Why the Luna is tuned in its own scales, and whats the difference to common handpan scales?
About the perfect just intonation as given fom the natural overtone series, in wich all Lunae are tuned.
About the Dominant or Subdominant Ding, what it is and whats special about it ?
Why 8 core Scales only ?
This has several reasons.
First, there is always the feeling of a big confusion, when it comes to handpan scales. Feedback I got from costumers, who often had big problems to find and choose their scales reflect this. Many people without any music-theoretical background are lost in the huge amount of different scale names and soundmodels.
The reduction to the 8 core scales is a try to bring all the different scales out there back to their roots - to create less but more distinguishable and characteristic scales for the Luna.
Also most people often where confused by the names, and handpan-scale names are mostly invented names wich do not occur in music theory and are mostly used without a certain system, sometimes also with different notes, depending from maker to maker.
The naming of handpan scales is quite liberaly done. While the artistic freedom is great, it lead also to some drawbacks.
For example, there is no difference between a „C-Amara“ and a „minor Celtic“.
Both are from the same core family ( music theoretical its aeolian minor ) with the same interval structure, defined by a minor third & minor sixth.
There is also no big difference between those two and the „Magic Voyager“ except there is one tone left out, wich is the fourth.
While leaving out of a tone, or shifting of the scales starting and end points creates a variation of the scale with and can shift the focus more onto certain intervals, it does not make an entirely different character of it.
The same goes for many other Scales, like „Kurd“ „Integral“ „Enigma“ and many more.
So the main reason is to somewhat destillate all those hundreds of scales into their main musical roots, scales wich are really different in their main-character.
This results in offer lesser, but more distinct scales, wich are those 8 LUNA Scales.
Another reason is the quality of sound. The LUNA Scales are all developed specially for the LUNA, the shell geometry, size, material and tuning style are all variables wich influence the choice of scale, placing of starting intervals etc.
What does Nana, Roku & Go mean?
Those are japanes numbers. Nana = 7, Roku = 6, Go = 5
While there are only 8 LUNA core scales, every one of them is offerd in a variation of:
1. Nana, Heptatonik.
Hepta - from seven, means that there are 7 notes before the octave step.
This is the full scale range, with all intervals in it, offering the most acustic vocabulary of expression and is good if you want to keep the scale as flexible as possible. Nana scales offer the most possibilities of interval combinations.
2. Roku, Hexatonic
Hexa - from six, means that there are 6 notes before the octave step.
This scales left one of the interval-steps out in favor to climb one note higher, above the first octave step. Wich note is left out depends on the interval structure of the note, and is choosen in such a way that the defining "core" intervals are left, to keep the unique character of the scale.
Roku scales are the most balanced ones between flexibility and harmony, and offer a very nice range between high notes and low notes.
3. Go, Pentatonic
Penta - from five, means that there are five notes before the octave step.
In this scales two interval steps have been left out to create a verz unique and characteristic Pentatonic, with only the most characteristic interval steps left. Pentatonics are widely used in the asian realm like traditional chinese or japanese music and often cary a deep asian mood.
Go scales are the most harmonic and intuitive ones to play. With only five different notes until the octave step they are confined in their acustic vocabulary, in terms of interval combinations, but they are also the ones with the greatest range between lowest and the highest notes, reaching out between heaven and earth.
Are the LUNA Scales something new you invented ?
No, while some are, and almost everyone is adopted and transposed in a way to be buildable on a Luna with the highmost quality, most of them are not new or invented.
Actually they have been around for a long time, and often are found in the ancient greek modes, (Tonai) like aeolian ( typical d-minor, „kurd“ „enigma“ etc. ) lydian, Ionian phrygian etc.
Those are very distinct in their atmospheric expression and combination of intervals.
However there are also a lot of LUNA Scales wich are not found in european musical modes, but in japanese/chinese ones like the „Ma Hô“ and the „In Me“ with its augmented fourth, wich could be considered as an augmented Dorian, used for example in the chinese Gu Zheng music,
( featured by the great 許嫚烜 )
So no, LUNA Scales are nothing total new.
These are mostly old known musical Modes/Scales from ancient Asia and Europe.
