Kodály Learning, Pentatonic Practice, Big Picture Creation, and “The Show Must Go On”

What is the rhythm of a musical life?

We desire to create, and so we seek to learn. Once we have gathered our tools, we put them to work. Step by step, we achieve mastery – and our musical work reaches out to others.

This meta-rhythmic 4/4 time of “desire, learn, practice, create” marches on through our musical lives. And perhaps our creations will live on after we’ve gone.

You come with the desire.

Composer Zoltan Kodály devised an approach to learning music that grows the musical ear for young and old alike. Our Musical U Resident Pros introduce the practice of the magical pentatonic scale. Celestial Fire mastermind Dave Bainbridge shares the secrets of applying his musical creation process. And the show must go on when the late Freddie Mercury is covered by The Art of Time Ensemble.

Hands-On Music Learning

One day in the 1920s, Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály overheard some schoolchildren singing and was so appalled at the sound that he set out to transform the music education system in his country. Eventually, he was given an official position, and together with his teachers and classes evolved what many call the Kodály Method, although it is really more of an approach than a method.

So what does all this mean to you? The Kodály approach is interactive, collaborative, and highly kinesthetic and emphasizes learning by ear, rooted in age-old folk traditions. Many of its techniques are useful to music learners of all ages. What is the Kodály Method? will show you more.

The Kodály approach to musical instruction was unlike anything that the world had seen before. Together with Orff, Suzuki, and Jaques-Dalcroze, music education was changed forever.

Piano Dao details this fascinating shift in the way we learn music.

While the history of the Kodály approach is very well documented, there are still many preconceived notions about it that must be corrected. This blogpost from Musika sets the record straight on what Kodály is – and what it is not.

Contemporary with Kodály, a similar, though more improvisational approach was developing in Germany. Music Council of Australia has more about the Orff approach.

Kodály also has a unique approach to teaching rhythm, which uses a variety of different syllables to sing the beat. The rhythm has it’s own vocabulary, which makes it much easier to learn and teach to others. Learn more about developing a rhythmic vocabulary Colourful Keys.

Pentatonic Practice

Musical U members have been thoroughly enjoying their interaction with our Resident Pros in piano, bass, guitar, and singing. This month, the Pros unveiled new resource packs for the amazing intuitive Major Pentatonic Scale.

Guitar Pro Dylan Welsh teaches guitarists to break out of the box to unleash their pentatonic creativity, Bass Pro Steve Lawson shows where you’ve already heard the pentatonic scale, and how to link it in to what you’re playing now. Piano Pro Sara Campbell does the pentatonic boogie, and Singing Pro Clare Wheeler takes these five pentatonic scale steps to new musical freedom.

Want to know what the Major Pentatonic Scale can do for you? Enjoy videos from our Pros with The Major Pentatonic: Resource Pack Preview.

How to Create from the Big Picture

Last time we spoke with Dave Bainbridge (well known for his ambient Celtic progrock epics with Iona and now Celestial Fire) Dave Bainbridge revealed his years as a blues sideman – another of his many facets.

While many of us work hard to squeeze out a three minute song, Dave writes entire albums (lots of them) by starting with the concept. He generously shares his music creation process with us, and you too can learn how to start from The Big Picture.

Dave talked about how technology has influenced the process of music composition since he started back in the 1970s. To get started in creating music on your own device, Music House introduces a couple of the more popular music composition programs.

While technology has certainly made recording and producing high-quality music easier, has that made music better? Dave observed that with almost unlimited tracks it is easy to put off making musical decisions, and tempting to over-produce your next masterpiece. Pasha Music talks about the pros and cons of music technology.

When Dave writes music, he talks about starting from the “big picture” perspective, treating each piece of music as a journey from point A to B. While each songwriter has their own method, this lends itself to a greater degree of storytelling. How can you incorporate more storytelling into your music and what impact can this have on your writing? Andrew Huang has some great inspiration:

Technology hasn’t only changed the way we make music. The internet has revolutionized the way that artists are able to directly reach their audience. It is a very exciting time to be in the business as there are so many more opportunities for musicians to sell their music without the prerequisite music labels that dominated the industry for years.

