FILM COMPOSER BLOG

This has been making the rounds on Facebook. Bobby McFarren demonstrating how audiences intuitively can sing the pentatonic scale:.

What’s being shown in the video is really the reason why music is universal to all cultures. The audience knows what notes McFarren is jumping to because they can literally feel them.

Here’s the brief bit of physics behind it:

The major pentatonic scale is formed by taking the 5 “fifths” in succession. If you start on C, you get the notes C, G, D, A, and E. Put those into a single octave and you get the scale of C, D, E, G, A. (In solfege, this is “Do, So, Re, La, Mi”, rearranged to “Do, Re, Mi, So, La”).

These “fifths” are formed by a fundamental ratio in nature of 3:2. (If middle C rings at 291 Hz, then the fifth above it, a G, rings at 392 Hz). The notes’ waveforms will literally line up in space.

That lining up is felt in our bodies. That’s why the audience can sing those notes.

It’s also choirs will nearly always go out of tune only on the 2 notes *not* in the pentatonic scale – in C major, that’s F and B (or Fa and Ti).

McFarren knows this well, it should come as no surprise that the melody to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is pentatonic. Which is why it’s so catchy and memorable.

If you want the pentatonic scale to make you feel happy today, just visit here:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

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