Reading Music

I have all manner of topics to present to your mind for your consideration and at this point, I wish to step aside a moment from the main thrust of this discourse, which is your approach to playing, and put before you the subject of reading music.

Tracing backwards in the general evolution of music we will discover that the origins, in the way distant historical past are that of a purely aural tradition. Born out of our constant need to express and communicate, we would find our ancestors in song, lyrical or not, and no doubt accompanied and supported by various instruments of the generic line that has culminated in the instruments of the present time.
As our intelligence manifested more and more, the ability to record for posterity, by increasingly technological means, has developed. Some of the earliest examples being the beautifully illuminated manuscripts, labours of great love created by monks, who were part of the minority of people even capable of reading and writing.
Gradually, through many a twist and turn, the system of notation that is now quite universal was arrived at.

Consider, if you will, for a while, the requirements of a system to record musical instructions in a medium that does not employ sound. Still, to this day, there are various alternatives put forward by lateral thinkers, but after your consideration I think you will agree that what we now have is a system that is remarkably versatile and flexible, and one that permits a great deal of graphic representation and understanding, after suitable study.
By that, I mean it's almost what you see is what you hear.
Graphic in the sense that we have the two axes, Horizontal being the time domain, and Vertical the domain of pitch.

I cannot allow myself to be specific about the process of reading music, but I am presuming that you are aware that as far as the vertical axis is concerned, ie. your ability to read the pitch of the notes and find the corresponding keys, the act should ideally be instantaneous, or as near to that ideal as you can possibly train yourself!
Yes please, dear student, you should not allow time to scratch your head too much.
Remember that music is a language.
Take yourself to the stage of reading it as fluently as you would your native written language. Add to this the extra dimension, that in our every day language is never quite so explicit, the dimension of time (and precision timing at that) and you will see your target ability ahead of you, or already in your grasp.

To sum up therefore, you are required, as much as possible, to combine the immediacy of identifying the correct notes and the order and duration of their timing!
OK, I relent, we are talking about Sight Reading skills here, and unless you have a situation which will focus you in a very real way, and bring your awareness and concentration to a peak, it
is unlikely that you will find your sight reading skills developing very quickly. However, the ability to read the music from the page as fluently as you can is immeasurably useful, and will develop alongside your other skills with regular practice.

The fluency of translating rhythms, from the written, to the felt (excuse the pun) must not be under-rated, for the correct absorption of the rhythmic information empowers you to be able to play.
In simple terms, understanding WHEN to play must happen before your understanding of WHERE to play has relevence, although you will hopefully forgive the obvious when I state the fact that these two processes will feel simultaneous.
Nevertheless, decoding the rhythmic information unlocks your energy, gives you the fuel with which you play, it empowers you for the task.

Energy Flow

We have touched here on the fundamental issue in playing the piano. I shall put it in capitals to imprint it firmly on your mind.

ENERGY FLOW

It goes without saying that nothing exists without energy, no pianos, no books of music, no composers and sadly no Pianists, not to mention piano-stools or candelabra! But here we are, my dear friend, happily in a world that is all energy, all about fluxes and fields, flows and forgetting.
I put the last word not because I love alliteration, but because it is one of the great truths in life. We have forgotten, or we do forget.
When we remember, however, hey presto, as if by magic, all manner of wonders are revealed, a secret world is opened up before us.
Energy is our true nature after all.
Let's learn to go with it, let's use that understanding to our mutual advantage.
I love "hey presto" and certainly as much magic as I can experience.

We can watch it happen for us in our piano playing.
With our sights set firmly on the Holy Grail of Perfection, we might as well settle down and enjoy the journey, The Way of the Pianist.

Very soon you will meet the most amazing friend, always a joy, consistent in His comforting ways.
She wishes to take the journey with you.
Can you wait to meet Him?
Just one more paragraph.

A paragraph about posture.
The keywords here, my dear student, are GRAVITY and BALANCE.
These are the two arenas in which we will display our ENERGY FLOW.

