Choosing a RAV Vast Scale: Part I

So you’ve decided to buy a RAV Vast.

Congratulations! You are joining a passionate and diverse global community: music lovers, musicians and artists, yogis, healers and medical professionals, and more. You know you’re going to love your RAV. You know it’s going to change your life forever. But first – how do you pick a scale? There are so many to love, and they all sound beautiful! Well, consider this your guide to the land of RAV. Our tour will take us around the world, so buckle up, the Scale Safari is starting!

First, a couple notes:

RAV scales are available in Vast and Vast 2 models. A Vast is slightly more percussive, closer to the tone of a handpan; a Vast 2 is generally slightly louder with longer sustain. Neither is better or more “advanced”, just a little different. The lowest note of each scale is called a Ding. A little bigger, a little richer than all of the other notes, it’s located in the center of your drum and designated in parentheses in the specifications below. For example, in the B Pygmy scale, B2 is the Ding: (B2) E3 F#3 G3 B3 D4 E4 F#4 A4.

If you are not a musician, don’t worry about the specifications. Just follow your intuition! Scales that pair well with guitar are designated by a superscript G: G For the musically savvy, note the enharmonic chord spellings. For example, F# major and Gb major are the same chord, which name you use depends on whether you are playing in a sharp or flat key.

 

Africa: Pygmy Scale

Got your binoculars and expedition hat? The first thing you notice when you get off the plane is the sound of distant drumming. As you get closer, you make out the complex rhythms of a djembe, a shaker, and a RAV… improvising on a Pygmy Scale! Named for the forest dwelling hunter gatherers of sub-Saharan Africa, this warm, earthy, and mysterious minor scale is easy to play and a great choice for beginners, while advanced players will delight in its remarkable tonal depth. As the band stops playing, the tribe welcomes you to join them for a traditional meal of peanut stew, fufu, and grilled antelope.

Across the table, you notice the Pygmy family’s two brothers:

E Low Pygmy – VastG

(E2) A2 B2 C3 E3 G3 A3 B3 D4

Chords: E minor, A minor, C major, G major

Tip: The best-selling E Low version of this scale boasts the deepest sound of any RAV and is well suited to slow, meditative playing due to the long sustain. The price is higher due to the difficulty of production.

G Pygmy– Vast

(G2) C3 D3 D#3 G3 A#3 C4 D4 F4

Chords: G minor, D#/Eb major, A#/Bb major

 

Arabia: Kurd Scale

Who’s ready for one thousand and one Arabian nights? Forget Sinbad the sailor and Aladdin’s magic lamp – after playing the Kurd, you’ll have your own adventures to tell!

Your story starts with a trip to the bazaar, the Middle East’s famous open air marketplace and meeting place of merchants and craftsmen. There are certainly some curious characters here! In one stall, a goat farmer sells cheese and milk. Across the street, a richly dressed tea and spice merchant loudly proclaims his wares while a barber in a turban discusses the news of the day with his customers. But wait – what’s that sound?

A tall, handsome man wearing a full beard and a long robe is singing rajaz poetry, his deep voice sending his audience in the street into an ecstasy while a tabla drum and violin throb underneath. In the middle of the song, the tabla player gestures, and pulls out a mysterious steel drum engraved with ornate slits. A huge crowd gathers to see and hear the RAV Kurd. This balanced and remarkably versatile scale – named for the Kurdish people – is based on an Arabic maqam, or melodic mode, but is equally at home in Western and world music. An abundance of notes and chords makes it a great choice for improvising, either solo or with an ensemble.

Kurd– Vast 2G

(B2) F#3 G3 A3 B3 C#4 D4 E4 F#4 A4

Chords: B minor, F# minor, G major, A major, D major, E minor

Consumed with excitement, the sounds of singing steel ringing through your ears, you join a passing caravan and ride into the desert. Later that night, nursing a strong cup of Turkish coffee in a café, you watch the travelers congregate around a belly dancer. The rest of the crowd is watching the dancer, but you have eyes only for the beautiful, voluptuously curved…steel drum in the corner of the stage. Accompanying the dance by itself with strange, stinging energy, the RAV Vast seems to lift everything around it. After the music ends, you approach the belly dancer, insisting to know what scale that was. She winks and whispers in your ear…

Tune in next time for Part 2, when we explore the forests and temples of Asia and beyond!

 

The article is written by our partner David Duan

David Duan is a composer, cellist, and sound healer. A Dean’s Recognition Award recipient and multiple concerto competition winner, he has performed around the world with a variety of ensembles and orchestras. He champions the RAV Vast, a modern steelpan poised to revolutionize world music, sound therapy, and music education. A graduate of New York University and the Peabody Preparatory of the Johns Hopkins University, he lives in Maryland.

Please contact david.duan@nyu.edu for information, gigs, commissions, collaboration, and more.

Instagram: davidduan

Youtube: David & Duan

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