With so many options available, where is one to begin? Check out this guide to selling your music online, from Bandzoogle.

“The Show Must Go On”

As we reach the point of musical mastery, will our creations endure beyond the measure of our musical lifetime?

Freddie Mercury and Queen wrote the song “The Show Must Go On” as flamboyant singer neared the end of his life. Originally a defiant anthem in the face of death, Sarah Slean and The Art of Time Ensemble transform “The Show” into a passionate expression of grief. In comparing the cover to the original, we get a fascinating lesson in musical time in Before and After: Covering Queen.

The original version of “The Show Must Go On” was recorded in common time (4/4) with the strong beats on 2 and 4. The entire character of the song was transformed through a simple change to 12/8, which is a compound time signature.

What is compound time? Watch eNovative Piano break it down into this easy-to-digest lesson:

Once you see how much more variety a compound time signature can bring to a piece of music, a whole new world of musical possibilities are open to you! But, what if we get even more creative, and create complex, compound time signatures? What would that look like? PianoTV.net explores unusual time signatures.

When remaking this legendary song, composer Robert Carli had a number of instruments to play with, which allowed to incorporate more non-chord tones than the original version had. Non-chord tones can add a great deal of color and interest to a song or melody. And, you have heard them in many popular songs! 12majortones analysizes how neighboring tones were used in Adele’s “Hello”.

I’m sure that this article has left many inspired to do their own remakes of classic songs such as this. But, what do you do after creating your masterpiece? RouteNote has this helpful resource to get you started in licensing your cover song before uploading it to iTunes or other digital marketplaces.

As musicians, we are in love with rhythm, and with the rhythm of our own creation. We are so much more successful with that creation when we embrace the process of desire, learning, practice, and applying what we’ve learned to create a finished work – without getting stuck in any part of the cycle. Where are you in the rhythm of your musical life? Wherever that is, embrace it and be open to what comes next.

The post Kodály Learning, Pentatonic Practice, Big Picture Creation, and “The Show Must Go On” appeared first on Musical U.

If only it were possible to bottle inspiration… Paul McC…

How to find your musical creativity

If only it were possible to bottle inspiration… Paul McCartney has said that the famous Beatles’ track, Yesterday, came to him in a dream – if only we could all be so lucky!
Fortunately, in the absence of that magical muse moment, there are some practical steps you can take to spark your own musical creativity… https://www.musical-u.com/learn/finding-your-musical-creativity/

The Major Pentatonic: Resource Pack Preview

The major pentatonic scale is one of the most useful and universal, and has the advantage of being easier to learn and use than the full major scale most musicians start with. When it comes to playing by ear and improvising, the major pentatonic is a perfect place to start.

In this month’s Instrument Packs at Musical U our four Resident Pros taught easy, practical ways to put the major pentatonic to use on guitar, bass, piano and when singing. Building on our training modules which teach members to recognise the major pentatonic scale and each of its notes by ear, as well as last month’s Resource Packs on Beginning Improvisation, these new tutorials help make the connection to instrument skills and practical use of the pentatonic when playing and creating music.


Pentatonic scales are popular among guitarists due to their versatility for improvising solos over a wide range of chord progressions. The trouble is that most guitarists end up feeling stuck and limited, playing solos which sound and feel robotic, time after time. Dylan Welsh reveals a fresh approach that can help you break free of those constraints and get to know the pentatonic scale in a deep and meaningful way on guitar:



  • What is the Major Pentatonic? What makes it different from the regular Major scale?
  • Three ways to practice the scale to really internalise it all across the fretboard.
  • How the major and minor pentatonic scales are related.
  • Why and how to sing along as you practice the scale.
  • Practice MP3s for the scales in two keys, plus some call-and-response exercises to practice playing pentatonic riffs by ear.