Sit comfortably on the stool, which should be selected carefully for it's height.
If anything, err on the side of too high, rather than too low. This way, you will have gravity working with you, not against you.
Sit with an absolutely erect spine. This is by far the most comfortable position eventually, and will not lead to any stresses or strains in your spinal column.
Don't let gravity pull you east, west, north or south, point your head to the sky.
Sit always with your nose in line with middle "C," and place the music with the spine of the book, or the centre of the page in line with this point as well.
You will be surprised at how consistency in these things will lead to greater security in spatial movement.
Place the feet suitably near for using the pedals.

At this point feel your balance.
Allow your breath to come and go, of its own accord, gradually increase the depth of breathing and start to feel centred. This is probably one of the most beautiful moments. Go on for as long as you like, your own timetable permitting!
Become aware of any tension in your upper back and shoulders. Allow all the tension to escape with your breath.
Send all the tension out of the room.
Instruct it very firmly to never come back!
Imagine a secret key hole between your shoulder blades, insert the secret key and unlock, unwind, unlock, unwind. Continue for as long as you like, until you feel normalised and ready to start.

Become aware of the fact that your arms have weight.
How heavy are your arms? Feel the pull of gravity. Feel the point of balance in the centre that is you.
Imagine albatross, imagine eagle. Become aware that it is the tension of the muscles that controls this weight, denies the weight from falling.

Relaxed arm weight is the most important item in your tool kit. Lift with the slightest tensioning of the muscles and lower by relaxing.
Get to know this experience well.
It needs to remain with you all the time.

Turn your relaxed hands so that the fingers point upwards.
Do you notice that the tips of your thumbs are almost on the same plane as the tips of the fingers? I do hope so.
This is a very useful observation.
Keeping your hands in this shape, as near as possible, let your fingers dangle just above the piano keys with both thumbs around middle C.
Imagine a drop of water on each shoulder rolling down the top surface of each arm. These drops shouldn't be allowed anywhere to rest until they drip off of the ends of your fingers.
That would be an ideal model for positioning your arms.

Please remember, dear friend, that you are a Human Being, not a mannequin or robot.
This is simply a position for starters, feel the pleasant relaxed mobility that you have around and about this position. Breathe life into your arms, feel the hinges at the wrists, side to side, up and down, and at all times be aware of the weight of the arms.
Feel this weight connect, through a variable "centre of gravity" (the fingers) in each hand, with the surface of the piano keys.

This is the mystical interface between you and the instrument.
The touch zone, the space where feeling is transmuted into sound.
You will learn how to bring forth bells, or trumpets, thunder or birdsong by the very touch of your fingertips.

Remember, gravity, relax, balance, relax and be aware.

These are all very real and tangible essences. Please do not merely read these words.

Try, the food is yours to taste, experience, find your way around this world of sensation. The piano is very "sensational" only, however, if YOU ARE THERE BEING THE SENSER.
Take these ideas with you to the piano and have a play around with them.

Please take the time to relax sufficiently before you start, and at any time you begin to feel any tension whilst playing. You are aiming for a state through which the rhythmic energy can flow unhindered, and your arms are flexible tubes down which this energy gushes on its journey to the tone.
Any hard or violent movement should be avoided.
Caress the keys, squeeze out the sound, harmonise your motion, create exquisite vibrations with everything you do. Enjoy!

You will, no doubt, be hiring the services of a professional teacher to keep up your inspiration for playing and to guide you through your years of study ahead.
Obviously, your external teacher cannot be with you the majority of the time. This includes the time that is so critical in your development, the time you spend alone practicing.
It is imperative that you find honesty of evaluation, sincerity of effort and a constant source of inspiration in those hours of solitary practice.

You must find the teacher within yourself.

The Teacher Within

OK, as promised, I'll introduce your friend for the journey.

