As they used to say in Sesame Street, “Today’s week on Easy Ear Training and Musical U has been brought to you by the number 5.” What’s in a number? The simple number 5 hints at the basic musical patterns upon which our whole musical universe is built. Learn these patterns, and you access your own musical mastery.
Important fives in music include the pentatonic scale (from the Greek “penta = five” and “tonos = sound”) and the Circle of Fifths. The Impressionist Era composers took these two ancient concepts and modernized classical music. The Circle of Fifths and other basic scales like the harmonic minor are like mental scalpels when dissecting the most technical metal riffs.
Let’s learn more about the power of 5:
The Fantastic Five
The pentatonic scale may just be the most common scale in the history of humanity, and a quick listen to today’s music shows that its popularity shows no signs of waning. Learning to recognize this scale by ear will give you access to millions of melodies. Solfa is a supercharged tool for internalizing the pentatonic scale. Try these exercises in Discovering Pentatonic Solfa.
If you are new to pentatonic solfa, perhaps you might like to see a video demonstration. Deborah Smith demonstrates the pentatonic scale sung in solfa with hand signs and then with major second and minor third labels.
Why are the pentatonic scales so important in helping your students build a tonal vocabulary? Music educator Nick Long explains this, plus how you can introduce the pentatonic scales to your choir students.
Behold the power of the pentatonic scale! The great vocalist Bobby McFerrin uses the audience to demonstrate how our brains are wired at the World Science Festival.
Tired of the bluster of the Romantic Era, late 19th- and early 20th-century composers turned to the more relaxed nature of the pentatonic scale. Learn about the other ways composers like Claude Debussy transformed classical music in An Introduction to the Impressionist Era.
The Impressionist period in music, like impressionist art, was about creating moods, colors, and atmospheres through music. Quaver Music examines the composers and style of this great period in this video, designed for the younger crowd.
The most significant contributor to the Impressionist style of music was Claude Debussy. Music educator and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jump discusses the characteristics of Debussy’s music.
Ripping Riffs Apart
Know your scales and you will save gobs of time figuring out your favorite metal riffs. The pentatonic scale is well loved by today’s shredders, and metal heads love the tension in the harmonic minor. See how knowing scales and chords helps us in Deconstructing Technical Metal Riffs by Ear
Want to improve your musical ear? Use heavy metal songs to remember intervals! Fachords lists a set of heavy metal songs associated with the various musical intervals.
Being able to transcribe a song or guitar solo is a great skill that anyone can learn. Guitarhabits lists the ten best tools to figure out guitar songs and solos.
Are you interested in writing your own heavy metal guitar riff? Guitarist Simon Smith has a few tips on how to write, construct, compose, and structure a heavy metal guitar solo.
The Point of the Circle
The complexity of music, like nature, can be expressed as a myriad of simple numerical patterns, like the pentatonic scale. The number five figures prominently in the master musical tool known as The Circle of Fifths. What’s the Point of the Circle of Fifths? Learn these patterns and unlock the mysteries.
Are you new to music theory and the circle of fifths? Uberchord has this great tutorial on how to understand accidentals and key signatures by using the Circle.
So how exactly do you use the Circle of fifths? Piano with Willie shows you some circle of fifths “tricks” that will help you maximize your practice.
After millennia of human life, music continues to mesmerize and amaze us. As musicians, we all have moments where we hear something and ask ourselves, “How will I ever live up to that?” But when we begin with a handful of simple building blocks, all things musical are possible. Take a deep breath, count to five, and have a look at the articles above.
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