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fascinating information on unusual scales


Those of you who are aware of my work, would know about my fascination with the keyboard patterns of scales. In my book 'Pictorial Patterns for Keyboard Scales and Chords' I present new ways of approaching the learning of the Major and Minor scales through graphics of their patterns.

In this article I would like to touch on the keyboard patterns of some types of scales, other than major and minor, that have been used through the centuries to sing and play music. These are;

1) the Pentatonic Scale and

2) the Ecclesiastical or Church modes.

The origins of the music of many cultures including Western music come from the natural properties of sound, that is: the natural harmonics that occur in instruments of all types - blown instruments, stringed instruments and instruments that are struck. In the 6th century BC, the great Greek mathematician Pythagoras in his experiments with sound and number, found that by dividing a string in half, the sound moves up exactly an octave. The same goes for when the length of a pipe, such as an organ pipe, pipe is shorted by half. If a string is stopped at the two-thirds point, the sound goes up an octave and a fifth. If we only built our music on octaves, there would be not many notes to work from, as they all are higher versions of the same note. But when we move up by fifths we can create several different notes which can be gathered together as a scale.

PENTATONIC SCALE (meaning five-note scale) The Pentatonic Scale is derived from the naturally occurring interval of a Perfect fifth. A basic form of the Pentatonic scale is created when five notes, each a fifth from the other are gathered together to make a scale. For instance C- G -D - A and E, can be rearranged as CDEGA. When transposed onto F sharp, the scale comprises all the black keys of the keyboard (F#G#A#C#D#). This easy pentatonic scale is a wonderful keyboard scale with which to begin improvising. You will be able to explore the sounds with confidence as all the notes blend well with each other and there are no 'wrong' notes.

As this particular Pentatonic scale is derived from naturally occurring intervals it is commonly found in the music of many cultures. For example: Scottish folk songs, (Auld Lang Syne), Negro Spirituals (Swing Low Sweet Chariot), and Chinese and Japanese folk tunes.

As the scale contains no extreme dissonances, it is therefore frequently used in music of an ambient nature for healing and meditation. The late 19th century French composer Claude Debussy, who heard the music of the lndonesian Gamelan orchestra at the Paris Exposition Universelle in France in 1889 began to use the Pentatonic scale and the chords of the added 6th and 9th which derived from the scale, to achieve the sounds of the eastern music he was hearing. This added to the distinctive quality of his music which conveyed the feeling of Impressionism that the painters of the time (Monet and Manet) were able to achieve with their unique treatment of light and colour.

The first five fifths as used in the Pentatonic scale, are taken from the fundamental or starting note, in the Pythagorean tuning system, are well in tune in relationship to each other and to the starting note. Once the series goes beyond that, there will be slight inharmonicities with the tuning. If you move up in perfect 5ths from F that is: F-C-G-D-A-E-B-, you have all the white notes on the piano, enough to make C major scale!

A system called 'Just Intonation' or 'Real Tuning', based on the harmonic series, was used in European music before the 1600's. This suited music which mainly stayed in one mode or scale for the whole tune. In Western Music the discrepancies of tuning which occurred when composers endeavored to modulate or change key within one piece of music, were overcome with the advent of Tempered Tuning which was first devised in 1596 by the mathematician Simon Stevin who was the first European to construct a monochord using the mathematics of the twelfth root of 2.

Tempered Tuning became established in the 1700's when, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote two sets of 24 Preludes and Fugues called 'The Well-Tempered Klavier' to demonstrate the possibilities of this revolutionary approach to tuning, writing pieces which explored every Major and Minor key. The first book was completed in 1722 and the second set was completed in 1744.

As mentioned previously prior to the 1700s European music was based' first on Pythagorean tuning and then on several other tuning systems, including just intonation, before the tempered system became widespread. (For more information on the changes in tuning SYSTEMS between 1482 and 1596 refer to Math and Music - Harmonious Connections , by Trudi Hammel Garland and Charity Vaughan Kahn- ISBN 0 -86651-829-0)

In the early days of the Gregorian chant, most music was sung as a single note, but when notes began to be added as harmony notes, they were mainly the pure fourths and fifths derived from the Pythagorean tuning. The religious music and the secular improvised music played outside the church, was handed down in the aural tradition for several centuries until the development of notation. The monk Guido D'Arrezo, who lived around 1000AD devised the system of sight-singing using a hexachord or six note scale, and Sol-fa syllables that we now sing as 'Do-Re-Mi'. Guido's syllables were taken from the first couple of letters some of the words of the hymn 'Ut Queant Laxis". So his original system was actually UT 're' 'mi' ! It was at that time also that the beginnings of staff notation and clefs came about, so that the intervals could be pitched exactly. A red fine was used for F, a yellow Line for C, a black line for the A in between and any others. For several centuries a four line staff sufficed. The five line staff became more usual from the 1400s on.