A moment of quiet reflection will lead quite simply, profoundly, yet effortlessly, to an understanding that you are a part of this magnificent Reality. The pure magic of existence. You will experience your very own awareness of the phenomenon we call "Life".
That pure, uncluttered awareness that you feel is your Spirit, it is you at the root level, the part of you that has never changed.

THE TEACHER WITHIN.

You have met Him many times before, maybe recently, She's the one who gave you the breath, earlier on, and right now for that matter.
He's the one who is hearing you play, She loves it, by the way. He's also the One Who is feeling your fingers on the keys. She's also the tension that you sent out of the room.

(He didn't want you to feel so tense, by the way, but you have been so busy recently that you didn't hear Her calling for you to take some time out, and relax and enjoy that wonderful Human Body that He also gave you. Still, better late than never. We can only continue from HERE and NOW.)

As well as being your best friend on this journey She will also show you that He is the best possible Piano Teacher in the whole universe, and what is more, She is absolutely FREE, totally sympathetic to your personal needs, always there to listen and offer guidance, and the only thing He asks of you is TO REMEMBER that She is there.

That should help you to relax.
I have the same friend, the very same teacher. It's amazing how He has the time for both of us, sometimes simultaneously, and She's always so wonderfully kind. I really, really love Him. I'm sure you do too. The staggering part is, I can't do anything in return, for Her, I mean, except remember, and smile in my heart. By the way, He invented harmony, the very idea of it, so music is very close to Her heart.
He loves it when we play just for Her.
Listen carefully to His gentle voice.
She asks you not to rush away, but enjoy fully the time spent with Him.
You are Her favourite, best, most beloved pupil.
He has nothing to gain from teaching you, save the thrill of seeing you grow and enjoy. Whatever your task, the satisfaction of reaching the end will undoubtedly come all too soon. Enter within each precious moment with Her, each special moment of music, every touch of your fingers, the flow of rhythm from the centre of you to the point of connection with the sound and onwards until the silence returns.

Silence is to music as an empty canvas is to painting. Create upon that medium and drink the silence deeply, you can find it within you.

Anyway, introductions over with, I'm glad that you've already signed the contract. So on with the journey, don't forget to remember, and remember not to forget. That's our part of the Beautiful Bargain.

So, I admit it, the Mysterious interface is not really between you and your instrument,
It's really between the Idea of you and the Idea of your instrument. Seeing as His ideas are the only ones that count from now on, we might as well stop pretending that there is any real difference between the piano player and the piano being played.
Ah, but there is one major and crucial difference, which makes everything fall into place.

The piano player is alive and conscious! Aren't you? Of course.
That enables you to enjoy the experience, enjoy the journey, black and white, high and low, loud and soft, stop and start, happy and sad, long and short, breathing in, breathing out.
I'll stop there, I think, dear friend, you have the general idea.

So you are already at one with your instrument, that's an auspicious start.
Can you feel at your fingertips the gentle vibrations of sound as you play?
Try some balancing exercises including your feet at the pedals.
Pivoting upon the heels of each foot, rotate the feet under and over the pedals in a circular motion clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

Open the ears, relax the arms and shoulders, feel the gentle breath, open your heart . . . you are ready to play.

The System of Music

Music is quite remarkable in its ability to portray the world we live in. Not only in terms of TIME and SPACE but also in Human Emotional terms.
From the playful to the sombre, from joy to melancholy, celebrational to mournful and all the variety between these poles.

Just as we find in the theatre the symbols of Comedy and Tragedy, we have in music the statements of Major and Minor.
As all of life unfolds between these two opposite ends, and upon the vast stage that conjoins them, we will have to admit that each is contained in, and owes its existence to the other.
They are mutually interdependent.
Just as our awareness of happiness is contrasted as we emerge from a state of sadness.

