About a year ago, I introduced a musical writing system called The Circle Of 12 Tones that was used to compose most of the material for my latest project ‘Blotted Science – The Machinations Of Dementia’. Since then, I have received lots of emails from fans/musicians informing me that they are currently using the system to write their own material, and are having success. And of course I’ve also been informed by a few people who are leading themselves to believe that the system is Schoenberg's method where a 12 tone row is chosen, then is used in retrograde, inversion and retrograde inversion forms. The only similarity between “The Circle Of 12 Tones” and Schoenberg’s system is all 12 tones are used. That’s it.

Not once in my explanation of the 'Circle Of 12 Tones' system do I use the phrases/words “a note cannot be repeated until every other note is played, inversion, retrograde, or retrograde inversion. I guess some people see the words “12 Tone”, then don’t bother to read or understand the rest of the entire thing. The only thing you need to do to use "The Circle Of 12 Tones" is have a bit of an imagination to create patterns on a "clock", and to use the system with effect (or make the most of it) is have an understanding of basic music theory (intervals, notes in certain keys/scales, chords, etc…). And if all of this text with numbers and letters is too much to handle and grasp, just watch the videos…

What the system does is group up notes in various set combinations, while giving you the total freedom to do whatever you want with the notes. Normal chord progressions go out the window, chords with dissonance do not have to resolve, new artificial scales/chords/clusters pop up, it goes on and on…

I thought I had thoroughly explained the purpose and use of the system before, but maybe I didn’t have enough clear examples of how the notes can be grouped and used in tunes. So let’s try again with a bit of visuals synced to the audio. So turn on your speakers, and let’s give it another shot.


When laying the 12 tones on the “clock”, I try to arrange the notes so that I find lots of cool note patterns that create different tonality, so that the song will have lots of different “coloring”. Once you get your groups of notes worked out with various visual patterns, you can play the notes as many times as you want, in any pattern, repeat them as you like in any order, etc…


This is how the tones are placed on the clock for a Blotted Science song called ‘Laser Lobotomy’. Each song on the Blotted Science CD has a different “key”, or way that the 12 tones are arranged on the clock.

Laser Lobotomy 12 tone key


The first tune in ‘Laser Lobotomy’ has the working title of ‘hi-hat 16ths’. The 12 tones are broken down into 2 groups of 6 notes. Group 1 starts at 12:00, and goes down to 5:00, giving you the notes C D Eb F F# G. Notice that this group of notes (in blue) will give you a minor blues tonality. Why?, because all of the notes fit into C minor/blues scale. Again, if you don’t know basic theory, you will not know why these certain notes were put together. Group 2 (in green) starts at 6:00 and goes up to 11:00, giving you the notes C# E G# A A# B. This could be broken down as a C#m7 chord with chromaticism from the G# to the B.

Laser Lobotomy - hi-hat 16ths


The next set of 12 tones is divided into 4 sets of 3 notes in a row. Group 1 is 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00, then goes directly across the clock and gets the notes at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 for the 2nd group. Those two groupings play back and forth a few times, then get the other 2 sets of “3 notes in a row” at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 (group 3). And again, goes directly across the clock and gets 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00. Here’s what the full set of 12 tones looks like…

Group 1 – D Eb G
Group 2 – G# A C#
Group 3 – F Gb Bb
Group 4 – B C E

So what tonality have we now created? You have four m add9 chords a m3 apart. Another way to look at it is spell out a diminished 7 chord and put a m add9 chord on each root note…

Cm add9 – C Eb G D
Ebm add9 – Eb G Bb F
F#m add9 – F# A C# G#
Am add9 – A C E B

Yep, just leave the root notes out, and it’s right there, ready for a tune. Actually, I wrote two tunes for this 12 tone grouping. I purposely arranged the groups so that the chords would be repeatedly going back and forth a diminished 5th away. Satan! All 12 tones are used, perfect…

The first tune using this 12 tone grouping has the working title ’Mask’

And the next tune is “work- titled” ’Psycho’.


The next note grouping is every other hour on the clock. This gives us 2 whole tone scales.

Group 1 is all of the odd numbers on the clock, giving us an F whole tone scale. All of the even numbers give us a C whole scale to work with.

Laser Lobotomy - 2 whole tones


And the last tune “Creepy” in the song is made up of the pattern hitting every 3rd note on the clock. Group 1 has 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00, getting the notes G A Bb C. Group 2 at 1:00, 4:00, 7:00 and 10:00 gets the notes C# D# E F#. Notice that these two groups have the same interval structure of whole step, half step, and whole step. So if these two groups are put together, what do you get? Yep, and perfect half whole tone scale. And the notes that are left over? G# B D F?... a perfect diminished 7 chord.

Laser Lobotomy – 2 whole tones


NOW do you get it?

Ron