Mudcat Café message #3792669 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #51437   Message #3792669
Posted By: Helen
28-May-16 - 05:33 PM
Thread Name: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
Hi all,

Just an idea: what about the pentatonic scale?

There is a trick with a Celtic lever harp to tune it to the pentatonic scale so that whatever you play, including plucking two or more strings at random, it still sounds good.

A quick explanation: normally a harp with levers on all strings, and with no levers engaged is tuned to the key of EFlat, with three flats, B, E, A. When you engage those three levers you have all the natural notes, so you are in the key of C. This means that you can then play in 7 key signatures without having to re-tune the strings simply by engaging the right levers. The keys are EFlat, BFlat, F, C, G, D, A.

Instead of engaging the levers in the normal way, you can do the opposite. Engage the C, D, F, G levers and leave the others unengaged. You then have EFlat, GFlat, AFlat, AFlat, BFlat, DFlat, EFlat, i.e. two are repeated (EFlat, and AFlat). This scale is the same as the black notes on the piano.

If you set the harp sideways to a gentle breeze you get an aeolian harp effect with beautiful harmonics.

I'm not suggesting you have to find a harp or six to do the music classes, but the pentatonic scale is a lot of fun to play around with for absolute beginner musicians because there is an instant sense of being able to play music and none of the notes clash with any of the others so it's easy to have fund and not to feel discouraged.

The following wiki page shows a number of penatonic scales and how they would transpose to the key of C. The scale above would be the same as A, C, D, D, E, G, A

Pentatonic scale

My ukelele is tuned to C, G, E, A which are four of the notes of the pentatonic scale so I could muck about creating tunes just from the open strings, or plucking any two strings together and they should sound ok. Another tuneable instrument, e.g. a guitar or autoharp could also be tuned to a pentatonic tuning to allow a little bit of free playing around with the instrument.