However, music, or to be more precise, the nature of sound has a secret to share. A beautiful secret, a message of great hope for Humanity.
To find this secret, which is embedded in the nature of sound itself (and we can reverse that quite sensibly and say the sound of nature) we must look towards the phenomenon of Harmonics, or partials, as they are sometimes known.

A freely vibrating object, such as a piano string when struck by the felt hammer, will produce what we hear as the main note. This we call the fundamental, and it is this pitch that we pay most attention to. This is produced by the whole length of the string cycling backwards and forwards at whatever frequency (determined by length, thickness and tension.)
For example, the strings of the note "A" above middle C, are tuned to 440Hz. In other words, the whole string completes 440 cycles of motion each second. (Hz is an abbreviation for Hertz after the German scientist Heinrich Hertz and is used as a measurement of cycles per second.)
A cycle of motion is from the starting point, at rest, through an excursion to the positive, back through the starting point, through an excursion to the negative and back to the start point. (Positive and negative are theoretical labels only for the point of illustration, as both states are co-dependent.)

If this were the only frequency created however, the sound would be very unfamiliar to us, and very unlike what we expect a piano to sound like. For this is not the only frequency produced by the vibrating string.

Divide the string into perfect integer proportions, ie. Halves, Thirds, Quarters, Fifths etc. and etc. ad infinitum, and consider the fact that these portions of the string contribute their own frequency to the overall sound, in ratio to the integer number.
Therefore, the two halves of the string produce a tone at twice the frequency of the fundamental. This will give us a tone of an octave higher. If the fundamental is "A" 440Hz. this tone will be "A" 880Hz. but about half the volume of the fundamental.
This tone is known as the first harmonic or partial. The other integer portions add their own voices, in diminishing amplitude, which is why they remain hidden to our awareness.
However if they were not there, we would certainly notice.


You can prove all this by trying a little experiment (this will only work on a real piano) using a piano technique called "Flagging." With your right hand you will be revealing, one by one, the harmonics that are naturally present in the note that you will sound with your left hand. Be sure that you understand this before we start.
The right hand is revealing the harmonics that are within the left hand note.

Here is the simple experiment.
With a finger on your right hand, slowly and silently press middle C. Do this without any sound. You are simply lifting the damper away from the string and allowing it to vibrate in sympathy at its own frequency. This can be triggered by the same frequency, in isolation, or contained within another source. The source will now be supplied by your left hand.
Get ready with a finger of your left hand above the "C" below middle C.

Keep middle C depressed, and strike a firm but short note on the "C" below. Listen carefully to what happens. If performed correctly, you should be hearing the middle C string gently answering the "C" below.
You should hear it ringing.
That is because middle "C" is the first harmonic, the first partial of the "C" below, and is actually present in the sound of that note.
Let us proceed up the Harmonic Series of the "C" below middle C.

Do exactly the same again, this time the right hand should be holding down, silently the "G" above middle "C" instead.
Again, strike the low "C" with the left hand.
Listen . . . the second harmonic, contained within the sound of the low note - answering in sympathy.

Proceed upwards, trying the notes "C" above middle C (the third harmonic) the "E" above that (the fourth harmonic) the "G" above that (the fifth harmonic) the B flat above that (the sixth harmonic.
This will usually sound rather weak as the note B flat is not quite in tune with the natural harmonic of the left hand note) and finally the "C" two octaves above middle C (the seventh harmonic.)
Notice that the harmonics are getting closer and closer together.
The process continues ad infinitum, at least until the original energy input dissipates.

The whole point of this exercise is to demonstrate that the nature of sound (or the sound of nature) includes within itself the MAJOR third.
This is the "E" at the fourth harmonic. To me this suggests that nature (or the designer of nature) intends us to be JOYFUL.
Or have we learned to align our state of joy with this phenomena, simply because it is more natural?
Either way, it is confirmation that the natural state of the universe is one of harmony.
Are we a part of that harmony?
The answer, my dear fellow journeyman, is YES WE ARE.
A part of the whole experience of cosmic harmony.

