As the title says: I’d love to know about bands, orchestras, artists, etc. that use non-Western scales [1]. The reason is that whenever I try to listen to examples of music out of the 12-note temperament it sounds horribly out of tune but I know that’s just a cultural thing. So I was wondering if anyone has good recommendations for “gateway” music that is outside enough to “train” my ear but not so outside that it will just be impossible for me to listen to. I have been listening to old jazz players like Anouar Brahem but I think he is still very much in the Western jazz tradition although it has a lot of non-Western textures.

[1] I don’t study music professionally so I might be using the wrong definition here. What I mean is specifically music that doesn’t follow the 12-note temperament, where either quarter notes or other intervals are used.

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    Would 12TET music with A tuned to roughly a quarter tone away from 440 Hz count? If so, try listening to "Rude Buster", the regular battle theme of the video game Deltarune. (Its composer, Toby Fox, has a persistent habit of shifting music by percentages instead of semitones.)
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 1 '20 at 8:38
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    polychromatic music youtube.com/watch?v=ZMRUm_CoW-I Apr 1 '20 at 12:44

You coud begin with the reconstructed music of antique Greek music. They have the tetrachords where western music is based on but use 1/4 tone steps. So you could try to sing along and get your ear trained for these intervals.




Perhaps what you are looking for is Free Jazz. This is a genre which moves away from western traditions and even from western instruments borrowing from Eastern, Arabic and African music. It is often atonal and abandons the regular metre of traditional music.

  • Hi! Thanks for your answer! The encounters I had with free jazz sounded like they abandoned all ideas related to intervals at once. For example, the album Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman. I'm trying to find somewhere where they use different intervals to the ones I'm used to, but where intervals are still relevant to understand what's going on. Maybe there's less extreme free jazz, compared to Ornette Coleman, which I would be really interested to hear! Apr 1 '20 at 20:45

Most ancient Western music, or that of eastern Europe contains intonations and scales that are not common in today's western music. Since the evolution of the 12TET system we've lost some freedom.

There are still groups around the world that practice regional folk music which involve not only alternate tuning of the standard western scales but quarter tones.

In particular Turkish, Persian and Arabic music have 1/4 steps in them. These are usually sprinkled about in one or two places. They do not employ a 24TET system that splits the octave in to 24 quarter tone intervals. Really this would be considered "Oriental" music, middle east.

Asian music also employs tones that are outside the western scale and also scales that have fewer or more notes than the Western diatonic scales. Indian Ragas are an example, played on Sitar, Sarod, or violin. Even Carnatic music, while based somewhat on 12TET tuning, uses scales that we do not explore in western music. They have something like 72 7 note scales based on their system. It is pretty easy to find recorded examples of Ragas and Carnatic music since they are popular in India. Think Ravi Shankar.

There is some goo(d) stuff here,


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