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Copyright 2018 by Wayne Stegall
Updated February 22, 2020.  See Document History at end for details.


Spanish Music Theory

What underlies the Spanish sound?

Perhaps you are just curious or want to improvise or compose with a Spanish sound.  I attempt here to explain some of the theory you need.

Scale alterations

Chromatically altering diatonic scales to get the scale interval sequence 1-3-1 produces the desired exotic sound.  This is known as the harmonic scale sequence presumably because it is the alteration that changes a natural minor scale to a harmonic minor one.  The phrygian dominant mode is relative to this harmonic minor and is the most important mode to flamenco music.  An additional chromatic alteration creates a scale with two harmonic interval sequences which is known as the double-harmonic or Arabic scale.  This scale sound more exotic and Spanish.  In practice playing moves freely between equivalent diatonic, harmonic, and double-harmonic scales as the desired sound requires.  When the exotic sound is desired the melody moves in a harmonic section of the scale.  Because of this, the harmonic sequence bounded by the phrygian dominant tonic chord is called the flamenco pentatonic scale and has the interval sequence of 1-3-1-2-1.

Here are charts of the most played Spanish scales and their variations.

E Phrygian /
A minor
 
E Phrygian dominant /
A minor harmonic
 
E Arabic major /
A Arabic minor








Scale type: diatonic

Scale:  E F G A B C D E
Scale intervals:  1-2-2-2-1-2-2

Scale:  A B C D E F G A
Scale intervals:  2-1-2-2-1-2-2

Chords
Major:   C F G
Minor:   D E A
Major7:   C F
Minor7:   D E A
Dom7:   G
Dim:   B
Aug: 
Dim7: 
Aug7: 
Dyad:   C D E F G A

Typical tonic-predominant-
dominant-tonic chord sequences:

E minor-A minor-F/B dim-E minor

A minor-D minor-E minor-A minor

Scale type: harmonic

Scale:   E F G# A B C D E
Scale intervals:  1-3-1-2-1-2-2

Scale:   A B C D E F G# A
Scale intervals:  2-1-2-2-1-3-1

Chords
Major:   E F
Minor:   D F A
Major7:   F
Minor7:   D
Dom7:   E
Dim:   D F G# B
Aug:   C E G#
Dim7:   D F G# B
Aug7:   E
Dyad:   D E F A

Typical tonic-predominant-dominant-
tonic chord sequences:

E-C-F-E

A minor-D minor-E-A minor

Scale type: double-harmonic

Scale:   E F G# A B C D# E
Scale intervals:  1-3-1-2-1-3-1

Scale:   A B C D# E F G# A
Scale intervals:  2-1-3-1-1-3-1

Chords
Major:   E F G#
Minor:   F G# A
Major7:   E F
Minor7:   F
Dom7:   F
Dim:   F A
Aug:   C E G#
Dim7: 
Aug7: 
Dyad:   E F G# A

Typical tonic-predominant-dominant-
tonic chord sequences:

E-A minor-F-E

A minor-F?-E-A minor

add

A Phrygian /
D minor
 
A Phrygian dominant /
D minor harmonic
 
A Arabic major /
D Arabic minor








Scale type: diatonic

Scale:   A Bb C D E F G A
Scale intervals:  1-2-2-2-1-2-2

Scale:   D E F G A Bb C D
Scale intervals:  2-1-2-2-1-2-2

Chords
Major:   C F Bb
Minor:   D G A
Major7:   F Bb
Minor7:   D G A
Dom7:   C
Dim:   E
Aug: 
Dim7: 
Aug7: 
Dyad:   C D F G A Bb

Typical tonic-predominant-dominant-
tonic chord sequences:

A minor-D minor-Bb/E dim-A minor

D minor-G minor-A minor-D minor

Scale type: harmonic

Scale:   A Bb C# D E F G A
Scale intervals:  1-3-1-2-1-2-2

Scale:   D E F G A Bb C# D
Scale intervals:  2-1-2-2-1-3-1

Chords
Major:   A Bb
Minor:   D G Bb
Major7:   Bb
Minor7:   G
Dom7:   A
Dim:   C# E G Bb
Aug:   C# F A
Dim7:   C# E G Bb
Aug7:   A
Dyad:   D G A Bb

Typical tonic-predominant-dominant-
tonic chord sequences:

A-F-Bb-A

D minor-B minor-A-D minor

Scale type: double-harmonic

Scale:   A Bb C# D E F G# A
Scale intervals:  1-3-1-2-1-3-1

Scale:   D E F G# A Bb C# D
Scale intervals:  2-1-3-1-1-3-1

Chords
Major:   C# A Bb
Minor:   C# D Bb
Major7:   A Bb
Minor7:   Bb
Dom7:   Bb
Dim:   D Bb
Aug:   C# F A
Dim7: 
Aug7: 
Dyad:   C# D A Bb

Typical tonic-predominant-dominant-
tonic chord sequences:

A-D minor-Bb-A

D minor-Bb?-A-D minor


Techniques

All the techniques of first Classical then Flamenco guitar, of which the following are typical.

It is really necessary to learn Classical then perhaps Flamenco to attain this technique aspect.

Could more be added?



Document History
February 22, 2020
  Created.
February 22, 2020  Added minor improvements.  Changed term subdominant to predominant to indicate function rather than a specific chord.