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The Mayan’s Definite Musical Scale

by on Jun.08, 2012, under Adventures

  • Sumo

Specialists on Mayan culture said that the Mayans had a musical scale which is very different from the 5 Western notes. An official source said that they analyzed 125 instruments which include trumpets, flutes, horns, ceramic, ocarinas and conch shells. EFE, Mexico

In a statement said by INAH or the National Institute of Anthropology and History, “These mentioned artifacts create or produce musical sounds whose scale is not the same as the Western scale, and in fact, it has its own range, which experts have preliminarily described and determined as of Mayan type.”

According to a statement, physics, ethnology and even ornithology studies were used to analyze the archeological acoustics which was discovered to have applied to 125 instruments which made experts to finally conclude that the Mayas had a “musical scale” far different from that of the occidental ones.

Scholars have identified the possible sounds after a year and a half of work; and the possible sounds were employed in funeral and agricultural ceremonies to bring rain, imitate or hunt birds, according to a statement from the institution.


As a matter if fact, this is first investigation that was made to study these instruments found in the Mayan Hall of the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA).

This investigation or research study comprised professional musicians who have been assigned to use and identify each instrument sound, their scales, tones as well as semitones, according to INAH.

To add, we have determined that majority of the pre-Hispanic flutes produces scales with more complex and larger sound ranges when compared to the 5 notes of the Western scale; the triple flute is among them which 600 “sound range” were obtained.

The objects had been screened for their archaeological nature, however a study regarding its function as musical instruments was missing, explained by the director of the MNA, Diana Magaloni.

She added that this study, made by a team of experts from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and also the INAH and guided by the expert in Mayan studies Francisca Zalaquett, is 90% achieved and will proceed with roughly 200 instruments from the pre-hispanic, Gulf cultures and 40 more from the Mexican culture.


Alaquett revealed that Mayan musical instruments are categorized as “idiophones” such as rattles and bells, “membranophones” such as percussion as well as “aerophones” or wind musical instruments, such as simple double, triple or quadruple flutes, trumpet made from snails or even from clay having a spiral shape, whistles and ocarinas.

He said that after reviewing each instrument’s conservation condition, professional musicians are the ones who obtain and record all possible tones free from conditions which can distort the sound. “The range of resonances reached differs with every instrument, for instance, whistles have approximately four types, ocarinas just as much as eight or nine” and the triple flute approximately 600 combinations.

He also added that this study has been ran in many other museums, research centers and the country’s Mayan archeological sites so as to determine the instrument’s sound patterns.

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