Bohlen-Pierce Scale: modes and chords

Early BP modes:

This chart shows the modes that were documented when I started my research at NYU in 2001. I came to the conclusion that Lambda mode is the best tonic mode of choice, and most of the prior research seemed to be pointing in that direction.

Lambda contains all of the frequency ratios that the tuning was derived from (marked with * in the left column), it starts with a hearty wholetone and ends with a lead tone, never has two whole steps in a row, and contains a wider variety of harmonic sounding chords than the other modes. In addition, if Lamda mode is the tonic mode (all of the white notes from C to C), most of the other modes, with the exception of Dur II and Gamma, fall on other white-note scales as shown below.


Below you can listen to the Lambda family of modes, and also Dur II and Gamma. I explain how I developed two new modes which coincidentally filled in two of the four blanks (the white notes from F to F, and H to H), and observed there were still two modes with no names (D to D and B to B). Apparently this was the first time the modes were put into any sort of logical order. Heinz Bohlen drew out a Lambda family wheel and named the modes I developed Walker I and Walker II. The remaining two modes, he named (temporarily at least) Walker A and Walker B.

The Lambda family of modes:

Lambda Mode - Listen


Moll 1 (Pierce) Mode - Listen


Harmonic Mode - Listen


Dur I Mode - Listen


Moll 2 (Delta) Mode - Listen

Dur II - Listen


Gamma - Listen


Four new modes complete the Lambda family:

Using a variety of chords and progressions I derived purely by ear, I developed two new modes, attempting to use as many of the notes in the chords as possible. Ultimately, I found that by modifying Moll 1 and Moll 2 slightly, two new modes were created that fit the bill.

Listen to chords:
Progression 1
Progression 2
Progression 3
Progression 4
Progression 5
Progression 6
Progression 7
Progression 8

Only chord progressions 1, 2 and 3 are shown here.

Coincidentally, these two new modes fit in to two of the blank spots in the Lambda family. I pointed out to Heinz Bohlen that there were still two missing modes. He named them Walker A and Walker B in his circle chart to the left. This completed the Lambda family of modes!