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PHONIC PENTATONIC A simple system to make simple ‘jamming’ technology. Harmony is the prime attribute, where

PHONIC PENTATONIC A simple system to make simple ‘jamming’ technology. Harmony is the prime attribute, where formal music education has advantages, but is not a necessity! In fact the attempt here is to stimulate elderly folks of limited capacity to play an instrument to jam with others that are more skilled in 'perfection'. A 5 tone scale is very neutral to a verity of keys, thus familiarity of execution makes the sideman playing very acceptable. This scale permits blind and handicapped souls to play from the 3d fret outward as skill increases.

Compressed ‘Octave’ Keys C, E, G, B, and E: Note: These key are played simultaneously because of circle of 5 ths and 3ds. Notes played: GEDBA that will work with the above keys. [Notice the italic Fs - These deleted notes are for runs between chord shifts without regard to keys C or G. Use them (i.e. un-delete) if you can handle it. Sound itself has eminent domain.]

Note that a Capo is needed for key shifts because we have an octal range of notes, instead of a decade one. Grand bar with open string tuning is an acceptable deviation, if open string is harmony tuned to minor 6 th or 7 th (depending on artist’s tastes). This octal arrangement creates a range in double talk for musicians that wish to describe their variants to absolute indexing to the natural key of C. [I personally use a capo for a sharp or flat shifter. First fret shifts your scale to sharp, 2 nd fret a double sharp will shift your scale flat.]


A “C” chord is related to the key of C primarily. When the finger formation is used in the key of G for example, the “C” chord phonically becomes a “G” when treating the 3d fret as the nut. This structure with a 3d fret grand bar, would become a G minor 7 that can be used for G minor in the key of C. I hope this fact stimulates adherence to the major prime key for phonically selecting harmonious sounds to play your instrument “by ear”; instead of absolute note precision – as taught by academia. When one gets his runs and rifts harmonious with his (absolute) chords, then one can stage comfortable sounding synthetic melody. BB King is a pro at soulful applications of pentatonic science, and Theodore Bikel the master, interposing it with Russian minor style playing of a Balalaika. The 5 notes for a compressed octave are A,B,D,E,G (mentioned above), and it also works with Asian, Turkish and Arabian music, along with New Orleans jazz. Making the A and D sharp one is set up for the minor scale. Hammering A# to open G, or D# to open B is obtaining the first step in the Blues.

Simple Instrument that appeals to the blind.

The playing of a Baritone Ukulele is easily done from the 3d fret out, as the basis for a G, Gminor, G7, Gminor 7.

The 5 th fret yields the following chords with the same 3d fret fingering. A, Aminor, A7,


Between these two positions, and the open string tuning of the instrument, all music can be phonically jammed i.e. with harmony the prime attribute for delta frequencies.

Note: Because of the open string tuning of the Uke to E minor 7 (just like a guitar), and the softer action of strings, it is imperative to learn the grand bar positions early in playing this simple instrument. Even if you use minor 7 th (grand bar basic) and boldly jump in and jam to acquire rhythm, and right hand control, harmony with other players would be sustained in the keys of C or G (if F and F# chord is ignored). Playing in other keys would be best served with a capo, until one can shift grand bar locations with comfort.

Rules of Jamming:

  • 1. Rhythm: Primary concern of keeping the beat

  • 2. Timing: For syncopation, or rhythm variation, is secondary.

  • 3. Harmony: Key Root chord, with 1/3 chord center shifts to maintain harmony, is next priority.

  • 4. Rifts and Runs (in Key): Knowing the lead steps to run from one chord to another within rhythm structure is all that is needed for basic jamming. (i.e. filling in).

  • 5. Octave range: with more than two instruments in a jam session, shifting notes an octave, or a third, or cord inversions are acceptable especially when playing in the pentatonic key of (C+G)-(F&F#)

Single finger playing of the Baritone Uke is practical once a grand bar is accomplished comfortably, and helps those of us with advanced arthritis.


Open strings DGBE = Em7, and can be used for E chord; while slack tuned CGBE open strings will also equal a C chord that contains the elements for a E triad, thus CE can be used for both C or C7, E or E7. Grand bar the 3d fret for GD# to handle G7, or G chord. [Plus a similar family of D# chords.] Grand bar the 5 th fret for Am7 to handle A7, or A chord. [Plus a similar family of F chords.]

Basically, keeping the sound structure intact will yie ld ‘character’ to your playing even though it sounds a bit different, but is musically acceptable. Play with chord structure seeking sounds that are appealing, and simply work in these ‘inventions’ for the fun of it.