Why not name the european LUNA Scales with the greek names, for example „Aeolian“ or „Lydian“ - why the japanese names ?
First, because for many european modes there are japanese equivalents ( like „Phyrygian“ - japanese Akebono )
Second: because asian japanese or chinese scales are never defined or bound to a tonic. And the 8 LUNA scales are neighter.
They are not bound to a special tonic, so a „Yu Mei" can be build on any given tonic or base frequency ( within technical limits ) while remaining the same scale.
Third: because asian Scales as well as LUNA Scales are tuned in just, pure intonation as it is derived from the natural overtonal series, so the interval-ratio for the major third for example is 5/4 or 9/5 for the major sixth, wich is the most natural tuning system and most perfect one in mathematical terms.
So it makes more sense to use the asian names wich implies the just intonation.
And the last reason for this is not every one who wants to play the handpan is a music theoretical educated musician and some might have never heard of harmonic music theory, intervals, or just intonation/equal temperament wich is not neccesary to play the LUNA anyway.
So for those people terms like „aeolian minor“ or „phrygian mode“ is not a great help to orient themselfs - but a desciptive association of the scale can give a certain "feeling" for the atmosphere that scale can invoke.
So it can be very helpful to have a meaning-name that can provide some associations to the scale. The naming of the LUNA-Scales itself is somewhat a description and provides some emotional information.
One of the main charactereistics of the LUNA Scales is the use of just intonation in contrast to the most often used modern middle temperament.
Because of this, all intervals are very clear and pure and the internal resonation is increased.
Although I try to make it simple, we will have to dive a little bit into music-theory for a complete understanding of this:
First of all, we have to understand that Scales are never defined through notes - they are defined through a certain combination of interval steps ( wich can then be represented through notes )
Now what is an Interval?
If we decide to take any frequency as the keynote - just imagine a string, like a guitar-string or any other. It does not matter how long this string is, just assume for the sake of simplicity it is 1 meter long.
So this is our base frequency - or the tonic of our scale.
Now imagine we take a finger and plug this string - it will start to vibrate like this ( in real it vibrates on much more modes, but for us this one is important now ) and gives a sound. Our key note, lets say it is a C3.
We can now define this frequency in a simple mathematical term as 1 or - we need it later - as a ratio of 1/1 wich is equal to 1.
So from the base of this, lets create our first interval step wich is one of the most important: the octave. The octave sounds like exactly the same note - but one "level" above our fundamental, and it has double the vibrating frequency then our fundamental.
On our string, the octave would fibrate like this, and can be mathematicaly defined as double the frequency wich is 2 ( 2x1) or as ratio: 2/1
So now we have our base frequency, with the ratio 1/1 wich we said is C3, ( but could be any other ) and we have our octave wich is the ratio 2/1 and thus a C4.
These are the borders in wich we create a scale. Everything that goes above or below those octaves is just a repetition, we dont have to care about now.
So lets take the second most important interval wich is the so called fifth or quint.
The quint is heard as very pleasant interval step and it is so much of importance, that the whole western 12 note systhem is based upon it.
Here is how the fifth would fibrate on our sting.
In order to make it sound as a fifth we would have to shorten it, for example the same way a guita-player shortens a string when he holds his left-hand finger on the sites, in the ratio of 3/2, wich is the ratio of the pure fifth.
In our example of the C3, the fifth with ratio 3/2 would be the not G4.
From here western music is built up putting fifths onto fifths.
So we start from C and take the fifth of it = G Then we take the fifth from G, wich is D.
We can also calculate the ratio of D. This is simply done, by multiply the G -> 3/2 with another fifth step, so 3/2. and then going down an octave.
3/2 x 3/2 = 9/4 -> then going down an octave wich we said is 2/1. So 9/4 : 2/1 = 9/4 x 1/2 = 9/8
So the perfect D as it is derived from the fifth-multiplication would have the ratio 9/8.
On our string it would look like this:
And here is how those frequencys would vibrate differently on our string:
the tonic - octave - fifth - the second ( wich we calculated as fifth from the fifth )
Now that we understand this, we can look on how the 12 notes in western music are created - they are all created as fifth from the fifth from the fifth... here is the complete fifths series beginning with C, followed by the fifth of C, G followed by the fifth of G, D etc.
