BOB'S PIANO LESSON #1


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LESSON 1: Interval Conversion

Years ago as an undergrad I took an advanced theory course in which the instructor brought in a revolutionary new theory book entitled Sonic Design. The instructor had never taught from the book before so we were all in the same boat, I mean book so to speek. A week or two into the semester we discovered numerous inconsistancies and mistakes. It was a first printing but now we couldn't really trust anything the book said without proving or disproving it. This turned out to be a good thing. The instructors assignment for the weeks to follow was simply to find all the mistakes and test drive the concepts in each chapter. That was over 20 years ago but one thing stuck with me from that book that even to this day makes a lot of sense. The book did away with the major/minor intervalic system and gave intervals a number from 1 to 12. If you think about the accepted system it really makes no sense at all. We're taught to accept the major minor or augmented interval relationship and then having to think again to know exactly how many notes are involved in that relationship. For example a 5th is actually the 7th note in the scale if you count the 3 accidentals. Why not just call it the 7th(?). Unfortunately history has locked us into a system that equates each number with a unique intervalic spatial sound. If I say sing me a major 3rd you will sing a sweet intervalic relationship beknown throughout history to be a 3rd. Can you imagine trying to get musicologists and theorists to consider this change. It'd never happen.

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I think it's good to be aware of this system though because of relationships in patterns that might otherwise be over looked. I use it extensively in my own Scale Pattern Notation, which reduces a step for my slow incognitive mind in translating all those major minor augmented intervalic relationships. I then put the scale or pattern on to my little zerox keyboard worksheets for practicing and investigating similarities in patterns.

Whatever it takes right! The piano is a complex instrument. What ever you can do to simplify, do it! After all there are 12 different patterns for 1 scale alone. 108 different patterns for major, minor, harmonic/melodic minor and don't forget the modes. Kinda daunting to think about. And these are just the mathematically predictable and consistent ones; what about the anomalies like whole tone scales or alternating step whole step, or 5 and 6 note scales like the 5 note gamlan scale(1,2,3,2,4). The nice thing about this system is the intervals always add up to 12; actually never say always there's usually an exception to everything. Major scale=2,2,1,2,2,2,1 Minor scale=2,1,2,2,1,2,2 Dorian mode=2,1,2,2,2,1,2. It sounds sort of cold and binary like, but it really makes a lot of sense if you're a visual person like myself.

For this weeks assignment figure out how many different step, whole step, keys there are 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2 or 2,1,2,1,2,1,2,1(hint:start at C). For example there are only 2 whole tone or 2,2,2,2,2,2,2 keys that use different notes.

Also use this interval system and invent a scale pattern. Take note of limitations and peculiarities and LOOK FOR ANOMALIES.

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