[Smt-talk] Question About The First 16 Partials Of The Harmonic Overtone Series

CARSON FARLEY ccfarley at embarqmail.com
Tue Apr 22 21:12:41 PDT 2014

Hello Everyone, 

I'm a new member of SMT. I am a composer/musician who studied music theory at the University of Washington. I use the harmonic overtone series in a lot of my compositional work and I have encountered a variety of different partial interpretations for specifically [with C as the fundamental] partials no. 10 and 12 - the pitches F or F# and A or Ab. 

C-C-G-C-E-G-Bb-C-D-E-[ F or F# ]-G-[ Ab or A ]-Bb-B-C 

I have seen at least three different interpretations. In Schoenberg's Theory of Harmony , Schoenberg references the tones as F and A. In The Book Of Music edited by Gill Rowley the partials are listed as F# and A. And from internet research I have seen the partials referenced as either F/F# and Ab. I understand that the reason for the variation is most likely related to the non tempered pitch of those partials and that their pitch may lie somewhere between an F and F# and an Ab and A (taking into account the non tempered frequency of all the partials). I'm wondering if there is more consensus among the theory group about whether in the above overtone series [if arranged as scale with C as the root] C-D-E-?-G-?-Bb-B-C as to the fourth and sixth degrees? 

The reason this is important to me besides the compositional implications of creating scales from overtone structure is a hypothesis/theory I have regarding the jazz/blues scale and it's ability to function with either major or minor diatonic tonalities. When the above scale [which I call the overtone scale] is arranged as the 5th mode: 


There is a scale with both minor and major 3rd [a blue note] . . . and if we use the partial variation with F we are ever closer to the flat 7th character of the blues scale: 


This is my explanation for why the blues scale works with both major and minor modes. I'd be curious to get some feedback on my idea and more specifically the partials above in question. 

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