C -> G -> D -> A -> E -> B -> Gb -> Db -> Ab -> Eb -> Bb -> F -> C
This is why estern music has the 12 notes Systhem, because after 12 such operations you reach ALMOST - but only almost - the beginning note.
And it is here where the problem and the different tries to get along with it, like middle temperament begins.
Mathematically spoken calculating fifths from fiftch, are always multiples of 3/2. Or, if we solve the ratio: 3/2 = 1.5
So we have multiples of 1.5 also to write as 1.5^2 ( 1.5 x 1.5 )
This is the core problem: Because on the other hand we need to come to perfect octaves wich are 2/1, so multiples of 2 ( 2^2 ; 2^3 ; 2^4 etc. )
But those two go never perfect together.
This is where multiples 2 ends after a complete Octave:
2^7 ( because between an Octave we have 7 steps ) = 128
And this is where the series of multiples of 1.5 ( fifth ) ends after 12 steps:
1.5^12 ( because we have 12 times the fifth from the fifth...) = 129,75
As we can see - we never reach perfect Octaves with perfect fifths or intervall steps. It seems we have to decide... perfect Octave or perfect intervals...
What are the solutions?
Well, big thinkers have thought about this for centuries, beginning with one of the first, Pythagoras, but also Kirnberger and Bach have developed their own methods to handle this problem. We will not go into these, like pythagorean tuning, or the other temperaments for now, just know that there are hundreds of different tmperaments and ways to tuni ( in europe only - not to mention totaly different methods in other cultural realms.)
The most commen tuning andway to handle this problem today is the so called middle-temperament, wich is standard among Handpan tuners as well.
We have seen that we end with multiples of perfect fifths with 129,75 while the perfect octave lies on 128.
The difference between those two is the so called "pythagorean comma" wich is : 129,75 - 128 = 1,75
This diffence if left would eigther create a hearable dissonance in the last interval step, or - with perfect intervals - the octave would be to high.
So here is what western music does with the middle tmperament.
We take the pythagorean comma, - 1,75 and then divide it though 12 - because we have 12 intervall steps - and then spread that mistake over all intervals !
So 1,75 : 12 = 0.145 on each of the 12 interval steps to reach a perfect octave.
This mean: if the perfect ratio of a fifth for example, was 3/2 = 1.5
the ratio of a middle tempered fifth is now 1,645
The ratio of a perfect fourth 4/3 = 1,333
The ratio of a middle tempered third = 1,478
To summerize: Western middle tempered tuning has only one single, truely natural and pure interval, wich is the octave.
All other intervals have to be slightly unpure and out of tune, to match the octave in the end.
Even though the difference seems to be tiny ( from 1.5 to 1.645 for the fifth ) it is noticable and gives the intervals and especially the cords an unresting, unpure quality.
Ok, but if you tune the LUNA pure, then it does not match the octave in the end, right?
The LUNA does match a perfect natural Octave in ratio 2/1, just as middle temperament, AND has the perfect intervals in perfect natural ratios, such as 3/2 - 4/3 etc.
This is because for each and every LUNA there is a certain mathematical calculation for the scale done, in wich the "mistake interval" also called the "wolfs quinte" is calculated into a note that simply does not appear in the Scale of the LUNA !
Remember - this problem occures on chromatic scales - wich means Scales with all 12 halftone steps. But Handpans are no chromatic instruments. They are build on certain scales, wich means there are not every 12 steps occuring on the instrument - so the mathematical mistake can be pushed in a way that it comes to rest on a interval - that does not exist on the instrument.
This is done on every single scale on the LUNA Scalelist, and this is why they are named in the asian names because thet implies the pure tuning wich is done for a very long time in asian cultures that dont use chromatic scales.
So in a few words: All LUNA Scales are in pure, natural perfect intonation. They have perfect interval steps as well as perfect octaves, because the pythagorean comma is calculated for every single scale in a way that it does not appear on the Instrument.
In other words, its the most natural and perfect tuning possible.
LUNA Scales are offered with two different Ding ( central note ) constellations.
1. The subdominant Ding.
This means the Ding is the dominant the tonic, but an Octave below - so for an G3 the dominant fifth is D4 - wich makes the subdominant a D3.
