Below I have posted a link to a short segment from a Ted talk. (Its only 3 minutes) Watch it. You have to. It’s SO COOL. Bobby McFerrin, a very famous and accomplished jazz musician plays an audience at a The World Science Festival like an instrument! The little blurb about the video says that he was using the “pentatonic scale to reveal one surprising result of the way our brains are wired.” I didn’t know anything about the pentatonic scale and its relationship with our brains so I did a little research!
*I’m just learning this so take whatever I say with a grain of salt and if you are interested, look around for some more information!!*
I learned that the pentatonic scale is used a lot in music education to facilitate and promote improvisation in developing children. Music teachers can remove some of the keys from instruments like xylophones so that only the pentatonic scale remains. Then as children become accustomed to these notes teachers can add notes back in until children master the entire diatonic scale. Apparently the use of the pentatonic scale makes it impossible for children to make any real harmonic mistakes and so it is thought that its use is appropriate to the development of each child. I looked a little further and found that the notes which comprise the pentatonic scale belong to the naturally occurring harmonic series of notes. It seems that our brains are tuned to these notes at birth. This explains the phenomenon demonstrated in the video. The audience is able to fill in the next note regardless of their musical background because it falls in line with the sequence that we are (apparently) innately attuned to.
Regardless of whether or not the little information that I just provided is 100% correct, this video shows one more example of how our brains are AMAZING at what they do. It is awesome how the possibilities seem to be endless when it comes to this processing organ and it makes me so excited about whatever it is that I will learn about it next!
Here it is…watch it!