This page lists Dmitri Tymoczko’s so-called ‘Pressing Scales’ — a useful way of understanding some of the most common scales used in late-Romantic and early-to-mid 20th-century music, by composers such as Debussy, Stravinsky, Chopin, Liszt, Shostakovich, Bartók, Faure, et al. (Source: Tymoczko, Dmitri, ‘Scale Networks and Debussy’, Journal of Music Theory, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Fall 2004), pp. 219–294.

The seven ‘Pressing scales’ (plus their modes) are shown by Dmitri Tymoczko to be the predominant scales that formed the expanded set of scales used particularly by Franco-Russian composers at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. The scales are formed by following the following constraints:

  1. NCS: No consecutive semitones — no scale may contain two consecutive semitones between scale steps
  2. DT: Diatonic thirds — any notes two scale steps apart must be either a minor third or major third

With these two constraints, the following seven collections can be formed:

  1. Diatonic (DIA)
  2. Acoustic (ACOU)
  3. Octatonic (OCT)
  4. Whole-tone (WT)
  5. Harmonic minor (HARM MIN)
  6. Harmonic major (HARM MAJ)
  7. Hexatonic (HEX)

Below is a list of the main modes of the Pressing scales. You can also interactively explore the connections between different Pressing scales on the Pressing Scale Explorer & collectional change page.