Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 3, last updated 6/25/2013
Ol' man river,
C C D F
Dat ol' man river
D C C D F
He mus'know sumpin'
G A A G F
But don't say nuthin',
G A C D C
He jes'keeps rollin'
D C C A G
He keeps on rollin' along.
A C C A G A F
Figure 3.9 Pentatonic scale used in “Ol Man River”
To create a minor pentatonic scale from a major one, begin three semitones lower than
the major scale and play the same notes. Thus, the pentatonic minor scale relative to F#, G#, A#,
C#, D#, F# would be D#, F#, G#, A#, C#, D#, which is a D# pentatonic minor scale. The minor
relative to C D F G A C would be A C D F G A, which is an A pentatonic minor scale. As with
diatonic scales, pentatonic scales can be set in different keys.
It's significant that a chromatic scale really has no pattern to the sequence of notes
played. We simply move up by semitone steps of [1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1]. The distance
between neighboring notes is always the same. In a diatonic scale, on the other hand, there is a
pattern of varying half steps and whole steps between notes. A diatonic scale is more interesting.
It has color. The pattern gives notes different importance to the ear. This difference in the roles
that notes play in a diatonic scale is captured in the names given to these notes, listed in Table
3.2. Roman numerals are conventionally used for the positions of these notes. These names
will become more significant when we discuss chords later in this chapter.
Position Name for note
VII leading note
Table 3.2 Technical names for notes on a diatonic scale
3.1.5 Musical Notation
In the tradition of Western music, a system of symbols has been devised to communicate and
preserve musical compositions. This system includes symbols for notes, timing, amplitude, and
keys. A musical composition is notated on a score. There are scores of different types,