Scales and Modes

Abel can play back bell sounds using one of a number of different musical scales or modes. A mode is simply an ordered sequence of musical intervals. Normally, Abel (and most ringing towers and sets of handbells) will use the conventional major scale. You can use one of the other options for variety, or if you want to simulate ringing on the front 6 of an 8 (which many 8 bell towers do in order to use a lighter 6), or if your tower has bells tuned to a minor scale.

Abel provides the following scales and modes, though you can add your own if you wish. Some of these are based on the modern modes (rather than the old Church modes) - you can find useful discussions of modes on the Internet, for example at - others are simply for fun.

Ionian mode
  The normal major scale and the default in Abel
Dorian mode
  Starts on the second note of the major scale; a true minor mode
Phrygian mode
  "Front 6 of the 8" - starts on the 3rd note of the major scale.
Lydian mode
  Starting on the 4th note of the major scale.
Mixolydian mode
  Starting on the 5th note of the major scale
Aeolian mode
  The true minor - equivalent to the modern melodic minor scale descending.
Locrian mode
  Starting on the 7th note of the scale, this is a theoretical mode that shows little evidence of having been used in practice.
Harmonic minor
  This is the modern harmonic minor with the "eastern" sounding interval between the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale.
  The "oriental" sounding scale. If you've never tried pentatonic ringing, give it a go - it can be very mesmerising. Don't use this on very large numbers of bells though as Abel doesn't have enough notes and you'll get an error message.
  A semitone between each note - can be very confusing in ringing!
Whole tone
  The whole tone scale was used to great effect by several 20th Century composers. As with the pentatonic scale, when applied to ringing it seems to have a mesmerising effect.

The different scales and modes are defined in the file scales.ini which can be found in the same directory as the Abel program. It is a text file that you can edit with any text editor such as notepad, and has the following format:

Major (Ionian mode): 2212221
Phrygian Mode ("front 6 of the 8"): 1222122
Aeolian mode (melodic minor descending): 2122122
Dorian mode: 2122212
Lydian mode: 2221221
Mixolydian mode: 2212212
Locrian mode: 1221222
Harmonic minor: 2122131
Pentatonic: 22323
Chromatic: 1
Whole tone: 2

Each line consists of a text description, followed by a colon, followed by a series of numbers. These specify the number of semitones between each degree of the scale, and will automatically repeat at the end (thus you only need to specify one number for the chromatic and whole tone scales).

If you do experiment with your own scales or modes, it is probably wise to take a backup copy of Abel's scales.ini file first.

See also:

  Sound options