2. The dominant Ding.
Dominant Ding means that the tonic of the scale is the fifth of the Ding. ( Or in other terms, the Ding is the fourth of the tonic. )
So the G3 is itself the fifth of the C3 - wich would be the dominant Ding.
What is different in dominant, subdominant and tonic Ding ?
While Tonic Ding is the most common Ding for most other handpans, the LUNA Scales have many dominant and subdominant Dings.
The typical Handpan and most common scales use the Tonic Ding, wich means the Ding is the keynote of the instrument. So a C3 Ding, for a C Scale for example.
This reflects the typical established playing style of the handpaninstrument wich is focused around percussive patterns.
Since the handpan came available to a broader puplic, it drew many people from percussive background, drum players, darbouka players and other percussionists. ( There are few exceptions, like Malte Marten from Yatao, who comes from the piano as first instrument and thus has a much more melodic approach to the handpan - this is one of the reasons why the LUNA is cooperating with Yatao and available at their workshops. )
They adopted what they brought with them from their percussive background and used pecussive patterns on the handpan, wich is totally fine and a great way of playing.
It is only natural that from this perspective the Ding took a very dominant and important role in the playing technique of most handpan-players, while the chorus ( the notes in the ring ) take a less important role and are often used to fill in the rythmic patterns.
However, the LUNA was always considered as a more melodic instrument, with a much more "feminin" character to it, and the Tonic Ding has also some big drawbacks for a melodic focused instrument:
The main problem is, that on most tonic Ding scales the first tonefield of the instrument is NOT the tonic of the scale. In other words:
If you take a tonic Ding, then the scale starts mostly anywhere in the middle ( most times the 3. or 4. sometimes even higher )
This creates a split up scale, where the lower part is not completed and shifted towards the upper part above the octave. This makes it inpossible to play manz melodies in this scale, because the scale is not available completely between an octave step.
As a result tonic Ding scales might be named in a specific tonal family, but in reality are often played in a very different one, wich creates a great confusion.
This is one of the main reasons for a very Ding-centric, percussive playing style, with more or less hard hits, and repeated strokes on the Ding, only acompanied by some melodic accents. This is the current direction of development.
A subdominant or dominat Ding on the other hand offers a full ranged scale from the first tonefield with tonic, to the last with octave, wich invites verz much to a more melodic approach to the instrument.
Depending on the interval structure of the scale dominant and subdominant Dings have very different influences on the whole scale and can be greatly used to enhance the overall atmosphere and energy of a scale, while leaving enough room for shifting modes.
So to summarize: While giving a definite resting center, both dominant and subdominant Dings inspire the player more to focus also on the chorus and more melodic play, in contrast to a typical percusive Ding-centric play wich is quite common on tonic-Ding Instruments.
The LUNA is aimed to be the best possible fusion of aesthetics and musical possibility.
Also the LUNA is build only with central note and 8 tonefields. No mutants, no 10 or 11 noter, no bottom notes.
This is because for me personally and from an aesthetic point of view the Handpan is at its very peak of elegance in that format.
You cant add anything without taking some of its minimalistic design and elegance away.
Thats not to say mutants and other stuff is bad, there have been some LUNAE with such features in the past, but its not what I want to develop further into.
Instead of adding more and new, the Luna is the try to put my energy in seeing how far this simple design can be refined, polished and perfected.
This choice influences also the choice of the Ding - if the tonic is on the first tonefield and not the Ding, the whole Handpan gets another layer of playing possibility, wich is very important if you are confined to a Ding and 8 tonefields, and the scale strating with the tonic on the first tonefield is now completly available for melodies in that scale.
( Where on the common Tonic-Ding most times the lower part of the scale is missing, thus creating a octave shift for the whole scale wich makes it not available in the full range for building melodies in it )
In some scales you also get an additional note through the fifth of the ding, wich is not necessarily in the chorus anymore, thus providing you with the maximal possible musical expression on the most elegant and minimal design - wich is the goal for the LUNA.
It also shifts the focus from the Ding more to the chorus, wich is on purpose, since for the sake of diversity the LUNA wants to be a more melodic centric instrument in contrast to other handpans and is not considered or build as a percussive instrument.