Bill Mills

Leesburg, VA, United States

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Bill Mills
Posted over 3 years ago
Bobby McFerrin: Watch me play ... the audience!
The first three notes of a pentatonic (5 note) major scale are the same as the first three notes of a heptatonic (7 note) major scale for a given key. For those not familiar with the terminology think: doe ray me fa so la tea. That seven note scale is something most of us learn in grade school so it's somewhat engrained in our gray matter from an early age. In this video Bobby gives us the first two notes of that scale and we come up with the 3rd note on our own. Not really too difficult given we have been conditioned to do that at an early age. What would have been mind blowing is if he had given us the first three notes and we came up with the 4th note of the pentatonic scale because that note is not the 4th note of the heptatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is the heptatonic without the 4th and 7th notes or no "fa" and "tea" if you will. The next note he gives us, because I doubt we would have come up with it on our own the way we did that 3rd note. That note is the 5th note of the pentatonic scale (in this case it's also in the octave below the first note) and he does it jumping back and forth a couple of times from the 1st to the 5th. Our short term come into play as we now have 4 of the 5 notes of the scale and they have been repeated several times at this point. The interval between the 5th and the 4th (the only note we have heard at this point) is also an natural change in the 7 note scale (6th to 5th), a whole step which is the same interval as the step we filled in with the 3rd note. Honestly I think fact that we are so fascinated by the outcome shown in this video points out how much we don't realize what we do know about musical patterns from either early education or by osmosis from it just being an everyday part of our lives.
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Bill Mills
Posted over 3 years ago
The explanation of why all people "feel" the pentatonic scale
A pentatonic minor scale is made up from 5 notes of its relative major (8 note) scale so essentially it is that scale without two of the notes. Most people have had some musical education. I'm talking grade school stuff here. They were taught the intervals of the major scale. The most common version that comes to mind is "doe ray me fa so la tee doe" so it's a pretty good bet this audience already has this in their engrained memory. If you pay close attention to the video you will see he feeds the audience 4 of the 5 notes of the scale and the sequence in which he feeds them is kind of crucial. The note he starts with is the root note of the relative major scale and follows it with the second note of that same scale (both of which are part of the 5 notes that make up the relative pentatonic minor scale) if they are given the first two notes of a major scale, most will follow it with the the third note if asked to tell someone what comes next so the fact that they come up with the third note on their own after he has them essentially go "doe ray doe ray doe ray" several times shouldn't really surprise anyone once they understand what he is doing. Since those first three notes are, interval wise, the same as the first three notes of a major scale, they are essentially working in a major scale to this point. He then sets it up as the pentatonic minor when HE introduces the the 4th note which skips over the 7th from the major scale (the 4th and 7th notes of the relative major are the two that are not part of the relative pentatonic minor) to the 6th note of the major which is also the root note of the relative pentatonic minor. So now they have those 4 notes engrained in their short term memory. He starts humming a tune in the relative minor scale over top of the notes the audience is hitting as he is jumping around on stage basically kind forcing them from aural memory to chose the last note of the pentatonic (the 5th note of the relative major scale).