Harmonics provide us with our sense of harmony and all simple major triads (3 note chords) are comprised of notes that are present (at some pitch or other) within the spectrum of naturally occurring harmonics or partials. It would appear therefore that harmony is the precursor of melody, as harmonics provide us with many of the notes that we employ as our major scale. All very interesting speculation only as the emergence of musical language took place many years ago in our pre-history.
However, the laws of the Universe haven’t changed.

Before we go on let me throw a few more musical terms into the melting pot.

A Mini-Glossary

SCALE : A series of notes in alphabetical order, ascending or descending.

MAJOR SCALE : A series of notes (as above) that define a major key.
The degrees of a major scale can be described in ascending order as: Tonic, Supertonic, (above the tonic) Mediant, (the middle note of the tonic triad) Subdominant, (in the same position under the tonic at the top, as the dominant is above the tonic at the bottom) Dominant, (referring to its powerful nature being, as we have just discovered, the first different note that appears in the harmonic series) Submediant, (in the same position from the tonic at the top as the mediant is from the tonic at the bottom) Leading note, (a magnetic semi-tone that urges us to lead on to the . . . ) Tonic.

MINOR SCALE : A series of notes (as above) that define a minor key, differing from the major always on the third degree - and with optional differences for the sixth and seventh degrees. These differences involve notes that are a semitone lower than their equivalent degrees in the major scale.

CHROMATIC SCALE : (Literally, a coloured or colourful scale.) A series of notes in alphabetical order that consists entirely of semi-tones.

WHOLE TONE SCALE : A series of notes in alphabetical order that consists entirely of tones.

SEMITONE : The smallest distance you can travel from one note to another on the piano. All the notes of a piano are one semi-tone away from their neighbour.

TONE : A distance of two semi-tones.
(The order of tones and semi-tones that will form a major scale is : Key note : Tone : Tone : Semi-tone : Tone : Tone : Tone : Semi-tone (you should be at the key-note again but higher up.)

KEY : Defined by the notes of the scale, the first of which is the Key note. Therefore every unique note has its own key. To be precise, it has a Major key and a Minor key.
A piece of music played in a different key will sound exactly the same but will sound higher or lower. Although it will therefore use a completely different set or sequence of notes, they will all be in the same relationship to the key note in every case. A piece of music written in a major key played in a minor key will not sound the same at all, even if the key note is the same, it will have a sad, mournful atmosphere to it. And the same is true in reverse, a minor tune played in a major key will sound disrespectfully joyful.

ACCIDENTAL : The term given to sharp, flat or natural signs in the main body of a piece of music. A term not applied to sharps or flats in a key signature. Accidentals only have the power to affect notes on that particular line or space and only for the duration or remainder of one bar.

SHARP : Above the true pitch. A sharp sign before a note means RAISE the note by 1 semi-tone (irrespective of the colour of the piano key.)

FLAT : Below the true pitch. A flat sign before a note means LOWER the note by 1 semi-tone (irrespective of the colour of the piano key.)

If you try to construct a major scale from any note other than “C” you will find that they necessarily include sharps or flats to maintain the correct sound. The arrival of these sharps or flats, first one, then two, etc. leads us to be able to Signify any specific key by the sharps or flats that it contains.
These “badges” if you like, are called the

KEY SIGNATURE : the mark of a particular key. Key signatures consist of these sharps or flats written in a determined order, placed at the start of each stave of music and they inform the player of their required presence throughout the piece of music in every octave (unless contradicted by a natural sign before certain notes.)

RELATIVE KEYS : Major and minor keys that share the same key signature - not the same key note. The relative minor key may be found on the sixth degree of a major scale - or the relative major key may be found on the third degree of a minor scale.

A DOUBLE SHARP : sign before a note means raise the note by 2 semi-tones.

A DOUBLE FLAT : sign before a note means lower the note by 2 semi-tones.