The Gregorian chant was sung in several scales known as Modes. I have given a history of the development of modes in Book 3 of my Contemporary Piano Method, but to cut a long story short, by the 1500s a standard system of seven church modes was recognised. As the name "mode" suggests, these are scales played in a different fashion. Their names are: Ionian (same as the major scale), Dorian, Phyrgian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.

From the practical standpoint of the keyboard player, the advantage of thinking of the major and minor scales as patterns on the keyboard, is that to play a mode, you simply run the scale over a different range. For instance if you play C Major scale (all white notes) from the second note to the ninth note, (that is from D to D along the white notes), you will be playing the Dorian Mode on D.

Therefore if you know the keyboard pattern for a scale, such as B Flat Major (which has 2 flats - B flat and E flat), you simply play the keyboard pattern from C to C to find the Dorian mode. This is a great help when improvising or composing. Modes are favourite scales for Jazz musicians, who blend the modes with their matching chords.

Many composers over the past centuries used the modes, beginning with the church composers in the 11th and 12 centuries including the Abbess Hildegard Von Bingen, who this year celebrates her 902nd anniversary! You can find modes in the baroque music of Bach and even in the classical music of Mozart!. By becoming aware of this fact you can avoid mistaking the scale for the usual major or minor scales.

Contemporary classical and jazz composers from the time of Debussy (1862 -1918) on, in their quest to depart from the Major/minor tonality and chromatic harmonies of the majority of 19th century romantic music, began to explore the possibilities of modal sounds.

I recommend that students be aware of the various scales, modes and chords in each piece, and, through their knowledge of keyboard harmony, be able to predict the following chords in a progression

You can find more information on the modes and how to find them in Book 2 of my Contemporary Theory Workbook series and in Book One of the Contemporary Chord Workbook. For the sounds of the Modes refer to Contemporary Aural Course Set 7 (Hear Your Chords!) and Set 8 (Hear More Chords!) To help you find the keyboard patterns for the scales refer once again to 'Pictorial Patterns for Keyboard Scales and Chords'

Dr Margaret Brandman





Music is many things to many people. For some it creates a sense of balance and harmony and oneness with nature. For others it can be calming or energising or sharpen mental powers. It can transport us to a higher plane or into a meditative mood. Many people choose to listen to early music such as the Gregorian chants or Baroque music, which can help us achieve a state of complete relaxation so that our brainwaves are in an Alpha state. 'Alpha rhythms' put us into the receptive 'ear state' to support creative writing and other creative pursuits. As the music stimulates the Right Brain faculties it not only puts us into that dreamy state which evokes imagery and awakens feelings but also relaxes, refreshes and regenerates.

Artistic feelings, "by building for the soul invisible sanctuaries and regions of contemplation" (1) , can improve the condition of mankind and raise the social conscience of the time. One has simply to look at the leading musicians who have stood up for social and environmental change in recent years; Sting and the Amazon rainforest campaign, Bob Geldof and the Feed the World campaign and most recently John Farnham's Rwanda concert. Music has also been used for protest and to change society's perception in such events as the famous Woodstock concert in which the youth of America protested against the suffering on both sides of the Vietnam war. My personal view is that if more people played an instrument there would be less crime. As far as I can recall I've never seen the headlines 'Musician robs bank', or 'Musician commits heinous crime!"

People playing music are too busy enjoying themselves, relating to their fellow men or women and developing a sense of spiritual connection. My own life is often brightened by 'Synchronistic' events and intuitive messages to which I feel more disposed through having played music in improvised ensemble situations.

Music can be used to convey many varied emotions ranging from Love to Despair, Resignation or Elation, People use music for relaxation, to take them away from the mundane cares of life, for rejoicing, for worship, to attain a spiritual plane, or for soothing grief. Recently I was asked to play some quiet Jazz at a funeral service. Those present regarded the music as a means of releasing tensions, as the pleasant nature of the music cushioned the effect of the sudden loss upon the family and friends concerned.

In a meditative state, the eyes are closed and the inner hearing takes precedence. Most religions exhort the believer to 'hear' as in the quote from St. John in the New Testament 'Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice' and the Upanishads say 'The Ear is the Way'.

