I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Looks hard, actually easier

HHB who, from my point of view, dates back to the early days of Works Well, sadly admits defeat in the face of updated Blogger saying her little notebook computer can’t cope. However, she may crop up on Tone Deaf with further bits and pieces emailed from Perth, W. Australia. Like this LITTLE GEM.

 I was amazed the audience responded with some precision to the sequences initiated by the engaging Bobby McFerrin given that the pentatonic scale (PS) is two semitone intervals fewer than the more familiar seven-note heptatonic (ie, doh-re-me, etc) scale. Having Googled PS, and discovered for myself the tune Comin’ Through The Rye which can be played all bar one note on the keyboard’s black notes (thus probably making it pentatonic), I emailed Julia in Prague for amplification since she represents in human form the full 25,000-page Grove Musical Dictionary.

Julia never disappoints: “As you realized, the black keys make up an excellent example of a pentatonic scale. Because black keys are very easy to harmonize with, due to their lack of dissonant notes, when I work with little kids on the piano, I like to get them to make up music using only black keys as it is easy to do and the results sound good right off the beat.

“On to your next question: lots of folk music is pentatonic for the very same reason that it's fun for kids to compose using only the black keys - because pentatonic music is very easy to harmonize to - and the easier it is to harmonize to music, the more likely that folk tune is going to get and stay popular with musicians across the years. I suspect Comin' Through The Rye falls under that category!”

Thanks to you both.

Pic: EnchantedLearning.com copyright 


  1. Bobby McFerrin much appreciated. Reflecting on the vido I suspect that apart from being engaging it says something quite profound about education techniques.

  2. Many believe sport brings different nations together; I doubt this. But music is a different matter. And from what McFerrin says the reasons may be deeply instinctive.

    Since posting this I have continued to play around with the black keys on my keyboard. The PS scale is another subtle little world, all on its own.

  3. At primary school, where we had a few excellent and dedicated old dragon music teachers, we had a little songbook with a blue, black and white cover, called The Pentatonic Songbook, from which we learned all kinds of international classics such as 'Il etait une bergere', the Birds' Courting Song, My Bonny Cuckoo and others. It's still available, I've half a mind to get a copy.

    I didn't understand the idea at the time, but worked it out for myself by playing about on the black keys.

    The little clay ocarina flutes, beloved of Steiner schools, work on a pentatonic basis, I think.

  4. Lucy: Read your comment at 06.35 am and had to wait, agonisingly, until 09.00 am (while Mrs LdP slept) before I could check on my keyboard that Elle était une bergère could still be played on the pentatonic - and lo! it could. Didn't know the others you mention which just shows what I've always said: everybody had a better education than me.

  5. Oh don't be daft! But I often think that for a very ordinary small town state primary school, the general music education was rather good, largely because of said dedicated old dragons. In fact we often found the Pentatonic songs a bit stupid and boring, but they stuck around. Learning the words of 'Il etait une...' without any grasp of French was an ordeal, but actually imprinted certain constructions and pronunciations which came back later, then there was that thing about pronouncing the final 'e' in French as a syllable in songs and poems, which still seems odd.

    The other thing I remember from the book was 'Land of the Silver Birch', which I can remember repeatedly tooting out on the recorder when Uncle Jack (only musical family member, remember) was looking after us for a few days. (Stop me if I've told you this before...) He muttered to my mother afterwards that much longer of that and we'd have learned even more about silver birches.

  6. Lucy: Pfui! (A word that used to crop up in novels featuring Frenchmen, but with never a suggestion about how it was pronounced.) I don't know how much further I need to go to prove the inadequacy of my education - always assuming that was what you imagined I was being daft about - but let me offer one final detail. I managed to emerge from primary school able to recite all my multiplication tables EXCEPT EIGHT TIMES. Now you must admit it takes defective teaching of a very special sort to arrive at a result like that.

    As compensation I was able to commit to memory a phonetic version of the first verse of the Marseillaise at an early age, finally sorting out the meaning decades later. There's a good example of final e emphasis there, more or less inescapable actually:

    "Allons enfants de la pat - ree - yuh."

    Seems that Uncle Jack and Mr Bennett had something in common.

  7. Sigh. My work is done!
    Wonderful comments as usual.

  8. HHB: Oh you poignant Perthian. Just like the end of Charlotte's Web. Tell me you'll return, if only in another life.

  9. The black keys are really fun. So glad you're having a good time with them! My sister and I used to play improvisational duets using just the black keys. Spared the twin arguments as everything sounded pretty good ;-).