A NATURAL : sign before a note cancels out any previous previous sharps or flats for that particular line or space in the stave.

ENHARMONIC CHANGE : When a note or key changes its appearance, the way that it is written (e.g. F sharp to G flat) but maintains the same sound.

Sharps and flats are, as you can see, interchangeable to a certain extent and there are various theoretical rules as to how or when either can be employed. Suffice it to say that F sharp and G flat make the same sound.
Physically on the keyboard you can construct a scale from each of the unique physical keys. Count them, there are twelve before repetition starts. Major and Minor scales (2 forms of Minor scale) are possible from each. That makes a total of 36 scales, not counting the various

MODES : Other series of notes or types of scales with different orders of tones and semitones.

The physical act of playing the piano, as with any instrument, is so much interwoven with the theoretical side of music that it is wise not to attempt learning one, without at least a little of the other. Besides - there is great wisdom in learning the common language of music - it helps you communicate ideas with other musicians.

You can see from the above brief glossary that there are numerous words used in music that might have more than one meaning. For example the word “key” is used sometimes to mean the physical parts of the piano that make up the keyboard, as well as its use, as in “Play in a different key” (although the result would mean that you played on different keys.)
“Tone” is sometimes used when describing the quality of sound produced by a musician, as in “She played with a mellow tone” as well as describing “A distance of two semi-tones.”
So context is vital to the understanding of which meaning is correct.

The Mandala of Keys

Let us examine the system of the keys. It is a very worthwhile exercise, and can lead to a broad understanding of the way that the twelve semi-tones that we have divided the octave into relate to each other.
Firstly let us understand that this is our Western system, and that other systems exist. For example, in some Eastern systems of music, up to twenty four partitions of the octave are recognised, including intervals that we refer to as micro-tones being half of a semi-tone.

An octave, being the distance between any given frequency and the doubling of that frequency will naturally contain an infinite amount of potential "notes." We can imagine this if we think of a sound source, such as a variable oscillator or the human voice, being swept continuously through all the frequencies from "f1" to "f2."
Anywhere that we cared to pause the sweeping sound, and listen, we could say was a "note." However, a little thought will lead us to realise that although some instruments are capable of producing all these notes, most are not, and certainly a piano with an infinite amount of notes per octave would be highly impracticable, and mercifully does not concern us here.

So we have arrived, at our system of twelve semi-tones per octave. There are various ideas as to how this evolution took place, but no-one can be really sure. But there does seem to be a recognisable hand, a certain mysterious guidance over the years that has steered it on its way.

We find the recurrence of the mystical numbers twelve, seven and eight. Guided over the many years by the Spirit within him, mankind has overseen the creation of this system. The keyboard would appear to have been behind the logic in the key system, although whether that is possible, historically, I very much doubt.

Consider this if you may, the fact that although the musical alphabet starts with "A" the key system (although a complete cycle, without a real beginning or end) would appear to "start with" "C." The key of "C" being the only all natural key, (no sharps or flats) and that which corresponds to the white notes upon the piano keyboard. I love the mystery, I thrill at the magic.

Let's explore onwards.
We can draw the twelve keys around a circle exactly as the hours appear on a clock face. (This is very appropriate considering how inextricably intertwined are music and time. From the ground floor up, in fact, because we only choose to use, as a rule, periodic frequencies as our sources of sound. That is, frequencies which are consistent over time produce what we recognise as a musically useful sound.)

Let's place "C" at the twelve’ o’clock position.
Let's lay out all the other keys in the hour positions and travelling clockwise put them in the order of increasing quantity of sharps.
Therefore we will have "G" with one sharp at one o’clock, "D" with two sharps at two o’clock and so on.
But wait! if we proceed all the way around the clock with sharp keys, we don't arrive back at "C." Instead we arrive at the key of "B" sharp, with a key signature of twelve sharps!
How on earth can a key have twelve sharps with only seven different notes in the scale? The answer is that some of the sharps are double sharps.
The notes in this scale would be as follows. B sharp, C double sharp, D double sharp, E sharp, F double sharp, G double sharp, A double sharp!
Not the easiest of keys to play in.
Enharmonically the same as C.