The aural awareness encouraged by music in early childhood, awakens a sense of caring for society and the environment. We should nurture the 'sound' environment of our children as the 'EAR' is the way to the Feminine receptive aspects of our personalities and the connection with the Right Brain faculties. According to eminent Sydney psychiatrist, Dr Fred Kyneur, (a Jungian analyst and person friend) the Right Brain attributes include: the intuitive, creative, softness, stillness, silence, dreams, relaxation, hypnoses, altered state of consciousness, art, legends and myths and music. The Right Brain has the feminine attributes and the Left Brain the masculine. The Right Brain attributes, when stimulated, encourage a greater use of the entire brain and therefore provide access to the means of Accelerated Learning in many fields.

In my view cultured music is better for a gentler society. Therefore the sound environment for our children should include early modal music, baroque and early classical pieces, some romantic music and much of the music of Impressionist composers such as Debussy and Ravel. A great many Jazz and Latin American genres provide interesting listening while stimulating our rhythmic appreciation and a kinaesthetic response. Particular favourites of mine are jazz pianist Bill Evans and the fine song stylist Frank Sinatra, whose recent records have been arranged by Quincy Jones.

Other fascinating listening can come from the ethnic music of various cultures. Some of the current music is suitable when interesting rhythms and harmonic progressions are used. (I find some of the music of Australian artists such as Diesel and John Farnham both rhythmically and harmonically interesting as is the music of some American artists who stem from the Gospel tradition such as Aretha Franklin). Music which stimulates dance and encourages us to sing along can increase our sense of happiness and well-being.

However, specialists have found that loud music listened to for a long period without interruption does much damage to the hearing. Heavy rhythmic music is bad for the heart, can create hypertension and is likely to deafen the listener so in my view it is better to steer clear of the "heavy metal" influences in today's charts. 'As the volume exceeds 80 decibels, blood pressure also rises. The stomach and the intestine operate more slowly, the pupils become larger and the skin gets paler'.(2)

The author Joachim Berendt (Europe's foremost Jazz expert, record producer and author of many books on music including The Jazz Book) in his book 'The Third Ear' makes a plea for the ascendance of the Ear to equal status to the Eye after centuries of the dominance of the eye. Berendt realised the universal importance of sound in shaping cultural and spiritual life. He feels that 'it is only by learning to use our ears that we may experience the fullness of being that is our true birthright'.(3) According to Berendt the powers of the ear include:

* being the instrument of accurate measurement 'feeding mathematics into our sense organs'.(4)

* registering ten octaves and the eye is just one.(5)

* regulation of our sense of balance.

* capacity for transcendence.(6)

In his lectures and seminars Berendt found that the eye-people taking part in discussions displayed more aggressiveness than ear-orientated participants who were more tranquil, reflective and patient, considered what they said more carefully and were generally more balanced.

The great French researcher into the ear and hearing, Dr Alfred Tomatis, has discovered that there are three times as many nerve connections between the ear and the brain as between the eye and the brain. In his Music therapy sessions Tomatis plays the music of Mozart, especially the Violin concertos, with the lower frequencies filtered out to resemble the sounds heard in the womb. According to the author, the foetus has an automatic filtering out of the lower frequencies to prevent trauma from the low sounds of the bodily functions of the mother. Tomatis points out that the embryo develops rudimentary ears within a few days of impregnation when it is just 0.9mm long and that the cochlea, the organ of hearing, is fully developed and ha reached its ultimate size four and a half months after fertilisation.

The effect of sound upon the unborn baby is very real as anyone who has carried a child through pregnancy and experienced the child's reaction to sound, as I have, would probably concur. Dr Thomas Verny in his book 'The Secret Life of the Unborn Child', states, the throbbing beat of rock music provokes an emphatic foetal response. He tells of the case of patient of obstetric physiologist Michele Clements who was 'driven from a rock concert by the violent kicking of her baby'.(7) In line with the findings, my personal approach to pregnancy was to expose my unborn babies to gentle sounds and to achieve a calm state of mind.

In his research into music and healing, Dr Tomatis discovered that the monks from the Abbey of St Pierre de Solemnes had changed their lifestyle from a life of chanting to a life of silence and were becoming physically ill. He reintroduced the chants back into the daily ritual of the monks thereby restoring them to health. The Gregorian chants sung by the monks have now been recorded and have become top sellers, owing to being purchased by many people who are now seeking respite from the tension and pace of daily life. They find the chants when played in their homes or offices have a calming and refreshing effect resulting in more productivework.

