In a documentary about the Beatles it was said She’s leaving home is in aeolian mode. I thought this would be rather dorian as we have a major 6th in the scale passage of the cello after the first phrase of the song. But then the refrain and also the beginning is a major (ionian) scale or even mixolydian ...

Recently I’ve read the first time the term pandiatonicism and this song was mentioned as an example.

Can somebody explain the pandiatonicism term based on this song?


2 Answers 2


Pandiatonicism is the technique of free use of all seven degrees of the diatonic scale, melodically, harmonically or contrapuntally.......The added sixth and ninth,widely used in popular American music, are pandiatonic devices. Thus spake Nicolas Slonimsky.

I've omitted the middle of this lengthy definition, but what's here sums up what can be an explanation of She's Leaving Home', from a musical point of view. All the diatonic notes, but swapping tonics.


It seems like pandiatonic is applied to Beatles songs with nothing much more than the meaning of not very chromatic.

IMO The Beatles examples I have seen cited aren't particularly good examples.

It seems to me the key elements of pandiatonic are: non-functional progressions and all diatonic intervals treated as consonances.

When both of those things are combined, it excludes...

  • jazz extended chord harmony when it's functional like ii V I.
  • modal music (like folk modal) where the harmonization is largely simple triadic

I wish I had notation of the Beatles songs at hand. My impression from listening is it doesn't really show lots of non-traditionally dissonant intervals being treated as consonances. Especially not given the democratic treatment of all diatonic tones being equal.

The Wikipeadia article gets into that particular point. Pandiatonicism is analogous to 12 tone in an equal treatment of all diatonic tones. When listening to examples from Ravel, Milhaud, Stravinsky, etc. I get that sense of all the white piano keys played randomly with the damper pedal held down. The diatonic tones all smudge together. All the edge is taken off the (traditional) dissonances. Harmonically it's soft and static. But it also can sound fairly dense, because one of the techniques is grouping a lot of notes together to "equalize' them.

There aren't strict methods for pandiatonicism like 12 tones music so it's a bit hard to describe it objectively. But these Beatles songs do not sound like those early 20th century examples in terms of a pandiatonic harmonic palette.

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