Let's try a different order around the clock face.
Let's say that at the six o’clock position, we will have an "interchange" with the flat keys. So, at the six o’clock position we find the key of "F sharp" the note that is halfway between C and its octave.
Let's interchange with the flat keys, and call this "G flat" as well.
Six sharps or six flats.
Now if we proceed round the clock "D flat" with five flats, "A flat", with four flats and so on we will arrive back at "C."

Let's see how we can look further into this chart.
It is sometimes referred to as the cycle of fifths, that is perfect 5ths ascending travelling clockwise, descending travelling anti-clockwise. Really we are looking at an integrated system that is complete, and therefore any direction can only be implied.

I much prefer to call this a Music Mandala. Your philosopher's stone.
Ask any question and it shall be revealed.

Imagine placing a mirror along the axis of "C" to "Fsharp". That is what is actually shown. Everything on one side of this line is reversed and inverted on the other side. "C" and "F sharp" being the two points of integration, "C" has no sharps or flats, "F sharp" or "G flat" have six.

Certain musical patterns can be represented on this mandala, and they can lead to useful insight. For example, by joining the points on the circle in the order of a chromatic scale what shape arrives? A beautiful twelve pointed star.
A whole tone scale produces the image of a hexagon.
Try diminished sevenths and augmented triads, major and minor scales.

Let the shapes speak to you.
Try intervals and their inversions, all will be revealed to you.
Get familiar with this Alice in the Looking Glass world that is the system of music graphically portrayed.
Above all realise that your familiarity of this system, with regards to your knowledge of keys, scales and chords, should become as complete and fluent as possible, for this is the raw material of your musical intellect, here is the syntax, the grammar for your musical creativity.
Take delight in the symmetry of it, and wonder at the mystery of how it all came to be.

Magnetic Semitones

Perhaps you will have already noticed a symmetry within the major scale.
The first four notes being identically constructed as the second four.
These are often referred to as the two tetrachords.
Each consists of two tones and one semitone, and are separated by the interval of a tone.

As in living beings the seed, as it were, for the next is contained within the first. We see travelling clockwise, that the second tetra chord of any scale is the building block for the next scale around the Mandala, and requires the sharpening of the seventh note in order for it to become stabilised as a new key in its own right. Why is this?

Without the sharpening of the seventh degree, the second half of this new scale would now have the semitone in a odd position, and would still sound to us like part of the "parent key." We would "Psycho-acoustically" not recognise any different key basis.
The new scale would simply sound like the “parent key” starting on the dominant.

This is because it is only the positioning of the semi-tones within a scale that give us the reference points with which we determine the key, or imply the tonic, even if it is not actually sounded. We learn, and remember, sub-consciously, that all scales, major and minor, end with a semitone leading up, and back home to the tonic.
This is a powerful reference point for our ears, and in conjunction with the other semitones that are presented to us during the course of a melody, we deduce a sense of key.

This accounts for the floating quality of whole tone music.
A chromatic scale or whole tone scale have no innate key structure (each step being identical) merely a starting note.

The magnetic quality I refer to can be demonstrated if we look at the two semitone movements in a dominant seventh to tonic cadence, or V7 - I.
The leading note will be attracted back to the tonic, and the sub-dominant will be attracted back to the mediant.

This phenomenon also accounts for the ubiquitous usage of a diminished seventh chord, sometimes referred to as the "Charring Cross" chord, for you can modulate to virtually
anywhere from it and modulate to it from virtually anywhere, because of the availability of possible semitone movements to other recognisable chords. In other words - you cannot move any of the individual notes contained in a diminished seventh chord by a semitone, in either direction, without creating another recognisable chord.