Ideal music for healing recommended by Dr Tomatis in his book 'The Conscious Ear' include the Mozart Violin Concertos, the aforementioned Gregorian Chants and the music of the Jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. Another important author on music and healing is Don Campbell, a student of the influential French composer and teacher, Nadia Boulanger. He discusses the importance of music as a healer in the daily lives of our psyche and physical being in his books 'The Roar of Silence, 'Music Physician for Times to Come' and in his 'Music and Miracles' tapes.

Recently, I was introduced to British author Tony Buzan's 'The Mind Map' book which discusses his ideas on 'Radiant Thinking". Having read the book, I then became inspired to use his system to map my teaching methods, showing how much whole brain (Right and Left brain together) information was used in my style of teaching. I find that students progress very quickly when offered the opportunity to incorporate more Right Brain information ie., Colour, Spatial Orientation, Rhythm, and seeing the Gestalt view (whole picture view), into the learning experience.

I attended Tony Buzan's Sydney seminar in October 1994 and noted with interest that he strongly suggested the audience of senior company managers should all take up music or art or both to provide them with a more whole brained approach to business. Tony showed by Course Map to those present and was eager to take a copy with him to show at future seminars. Any interested readers can obtain colour copies of this Course Map by contacting me at the end of this article.

In his book 'Frames of Mind', Dr Howard Gardner, Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, discusses his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Namely:

(1) Linguistic Intelligence

(2) Musical Intelligence

(3) Logical -Mathematical Intelligence

(4) Spatial Intelligence

(5) Bodily-Kinaesthetic Intelligence

(6) Personal Intelligence

(a) Interpersonal and

(b) Intrapersonal

Dr Gardner draws the conclusion that "important and integral links (are obtained) between music and other spheres of intellect ... music does relate in a variety of ways to the range of human symbol systems and intellectual competences". "Moreover, precisely because it is not used for explicit communication, or for other evident survival purposes, its continuing centrality in human experience constitutes a challenging puzzle'.(8)

By learning to play or sing and by being involved in the arts in general, we can stimulate our brains to be more responsive and effective in the study of other seemingly unrelated subjects as mathematics or science. Students of mine have found that understanding the harmonic structure of music is a definite aid to their comprehension of the mysteries of mathematics, as music through its natural development from the universal laws of acoustics reveals many mathematical and spatial patterns. The number 7 appears many times in musical thinking - 7 alphabetical note names, and the sequences of 7 sharps (FCGDAEB) or 7 flats (BEADGCF) and the linking up of the Cycle of Fifths using these seven letter sequences. Music is also full of mirror patterns, for instance the set out of five of the Cs on the Grand Staff. Another feature I have found to be personally intriguing is the awareness of the 'magical' musical patterns on the keyboard which I have outlined in my methods in order to simplify the student's understanding of the topic of keyboard topography.

Music can be an individual (Intrapersonal) or shared (Interpersonal) experience. Many people choose to learn a musical instrument simply for the pleasure of heightening emotional responses, sharpening the thinking process and for self reflection. Others enjoy the social experience of participating in ensemble situations and performing in front of an audience. One of the greatest musical experiences is that of Grand Opera regarded by the composer Richard Wagner as a pan artistic work (Gesamtkunstwerk) centrally locating Music amongst the other arts involved in the production - Drama, Mythology, Poetry, Scenery and Acting. On the lighter side, many recent musicals have had a similar multi-sensory appeal and provide the audience members with the sensation of a total experience.

From the composer's point of view, I realise how important music is to our everyday lives, particularly in the background to movies and television and even when commercial concerns continue to pervade our senses when shopping. I personally find the piped music in shops very disturbing, finding that I am critically appraising the sounds, when I really need my concentration on the item I wish to buy. Similarly, the music while-you-wait on the phone can often be extremely distracting and affect my concentration on the matter at hand.

In my view all individuals, whether child or adult should be given the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument or sing, so as to be given a means to achieve an holistic integrated personality and to become cultured listeners with an appreciation of styles. Even the learning of an easily accessible instrument such as the recorder can bring great joy to people's lives, connecting as it does breath, pitch and rhythmic and kinaesthetic senses to play both simple and more advanced tunes. It can provide an easy way to introduce a student to music fundamentals and act as a stepping stone to other instruments.

In addition, when learning an instrument, students should be given the opportunity to explore sound and creativity, via improvisation, an often neglected part of traditional music education. Performers can once again inject vitality into the performance of the written Classical pieces, when they realise that most of the great composers were also competent improvisers, who were constrained by the lack of live recording equipment and forced to commit music to paper to preserve it for posterity! I have found that the student who is able to improvise gains a greater feeling for the music being performed. It is a joyous experience being able to create music spontaneously.

