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A Critique of a Popular Teaching Illustration

There is a graphic that is being used in some recent singing schools, and shared in social media, showing the major scale and the minor scale together, in one long sequence of notes. Here is what it looks like:
Scales Figure 1
The hitch with this otherwise lovely illustration is that it is incorrect. It shows the Major scale as Sacred Harp singers sing it, with the correct intervals between each note, but the Minor scale is wrong. Initially it seems like such a wonderful way to show how to get from the major to the minor; simply sing down two notes from the Major scale tonic note to land on the Minor scale tonic note. Indeed, page 18 of the Rudiments (The Sacred Harp, Denson edition, 1991) seems to suggest this very illustration: "The natural minor scale can be constructed from the major scale by moving the tonic from Fa down to La." But one needs to read the entire paragraph, for the above illustration does not show what all Sacred Harp singers do when they reach the 6th note of the minor scale.* Rather, they do what is shown below:

Figure 2 Merged Scales

Of course, in this second illustration the Major scale 4th note is displayed incorrectly. Sigh... the first illustration does not display the two Sacred Harp scales as they are sung, merely as they are printed in the songs in the songbook. Neither illustration should used when teaching the scales. If new singers try to learn how to sing the Minor scale from the first illustration, they will be learning it wrong, and if from the second illustration they'll be learning the Major scale wrong.

The best course for teachers is to use separate scales. If their choice for the Minor scale is to show it (without any displayed key signature) starting on D and ending on D, all the better... Their keyboard-owning students can then practice plunking it out and will come much closer to getting the correct intervals into their heads.

*In the Rudiments in the 1991 edition of The Sacred Harp (Denson edition), see paragraph 15 in Chapter III Melodics, and paragraph 4 in Chapter IV Keys. 

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