Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Power of the Pentatonic Scale

An old friend (and discerning reader of this blog) pointed me to the following video, wherein Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale at the World Science Festival 2009.

As Mr. McFerrin shows, the pentatonic scale is a great scale for improvisation -- it's hard to sing a wrong note. On a guitar, just noodling around on the simple 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4 pentatonic pattern is a fine way to spend a happy hour or two. It's impressive how many classic rock and blues licks fall out of this simple scale.

Pentatonicity is also the basis for a number of great old-time fiddle tunes, of which Billy in the Low Ground is an examplar. This version of BITLG shows the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys flinging a tasty torrent of notes about a pentatonic C scale.

I'll have to ask our physicists to program a pentatonic pulse sequence for me to use on our MRI machine. Seems like that ought to be handy for imaging the elusive banjo center of the brain.

(Hat tip to Anita Anderson)

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