The Oddly Symmetrical Neapolitan Major Scale

The Neapolitan Major Scale Is, In Fact, A Minor Scale, But Don't Spread That 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...)

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. It also does not have three colors or taste 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 uses 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 also be wondering why this scale is not called the 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):

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio