Towards an assessment of African scales

  • Hugh Tracey International Library of African Music


It would appear from the evidence of certain writers on African music that there still remains much confusion about the subject of African scales and modes. A tenacious misconception continually occurs, namely that African scales or modal systems are but an imperfect imitation of, or striving towards, the western system. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. It is with the intention of opening the subject for discussion by members of the Society and others interested in this aspect of musicology throughout the African world that this short article is now written. In order to avoid a confusion of terms which would take too long to enumerate here it might be as well for the reader who is interested to refer to the references to Scales and Modes in the Oxford Companion to Music, by Percy Scholes or to Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and elsewhere. Scholes, for example, remarks of scales that Apparently any combination of notes whatever may be adopted as the material from which a peasantry, or a composer, or a group of composers may make their tunes, and there exists not even one interval common to all the scales of the world.
How to Cite
Tracey, H. “Towards an Assessment of African Scales”. African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, Vol. 2, no. 1, Nov. 1958, pp. 15-20, doi:

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