Flute Notes With Letters
Flute Notes With Letters – What if we let some external law dictate our tunes? Perhaps one that would seem to have some element of randomness or chance. This is the idea behind many approaches to creating melodies, and they have some pretty interesting uses and side effects.
This page covers some specific rules for driving melodies based on playing certain notes for the characters of the alphabet. The songs that come up I call “Alphabet Songs”.
Flute Notes With Letters
The basic idea is to assign each character of the alphabet a tone or, for our flutes, a finger pattern. Any written phrase then corresponds to a sequence of tones or finger patterns that form the basis of the melody. You can then “play” the written phrase as a melody. Of course, how long you hold each note, what rhythm and tempo you use, and how you add ornaments are up to interpretation or improvisation.
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The idea of alphabet songs dates back at least to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), who used his initials on his deathbed on July 28, 1750 for the notes of the fugue “Before your throne I now appear” ([Schmidt, 2011]). ). However, it could be much older and date back to the Greek philosophers.
R. Carlos Nakai has said that Doug Hawley was the first to use alphabet songs for Native American flutes. I got the chart on the right on a small wallet-sized card at the 2001 Native American Flute Workshop Renaissance.
On R. Carlos Nakai’s album Journeys (1986), the tune for the first track, Life is for Living, is an alphabet song of its own name.
The Alphabet Song Technique has also been called the “Fibonacci Technique” by Robert Getliff on his website FluteTree.com. His Fibonacci Technique page shows the mapping from the letters of the Latin alphabet to the pentatonic minor scale, but does not include
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At first, alphabet songs seemed quite strange because of their arbitrary or random nature. However, over the years I have found them useful in more and more situations. Here are some:
Here’s how it works: Take a phrase and for each letter in the phrase find a letter on the chart. Then read through to find the finger pattern to use for that letter.
By the way, the chart colors on this page are from the Sound Color Calculator for the F# minor flute. These are the frequencies of these tones, raised by 40 octaves and converted to the frequency of light.
Clicking on any chart on this page should bring up a larger version, perfect for printing. You may want to print out the first chart on this page, the one for the Latin minor pentatonic scale.
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If we want an alphabet song chart that maps the number characters to the pentatonic minor scale, we have a few choices. What I’ve done in my version is to use music theory scale degrees, a method that many people use to notate their music.
However, since we only use six tones in pentatonic minor, the numbers 0, 2, 6, and 9 do not have corresponding finger patterns. In the chart below, I offer two choices: copy four other numbers, or use some unusual notes outside of the pentatonic minor scale for numbers 2, 6, and 9.
It allows you to rank alphabetical songs based on numbers. Here are the first 28 digits of π – 3.141592653589793238462643383 – in pentatonic minor.
One of the most beautiful and simple scales to use for alphabet songs is the Bugle Scale. However, since most players are initially taught the pentatonic minor scale, I usually won’t start with this scale:
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And if you really want to play world music, you can try playing alphabet songs from these different language alphabets: Cyrillic, Katakan, Hebrew, Arabic, Georgian, Greek, and Cherokee: