On Ian Ring's music theory website, a massive number of scales (1490) have "Zeitler" names.

Some names are common (like Mixolydian) but others (like Dydyllic) I cannot find any reference to.

Hence my question: where do these names originate from? Do they have any meaning or are they made up?

1 Answer 1


These names come from an author named William Zeitler, whose website, AllTheScales, is available here.

In his introduction page, in a section titled "The Names of the Modes," he says:

A curious feature of humans is that a thing seems to be less "real" until it has a name. One of the first things done in concentration camps to de-humanize the inmates is to expunge their names and replace them with numbers. And the only task God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden (apart from staying away from the Tree of Knowledge) was to name all the animals. And one of the first things human parents do is name their new child. The child isn't even officially born (as far as the government is concerned) until a name is filled in on the birth certificate. And somehow it seems much easier to compose music in the "aeolithic mode" than in "mode number 427".

So, it would seem that all the animals in our modal musical garden need names. Therefore I have named them. There is at least this pattern: all the names of the 5-note names end in "-atonic" (for example, the "Pentatonic"), all the names of the 7-note scales end in "-ian" (for example, "Dorian"), and so on.

He continues on, but in short, he made them up himself. There's a system to the suffixes, but the base names themselves are really idiosyncratic. (And for what it's worth, I'd never actually heard of these names, or of him, until you asked this question. So my sense is that they're not used all that often.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.