In conclusion, I believe that the evidence on the power of music as a force for the holistic development of the personality has been well and truly proven and that now it is simply a matter of spreading the word throughout the community on the necessity of some type of musical education for all people, for the sake of a gentler and more caring society in the years to come.


1. Kathleen Raine, The Inner Journey of the Poet p.88

2. Joachim-Ernst Berendt, The Third Ear, p.79

3. ibid, outside back.

4. ibid p.29

5. ibid p.17

6. ibid p.29

7. Dr Thomas Verny Secret Life of the Unborn Child, p.72

8. Dr Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind, p122-123



1. Buzan, T.(1993) The Mind Map Book, - BBC Books, London

2. Tomatis, Dr.A.(1991) The Conscious Ear, Station Hill Press, New York

3. Berendt, J.A.(1988) The Third Ear, Element Books Ltd, Dorset

4. Campbell, D.(1989) The Roar of Silence, Quest Books, Wheaton

5. Campbell, D(1991) Music Physician for Times to Come, Quest Books, Wheaton

6. Raine, K.(1982) The Inner Journey of the Poet, Allen & Unwin, London

7. Gardner, H.(1984) Frames of Mind, Heinemann, London

8. Verny, Dr.T.(1981) The Secret Life of The Unborn Child, Sphere Books, Glasgow

Margaret Brandman is an Australian Composer, author, music educator and pianist who has written a series of unique music education materials using her accelerated learning concepts for music. For further information on her publications suitable for both class and private teaching.


the Music Teacher's Role

A personal view by Margaret Brandman 3/12/97


For quite some time I have considered putting my thoughts on this aspect of healing down on paper.

I have written quite extensively on music in its educational societal and healing contexts, especially in a recent article for WellBeing magazine. (The 1998 Annual which was published in December 97)

At this time, I would like to forward my personal view, from my own experience, on the role of the Music Teacher in the holistic development of the student of music.

I find that when giving a private lesson, the teacher often become the confidant and guide for the students everyday problems and health concerns in addition to the purely musical teaching that takes place.

So many times the student will say " I was unable to practice because:

a) I had the flu/ migraine/ chicken pox etc

b) I hurt my arm/leg/finger/back etc

c) of emotional problems - stress, hard day at school or work etc

As a teacher I find the first consideration is to promote the students well being. Then when the physical and mental problems (eg concentration) are resolved , the student is able to practice and perform at the optimum level.

In my own case, I have consulted a very caring naturopath who has some very practical and sensible advice on nutrition and vitamins which can be easily conveyed. For the students' or my own, occasional headache or queasy tummy, I always keep on hand homeopathic 'chamomila tablets' and rescue remedy.

Other ways I find myself helping the student is through Rei-ki, transmitted either my myself, or encouraging the student to be attuned by a Rei-ki master, so that

the benefits flow throughout their own lives. It is easy to explain to a music student the process of Rei-ki 'attunement' as it is similar to tuning a musical instrument.

Another reason students come to music, especially adult students, is to use music for "Stress relief'. So many of my students comment: " I am able to turn of my daily concerns and focus purely on various aspects the music." This change of focus is very relaxing, like the process that occurs when doing Yoga.

When we realise that each tone resonates in a different area of the body we can understand the vibrational healing aspect of sound. (Physiotherapists use Ultra sound equipment to promote healing)

I also teach both improvisation and pieces that are written in the ancient church modes, similar to those sung in Gregorian chant. Music in the Dorian Mode particularly has a very calming effect. (My recent composition 'When Spirits Soar' begins with a section in the Dorian Mode.)

One of the ways of accessing inner calm is to improvise in a Mode, with the eyes closed, feeling ones way around the keyboard and therefore heightening the aural sense. The Right Brain is thereby accessed and the resulting response in the body is regenerating and refreshing. Music that is written with extended time over a single sound (known as a pedal note) also has the effect of changing brain wave patterns, similar to the effect gained when the 'Om' is chanted.

My colleague and dear friend Australian composer Sarah Hopkins has explored these effect in her CD 'Reclaiming the Spirit'

If you are having music lessons currently, or intend doing so, I would encourage you to include improvisation, modal pieces and some highly rhythmic popular or jazz pieces for the joy that can bring to your musical life . Also when playing the classics it is great fun to find the jazz chords used by composers of the past centuries, who in many cases were masters of improvisation.

In conclusion in my view the humble music teacher should be valued more highly in society for the service they provide, bring the healing power of music into people's lives.