Monday, March 19, 2007

The Minor Scale of the Anasazi Flute

In our last look at the Anasazi flute we saw that the Anasazi flute, like the Native American flute, has a basic pentatonic scale. The NAF basic scale is a minor pentatonic while the Anasazi flute's basic scale is a major pentatonic. However the Anasazi flute has several other scales that can be easily played by just changing a few fingerings. One of these is a minor pentatonic. However the Anasazi flute's minor pentatonic is slighty modified from the Native American flute's minor pentatonic.

Before we can understand why the minor scale of the Anasazi flute is modified we need to understand a little more about common pentatonic scales. The most common pentatonic scale is called a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale by ethnomusicologists because it has no half-steps. The so called NAF pentatonic minor scale is a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale. You can easily play a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale using only the black keys of a piano.

Musical systems are broken down by the smallest distance between tones. In the case of the Western European scales that we use most often in our culture (so called Western Culture) the smallest distance is the Half Step.

Half steps are very easy to play on a piano. Any two notes that are next to each other are a half step apart. The easiest to play is to go from a white key to a black key that lies next to it. Another is to play two white keys that are directly next to one another. (There are two of these on a piano.)

In the example below all the notes in red are some of the half steps you can find on a piano.

There are no half steps between any of the black keys on a piano. That's why its so easy to play a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale on the the black keys. It's built in.

Let's listen again to the basic scales of the Native American flute and the Anasazi flute, both starting on F#.


© Cedar Mesa Music

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