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Piano and Music Theory Part 06

Posted on 18th May 2012  · 
Last week in Piano and Music Theory Part 05 we introduced the eerie Whole Tone scale which if you remember has notes which are spaced equally apart by 1 whole tone (whole step). So a Whole Tone scale starting on C contains 6 keys (C, D, E, F#, G#, A#) making it a 'hexatonic' scale.

Initial encounters with the Whole Tone scale while practicing the piano can be discouraging mainly because we are less likely to be 'tuned' into it culturally (speaking from the standpoint of western music) compared to the more common Major or minor scales. Listening to the Whole Tone in action can alleviate this. Check out a good example of an ascending Whole Tone by listening to Stevie Wonder - You Are the Sunshine of My Life. In fact while listening to the Whole Tone scale today I thought instantly of Alice falling down the Rabbit hole in the classic Alice in Wonderland (listen out 20 secs in). As you can hear the Whole Tone can be useful for creating drifting, floating, dream-like music/sounds useful for communicating feelings of anxiety and anticipation in music.

As we have found with previous scales you can easily find more Whole Tone scales by simply starting on a different note whilst keeping the same tonal pattern (1 whole tone between each key). As you can see in the image below a Whole Tone 'hexatonic' scale starting on the G key contains the G, A, B, C#, D# and F.

An Intro to Intervals

Just as scales open the door to writing melodies, an understanding of intervals opens the door to the mechanics of chords and harmony. To understand intervals first we need to select a 'root' note to start off with (a lot like choosing the root note of a scale). Once we have a root (lets keep it C for simplicity) we can now work out intervals which are relative to the root key. For example the distance between E in relation to C (when ascending the keyboard) is called a Major 3rd Interval. Likewise the distance between G in relation to C is called a perfect fifth.

Next week... expect to read more about intervals and the structure of chords.

Written by Steve Heath of Wave Alchemy




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