Let’s organize the system for simple indexes to play the instrument sightlessly. For a typical right-handed Baritone Uke or New Age Quattro we have the Nut indexing open string chords. The first deviation is to visualize the prime instrument tuning which happens to be Eminor7 making the first fret Fminor7 if your forefinger is used to 'grand bar' i.e. hold all strings down. Obviously the 3d fret would be Gminor7 and the 5 th fret Am or7. Conversion to a synthesized Major could be done by replacing the 7 th note with a root note - or the application of amplifying the root note to improve dramatization of the prime cord sound. That is the advantage of slack tuning the bass string, to make the root note presence strong.

This also simplifies the writing of “guiding music” by making Capitol letters the minors (minor7 grand bar) base that can be enhanced with a small letter root note. / becomes the sign for a run or rift that raises in pitch, and \ a run that decreases in pitch. Totally Open string chords are identified with a 0. This kind of tablature placed above lyrics would look something like this for a fret count:








Obviously this system stimulates the musical artist to embellish sounds for originality and artistry along with being able to phonically play blindfolded, once the piece is learned.

Sneaky stuff: As one gets used to the system and realizes that c is a single note, and C chord is where c is the prime (lowest note in the tone cluster) plus all the other strings being supportive harmony. One may use the 2 (D bar) for a quick follow through from a G chord. Having the base pentatonic system modified to use minor chords and blues notes is done by adding two notes to the pentatonic scale; D# and A#. This sets it up for Russian, Greek, Chinese, and American folk music, where pentatonic techniques originated; i.e. for universal acceptance. At this point one is ready to employ inversion rational. In my scheme a triad is a harmonious cluster of sound that is used for accompaniment meaning that a G chord is an inversion of a C chord, and the converse is also true. This opens the door to lots of harmonizing that sounds good, but is not academic correct. Well my whole purpose is to go primitive, and be able to enjoin with professionals in order to be supportive - instead of competitive.


Triad Chords: Gypsy and bohemian music from Bulgaria and similar countries utilize 3 string instruments similar to the Balalaika. Using the conventional D chords and deadening the bass (or reentry string) with a thumb permits the usage of a moving 3 string chord structure similar to the grand bar. (D and D7 formation)

Philosophy of the Accompanist:

Not all of us are able to play a lead instrument – which truly requires either attachment to academia or a skilled mentor, or have extreme creative talent (autism?). Runs between chords (upscale or down) are to be developed and practiced for speed and comfort. Phonics is prime, while capitalizing on keys of G and C for the concept of frequency ratios. Choose chords that you like to hear, and learn to finesse them into sounds that harmonizes with the lead instruments of the group. Sharpen skill by playing with recorded music or if fortunate, live bands.

At first learn rhythm by clinging to the Root Chord that equals the key a song is written in. Then go for the 2 nd harmony chord when boredom sets in, also known as the 5 th giving one the power to basically complement any music written. The 1 st harmony chord is commonly called a 3d, to allow you greater expression of phonics. After one acquires strumming skill with the basic chords, then one practices runs between cords for string control, and more colorizing of sounds.

The prime trick in attempting to harmonize with new/different music is to use minor chords like minor 7 th or minor 6 th s. [Yes, open string tuning of E minor 7 (DGBE) is a usable sound] Learn to embellish them by augmentation, or adding the root note of the chord (hopefully replacing the 7 th note of the chord). Using positions with a grand bar (single finger) will open a range of sounds for accompaniment that also can be converted to a synthesized major (with other fingers selection to intone melody; and that would be another advancement step).

Interestingly, by sticking to 5 pentatonic notes for repetitious runs, one will eventually have an autonomic effect for one to be able to play a synthesized melody in harmony to a singer or lead player. When that happens, the student is ready to handle original emotional rifts similar to BB king, or Segovia (Flamenco).

So we went from playing a Baritone Uke with one finger using a double dyad that has C and E harmony ingredients where dominance of the receptive minds listening to it will replace the E and interweave it into the stronger dominant chord constructed by the sea of sound. And using the G7s for a harmony balance that is also related to the key of G which also uses the same pentatonic notes for a phonic structure will have you interface almost all forms of music; from Arabic to New Orleans jazz. The next step is to practice, and join in with musical groups to phonically support them! If you have the skill to advance this system into a lead guitar situation, I take my hat off to you as a far better musical engineer then myself.

Clint Eastwood: “A man should know his limitations.”