Sunday, June 22, 2008

Scales and Modes part 1

During my travels, workshops and performances I'm asked many times by Native American flute players and audience members about the scale of the Native American flute. Surprisingly, even among long time players and makers, there seems to be some confusion about the scale and the other modes that can be played on a NAF. Many people don't know what the scale is and it is often mislabeled as a "native "scale which, in it's most common form today, it is not.

History tells us that at one time the scales of the Native American flute varied greatly and that there was no standardized scale system. Today however, the NAF is most commonly tuned to the minor pentatonic scale, a western scale which like most, if not all, "western" scales can trace it's roots back to ancient Greece.

But what makes a scale minor pentatonic? Or major pentatonic? Or major, the most common western scale? Is a scale the same as a key, and if not, how do they differ? To understand the the scale of the Native American flute it's best to understand how scales are constructed. Not only will this give the player and maker a better understanding of the Native American flute, it will make them better musicians. For behind knowing about scales lies the secrets to what musical keys are all about, which different keyed flutes sound good together, what different modes sound good together and what is meant by terms such as Diatonic, Pentatonic, Major, Minor and Mode. These terms come up with increasing frequency during flute circles, online disscusion groups and between individual players and makers.

In this series of posts we're going to try to answer these questions in a way that is simple for a non-musician to understand. Be warned however that this can not be done without getting into some theory. You will discover however that you already know much of this information intuitively. Personally I have always found theory to be fun. It's like a puzzle. You start by working with a couple of pieces, then with whole sections and soon you have a complete image.

Don't forget, it's just music. It's not brain surgery...


The most common scale on the Native American flute is the minor pentatonic. However with a little change of fingering other scales can be played. Since these scales will all relate to each other as they have some common notes they can be considered as "sub-scales" of a main, or parent scale. These sub-scales are better know as modes. Modes have been around for hundreds of years. The two most common modes are the Ionian, better known as the Major scale and the Aeolian better known as the Minor scale. As you can see the words scale and mode tend to be used to mean the same thing even though they're not the same. They are related however. We're not going to go into that here (if you want to get deep into this spend some time doing a Google search or poke around Wikipedia, there's lots of information out there.) but for the purposes of making this easier to understand let's try to simplify this down to the basics.

Let's start with a major scale...

Read the full article

© 2008 Cedar Mesa Music - Scott August

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Artist group protests `orphan' copyright bill

I'm sure I'm violating some copyright law in posting this so let me say clearly this is from The Boston Herald. I believe this might be of interest to the Native American flute community as we create music, art, photos and many other things that might fall prey to this pending bill. There is also some links at the bottom for more information about this.
-Scott August

Artist group protests `orphan' copyright bill

By DAVID WILDMAN -- The Boston Herald , May 22, 2008 Thursday ALL EDITIONS

The Orphan Works Act seems innocuous enough: a federal bill designed to help museums and libraries use works of art if the creators are unknown, something they can't do under current copyright law.

Don't believe it, says a group of Massachusetts-based artist organizations and volunteer lawyers. They claim the bill now sailing through the House and Senate will radically restructure copyright law and infringe artists' rights.

``What they are doing is, in effect, reversing the order of copyright law,'' said Brad Holland of the Marshfield-based Illustrators Partnership of America. ``This bill shifts the presumption of ownership from the creator to the public.''

The bill was originally devised to help museums, libraries and documentary filmmakers access images and artworks whose author is unknown. For example, a museum with a collection of Depression-era photos could not put it on their Web site under current copyright law without getting permission from each of the photographers, which would be nearly impossible.

The Orphan Works Act solves this problem, but goes much further. It allows any work of art to be used for free by anyone who files notice that they are conducting a ``diligent search'' for the creator. It also calls for the creation of a privately run database where artists must register their work or run the risk of having it declared ``orphan.''

``It's like killing a mosquito with a machine gun,'' said Jim Grace of Boston's Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. ``I think it's being driven by commercial interests.''

Under this bill, artists would have to register their works for a fee to receive copyright protection that is now free. The database could be run by an Internet company such as Google (one of the bill's backers), which would stand to make a huge profit.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) declined to comment but released a statement: ``We have worked to strike the right balance to protect the interests of copyright owners and potential users of orphan works.''

``That's bull,'' said Cynthia Turner of the Illustrators Partnership. ``If they really wanted to create orphan works legislation to do what (Leahy) says, they could bring in new, spe, very defined uses. Latitude could be allowed in using works where the copyright owner couldn't be located or identified.''

In response to the outcry against the bill, U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Quincy) wants to give artists more of a say.

``It's been a while since we've heard from that many people from the artists community,'' said Mark Forest, Delahunt's chief of staff. ``If they're concerned, we're concerned.''

Contact your Rep Tell them you are against the Orphan copyright bill. You can email them or better yet, call them!

Copyright Clearance Center
U.S. Copyright Office page