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Klezmer Scales

Updated: Nov 30, 2023


Freygish

The most common Major mode of Klezmer is the Freygish scale (also called Ahava Raba). D freygish can easily be, and is often, written in the key of Bb as the Phrygian mode (D) with a sharp 3rd.


D - Eb - F# - G - A - Bb - C - D



If written in D, the scale would be: 1 – ♭2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – ♭6 – ♭7 – 1


The Primary Chords used in the Freygish mode are the

I. D major

IV. G minor

vii. C minor


If we are to harmonize each note of the scale we can start to find some of the functions.

I / Dmajor/D7 acts as the tonic

bII / Eb has a dominant function

#iiidim / F#dim doesn't appear much

iv / Gm appears often as it has the predominant function

vdim / Adim as is the V chord, has the function of a V chord. Imagine the Cadence vdim -> I (Adim D)

VI+ / Bb+ doesn't work, forget it

bvii / Cm Also acts like a dominant chord and is often found at the end of phrases to return to the tonic (D)


Mi-Sheberach

The common minor scale in Klezmer is Mi-Sheberach. A D Mi-sheberach scale is usually written in C or F. In C, the scale is a Dorian mode with a #4. In F (or D natural minor) the scale is #4 and b6.


D - E - F - G# - A - B - C - D


If written in the natural minor key of F, the scale would be: 1 – 2 – 3 – #4 – 5 – ♭6 – 7 – 1


The Primary Chords used in the Mi-sheberach scale are the

I. D minor

II. E Dominant

V. A minor


The secondary chord of Mi-sheberach is the VII chord, C major.


Adonai Molokh

Adonai Molokh is the Dominant scale in Klezmer. A D Adonai Molokh scale is usually written in the key of C with a leading tone before the I.


(C#) D - E - F# - G - A - B - C - D


If written in the key of D this would be: (7) - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7 - 1


The primary chords in this scale are

I. D major

IV. G major

V. A major or A dominant

v. A minor


Though Klezmer tunes are written in all keys, the usually center around (D) in the circle of 5ths. This is due to the nature of the instruments involved in Klezmer and how they are tuned.


here is a section of the circle of 5ths for E through F

(E) Freygish, Mi-Sheberach, Andonai Molokh


(A) Freygish, Mi-Sheberach, Andonai Molokh


(D) Freygish, Mi-Sheberach, Andonai Molokh


(G) Freygish, Mi-Sheberach, Andonai Molokh


(C) Freygish, Mi-Sheberach, Andonai Molokh


(F) Freygish, Mi-Sheberach, Andonai Molokh


References: compleat_klezmer, Saponzik, Sokolow, 1997


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