Getting “fretboard freedom” is a goal for many guitarists and in this tutorial Dylan teaches a versatile and effective approach which not only teaches you where to find the notes across the whole neck but also forges a strong connection between your fingers and your ears, allowing you to find the notes you imagine in your mind or hear in the music you that want to play by ear. Although the focus is the major pentatonic (and that’s a great starting point), in fact, Dylan’s method can be extended across any type of scale.


The major pentatonic pops up in basslines across a variety of genres and that makes it a powerful tool for the bassist who wants to improvise, write their own lines, or play basslines by ear. Steve Lawson dives deep into the several different ways you’ll encounter this scale being used – and shows you how to get familiar with them all – through fun and creative playing exercises.



  • Where you’ve heard the major pentatonic before on bass.
  • The useful connection between the pentatonic and the chords of a key.
  • Different ways to play through the notes of the scale to internalise its potential uses.
  • Finding the root note in different positions of the scale.
  • Using certain notes as “pivot” notes in your riffs and lines.
  • MP3 practice tracks to experiment with the major and minor pentatonic in different keys and styles.

As always Steve brings an extensive knowledge of bass history and a creative mindset to learning the practical skills, making this a far more interesting and valuable tutorial on the major pentatonic than the traditional purely-theory-based way of teaching it. Get your Motown groove on!


Building on the easy and accessible approach to piano improvisation taught in last month’s Resource Pack Sara Campbell shows how the major pentatonic can be a great way to explore easy piano improv. Through a mix of clear finger-pattern exercises and great-sounding improvisation exercises, Sara shows how you can quickly and easily master this valuable tool.



  • Major Pentatonic Scale basics: how to figure it out in any key.
  • Two Pentatonic Scale warmup exercises to help you get familiar with all 12 pentatonic scales.
  • A fun boogie-bass improvisation exercise.
  • Various patterns you can use to explore the sound of the pentatonic.
  • A handy tip for knowing when to use the pentatonic to improvise.
  • MP3 practice tracks for the warmups and improvisation exercises.
  • Quick reference sheets for the two warmup exercises showing the scales in all 12 keys.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when considering improvisation on piano or how to master scales across all 12 major and minor keys. Fortunately, Sara knows exactly how to crush that barrier and make learning pentatonic improv fun, easy and effective from the very beginning.


With our singing Resource Packs we’re always keen to help our singers develop their vocal creativity and feel more free and confident in what they sing. This month Clare Wheeler introduced the major pentatonic in a way that makes it feel immediately familiar and manageable, leading smoothly and easily into some great ad-libbing improv exercises, building on last month’s creative warmups.



  • How to work out the major pentatonic scale from any starting note.
  • Three examples of songs with pentatonic melodies.
  • How to start by singing pentatonic melodies by ear and using that as the basis for improvising.
  • Why learning the major pentatonic gives you the minor pentatonic too.
  • MP3 practice tracks for the major and minor pentatonic and two backing tracks to practice singing melodies and improvising over.

It’s easy for singers to make the mistake of thinking scales are just an exercise to be used when warming up before singing real music. Clare shows why scales can actually be the key to freedom and confidence in creative singing and how to use the major pentatonic as a great way to get started with them.

Coming up next month…

Next month our Resident Pros will be tackling the powerful (but oft-neglected) skill of audiation: how to imagine notes before you sing or play them, to better bring your own musical ideas out into the real world – as well as sneaking in some bonus practice time even when you can’t play your instrument!

If you’re inspired to dive into the major pentatonic then remember you can get this month’s Resource Packs, access to all past and future packs and the chance to ask our Pros any questions you have – as well as 40+ core training modules when you become a member of Musical U. We’d love to see you inside!

The post The Major Pentatonic: Resource Pack Preview appeared first on Musical U.

Being a musician is incredibly rewarding, but it can also…

The 6 Biggest Misconceptions About Being a Musician

Being a musician is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be a challenge. Folks who haven’t taken the time to study music or learn to play an instrument don’t quite understand the intricacies that go hand-in-hand with being a musician.

Let’s dissect 6 of the most common misconceptions about being a musician…

The 6 Biggest Misconceptions About Being a Musician