Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Music Of or using only the seven tones of a standard scale without chromatic alterations.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Within the boundaries of a musical scale, most commonly the Western major or minor tonalities that have octaves of seven notes in a particular configuration

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Pertaining to the scale of eight tones, the eighth of which is the octave of the first.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In Greek music, noting one of the three standard tetrachords, consisting of four tones at the successive intervals of a half tone, a tone, and a tone: distinguished from chromatic and enharmonic. See tetrachord.
  • In modern music, using the tones, intervals. or harmonies of the standard major or minor scales without chromatic alteration.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. based on or using the five tones and two semitones of the major or minor scales of western music
  • adj. based on the standard major or minor scales consisting of 5 tones and 2 semitones without modulation by accidentals

Etymologies

Late Latin diatonicus, from Greek diatonikos : dia-, dia- + tonos, tone; see tone.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • There are many types of button accordions, usually with the buttons arranged in diatonic rows.

    Vivaldi - Performed on an Accordion » E-Mail

  • One genus was called the diatonic; one example of this is the Pythagorean diatonic described above, which is built on the tetrachord with the intervals 9: 8, 9: 8 and 256: 243 and was used by Philolaus and Plato.

    Archytas

  • Each speller and each reader went through the whole gamut of sounds, from low up to high, and from high down to low again; sometimes by regular ascension and descension, one note at a time, sounding what musicians call the diatonic intervals; at other times, going up and coming down upon the perfect fifths only.

    Dukesborough tales

  • The 'diatonic' scale of the Pythagoreans and Plato suggested to Kepler that the secret of the distances of the planets from one another was to be found in mathematical proportions.

    Timaeus

  • On the mostly medium-paced solo recordings here, Ardoin's small diatonic accordion carries the rhythms and the melodies, his vocals on the lilting "Aimez Moi Ce Soir" and the heart-rending "Les Blues de la Prison," for example, evincing great subtlety and range.

    Review: 'Mama, I'll Be Long Gone' finally delivers a Cajun innovator his honor

  • So although the lyrics are in Spanish, and there is an accordion in there, these are not corridos, and the accordion is not diatonic, nor is it playing conjunto riffs.

    Michal Shapiro: Pistolera: Taking Life by the Teeth

  • "It 's a very emotional experience," Mr. Chatham said, noting that although the piece 's 30-minute third movement is built on a simple ascending diatonic scale, the effect is that all the notes of the scale are heard at once.

    Rhys Chatham Brings the Noise

  • Countless pop songs give us permutations of the same stock phrases, diatonic or pentatonic, but kept together not by any intrinsic power of adhesion but only by a plodding rhythmical backing and banal sequence of chords.

    Among Other Things, a You-Tube Essay « Unknowing

  • If there is any hope of communicating with extraterrestrials, it's best to strip away religion, politics, all of the usual excuses for making war, and stick to the diatonic scale.

    George Heymont: The Fabulous Invalid Clings to Life

  • Instead he began creating ensemble pieces in a monotonous and repetitive style; these works consisted of a series of syncopated rhythms ingeniously contracted or extended within a stable diatonic structure.

    Five People Born on January 31 | myFiveBest

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  • Citation on pertussal.

    July 30, 2008

  • ...curlews employ
    the same diatonic now as then.

    - Peter Reading, Early Morning Call, from Fiction, 1979

    June 26, 2008