Two Pentatonic Fugues in C

PD 29-12-15

One of the attractive properties of the pentatonic scale is that it harmonises so well with itself. The adventurous keyboard player can 'doodle' with both hands in the same pentatonic scale and scarcely play a note wrong.*

If your second hand imitates or repeats what your first hand played, you’re playing a fugue – a musical composition in which themes are repeated with a delay. These two easy fugues in C pentatonic major were created in just that way.

Here's the MMYT video of the the two performances.

For your reference, here are the audio-only tracks.

Fugue Number One

Fugue Number Two

Study notes

In the first fugue, the hands take turns playing. To start with, the right hand leads and the left hand copies and octave lower. Then the left hand plays the tune and the right hand copies two octaves higher.  

The second fugue is more difficult. The left (imitating) hand comes in before the right hand has finished playing, so the hands (‘voices’) overlap – bit only for three notes. Get your fingering sorted out and practice just one phrase until you’ve mastered the trick, then add learned portions one at a time.  

Pay attention to the structure (‘form’) of the music. Lots of music is made of repeated phrases, and once you realize that, learning it gets a lot easier.

The second fugue structure is A1, A2, (rpt); B1, B2 (rpt); A1, A2.  

“A1, A2” means that most of the repeated music is the same, only differing at the end – the last two notes, in fact. Work out how much of the B strain is different at the end (B1, B2)  

Going forward

Try to imitate the movement of the first fugue just as a way of 'getting notes out there' and seeing how much control you can exercise over where the music goes. Your right hand will play a fragment of any pentatonic scale, and your left hand will repeat it an octave or two lower.

As both of these fugues are in all-white-key C, you can transpose them into F or G (i.e. play them in F or G) by shape alone, but note that neither of the two pieces starts on the tonic (home note). Sketch in the pentatonic shorthand (T, 2, 3, 5, 6) to help orient yourself. 

Play the download MIDI files on MidiPiano and adjust the ‘Key’ option to watch the performances in other keys. The clicks up or down are in semitones, so ‘2’ will put you in D major, -2 in Bë major.  

Footnote

* The reason is that the pentatonic scale doesn’t use the fourth and the seventh major scale degrees – the two tones that are a semitone above or below another scale tone and so potentially discordant The absence of these two ‘leaning’ (cadencing) tones is also the reason the pentatonic scale is so stable.



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