Circle Of 12 Tones update

I came up with this system after getting bored and uninspired with the normal theoretic writing systems that I've been using for decades, and wanted to come up with a new writing tool. After making contact with Alex Webster about starting a project, I really was up for something else.

For weeks, I was racking my brain trying to figure out a different way of using notes. I sat for 8 hours straight on a flight to Hawaii with paper and pencil in hand playing around with various note patterns, schemes, and anything to break out of my normal writing habits, but came up with nothing.

For some people, using the same scales and patterns repeatedly works fine, but for me, I wanted a new toy to play with, a different way of using our 12 tones.

Of course, I wanted to use all 12 tones so I could have lots of possiblities and options, but have some sort of structure and boundaries. After pretty much giving up, I was just goofing off around the house one day, mindlessly thinking about various common, simple, theoretic musical patterns, and stumbled onto the "Circle Of 5ths".

What is the "Circle Of 5ths"? It's a clock looking diagram that spells out the major scales in 5ths moving clockwise and counterclockwise starting with C at 12:00. To the right of C at 1:00 is G, then on to D, A, E etc... Moving to the left from C are F at 11:00, Bb at 10:00, Eb, Ab, etc... Going clockwise is moving up a 5th note by note, going counterclockwise is moving down a 5th. It looks like this...

I've always been a believer of learning as many rules as possible, then bend, abuse, and break them. So how about we just throw all the notes anywhere on the "clock"??! What would that sound like? Well, of course it depends where you throw the notes. Isn't that what a 12 tone row is? Yeah, and I've done that numerous times before, so what's so different about laying the notes out on a "clock"? It creates patterns, LOTS of different patterns. And they all lead to different chords, scales, and note clusters.

Here's a bunch of various patterns that I came up with. The most common groupings to work with are...

Two 6 note groups
Three 4 note groups
Four 3 note groups

Now to spell out scales and chords correctly, all notes are enharmonically equal. For example, a D# is the same thing as an Eb, an F# is a Gb, etc... This helps when grouping the notes to form more common chords, scales, etc...

Here's the "key" (the order that the notes are in on the clock)
for the song "Synaptic Plasticity"

If you mark off every 3rd note, you get this
pattern of dots...

...resulting in these note groups.

Blue dots = B E F F#
Red dots = Ab C D Eb
Yellow dots = G A Bb Db

The first grouping B E F F# hints at a B minor blues scale,
Ab C D Eb is an Ab major chord with a #4 (for all you Lydian fans)
G A Bb Db is a G diminished triad with a M2

This is tune that I came up with for this certain note scheme.

Synaptic Plasticity - tune 1
Windows Media Real Audio

So now let's mark off 3 notes in a row starting with the C at 12:00,
then go across and grab the 3 notes across the clock. It looks like this...

Red dots = C C# D# E F# G# (almost a full half/whole tone scale)
Blue dots = G# A Bb B D F (a G# diminished 7 chord with chromatics between G# and B)

Here's what I came up with for this certain note scheme...

Synaptic Plasticity - tune 2
Windows Media Real Audio

And sometimes you even end up with very common chords. This one is very cool
because just about everyone loves chords a diminished 5th away. This has two sets!

Red dots = Eb Gb Bb (an Eb minor triad)
Blue dots = A C E (an A minor triad)
Yellow dots = Db F Ab (a Db major triad)
Gray dots = G B D (a G major triad)

If you can't make up a cool tune with this chord progression,
please refer back to "heavy metal writing 101"...

Synaptic Plasticity - tune 3
Windows Media Real Audio

So are you thinking that this system is too limiting because it's so symmetrical? Nah!, check this out...

Another way of using the notes on a "clock" is to play notes consecutively, going in either direction.
Kind of like the old Asteroids video game.

For the song "R.E.M"., the song starts off on the note F at 5:00, then only moves to the
next note clockwise or counterclockwise. You can play notes any octave you want, have rests,
and repeat any notes, but NO SKIPPING!!!

Here are video clips of the 4 main themes in R.E.M., played at half speed

The 1st theme is...
F E E F E E E Bb C F# C Bb E E F E F E E F E E Bb C Bb E.

R.E.M. - theme 1
Windows Media Real Audio

The 2nd theme is...
F# A G# G# G# A G# D G# G# A F# A G# G# G# G# A

R.E.M. - theme 2
Windows Media Real Audio

The 3rd theme is...
D Eb D D G# A G# G# A G# G# D Eb D D G# A G# D

R.E.M. - theme 3
Windows Media Real Audio

The 4th theme is...
Eb B G B G B G C# F C# G C# F C# G B Eb B G B G B

R.E.M. - theme 4
Windows Media Real Audio

And here are all themes played at normal speed...

Windows Media Real Audio

And so if you're happy and content with your writing, great. But if you're tired of using the same diatonic progressions using I IV V I, vi ii V I, vi V IV V, with their extensions, the same old A harmonic minor scale, or the ever popular metal chord progressions using Em D and C, give this system a shot.

So how many different ways can you lay out the 12 tones on a clock? TONS!! How many different patterns can you come up with? Probably a hundred or so. And how many cool tunes can you make up using this system while being creative, but totally structured and in control? The possibilities are endless...