will play slightly behind the singer, following the melody a split second behind the singer.

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