The Oddly Symmetrical Neapolitan Major Scale

Author: Tommaso Zillio

(That Is In Fact A Minor Scale, But Don’t Say It Around)

Sometimes the world of music theory does not really make sense.

Many of us are familiar with oddities like how intervals stack. For instance a third stacked on top of a third makes a total interval of a fifth (3+3=5, congratulations music theorists…)

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But I digress.

And then there are the cases in which something is completely misnamed.

(I could shoot fish in a barrel here and give a tirade about “Negative Harmony” being the most egregious misnomer of the 20th century, but I digress again…)

Today we talk about the Neapolitan Major scale. Which does not really come from Naples. Neither it has 3 colors or tastes like ice cream (I have synaesthesia, I checked). So why “Neapolitan”?

But the best thing is that it’s not even a major scale: it does not have a major third, it does not sound major at all… in fact it’s a minor scale!

But then again, why I am complaining? The Neapolitan Major scale is great fun and has an interesting symmetrical structure that affords us interesting harmonic possibilities… and also the use of the technique of “planing” (no, you won’t find this in your books on classical music…)

So here’s what we can do with the Neapolitan Major scale:

…oh yeah, you may be wondering why this scale is not called Neapolitan Minor even if it’s a minor scale.

Well, that is probably because there is already a scale called Neapolitan Minor. First scale arrived, first scale served? Who knows… anyway here’s the Neapolitan Minor scale (that thankfully is actually a minor scale too):

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