Developing a sensitivity towards hearing the magnetism of semitones will help immensely your sense of understanding and feeling for harmonic progressions as they lead you through a piece
of music.

The Rhythm Is Life

Music at the piano can be so wonderfully fulfilling. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the fact that at the piano, one performer, that is you my dear friend, can represent a very whole and complete balance of the triune nature of music.
The three separate aspects of music, Melody, Harmony and Rhythm. All equally necessary and always present even if only by implication, just as we are created from Spirit, Thought and Flesh.

We can align the three aspects of music with the three aspects of man.
Melody aligns with the heart, Harmony with the mind and Rhythm with the body.

When we sing our song it comes from the heart. The melody is always the point of focus. We can modify the experience of melody by different harmonic approaches, each adding their own "spin", or particular view, clothing the melody in different colours. Our bodies are inspired to dance by the compulsive rhythm of music, subconsciously we find a foot tapping or a finger drumming.

All three aspects, as well balanced as can possibly be, make both Man and Music whole.

Melody and harmony are out of reach for science, but rhythm not so. We will discover that perhaps there is such a thing as Rhythmic Law. I wish to expand on the earlier material on relaxation at this point. As you will know or at least remember well from your early days at the piano, our hands do have minds of their own.
They have tendencies built in to them as to how the fingers like to behave. We are trying to achieve a state in our equipment that allows the rhythmic flow of energy, our very LIFE ENERGY, in an unhindered way.
Relaxation from the shoulders to the finger tips can aid the flow of this energy, and with special regard to the movement of fingers, can help to defeat the impositions of the hand's own tendencies.
In other words, the messages from the brain not only find a clearer pathway to the fingers, but when they arrive, have less of a struggle asserting themselves in a relaxed hand.
Furthermore, relaxation can become a consistent state for you with practice, and your equipment will then be always familiar to you.
Your hands will feel different in tension and your playing style and the sound produced will be harder for you to master if you avoid the issue of trying to establish this consistency in relaxation. It is of prime importance.

Now to the matter of Rhythmic Law.
There are basically only two different forms of rhythm. Duple, and Triple.
Any time signature or grouping of notes will be in combinations of these patterns, and any further subdivision of beats will assume combinations of these two basic patterns.
We will find constant states of Macrocosm and Microcosm as we zoom in on a landscape.

A segment of a musical whole, such as a phrase or riff or section is the first Microcosm.
Treating these as our new Macrocosm we zoom in to find the bar as a Microcosm. Within a bar we have the beats, and within the beats we have subdivisions or groupings.

Within the bar is where we shall observe Rhythmic Law.
Duple time will always contain positive and negative. Think of it how you will, Yin and Yang, heavy and light, down and up, whichever way suits you or feels most appropriate in context, but it is there, and we should learn how to incorporate this Law into our Energy Flow so that we co-ordinate our movements and inflections with the requirements of the music.
Remember, we are desperately seeking contrast at the piano.
Contrast that must live at our fingertips and that will sketch out our landscape with precision.

Think Down-positive, Up-negative all the way, each allows the other life, they are co-dependent. The alternative is an arbitrary syncopation caused by an uncontrolled thumb or a uniform blandness of too much or too little tone.
Contrast is the keyword here that allows you to breathe rhythmic life into your playing and continuity, for one negative forms a void space that sucks into itself the next positive, which in turn must create in its shadow another negative.

See how it works within a bar.
In duple time the two halves of the bar are the main Positive Negative statement.
Within that, and within and within and within that, are other positive negative statements - the beats themselves and then the subdivisions of these beats.
Can you feel the flow through your fingers, think it, feel it.

Not as good watching your fingers, you'll only see what you've already done! Feel it flowing on the inside of you.
That is where the master is, on the inside, feel with him, feel him every note of the way.

Triple time is wedge shaped, with the positive end diminishing to the negative. Of course you can have triples in duples and duples in triples. The Law always applies.
Put it into your playing as you learn. Learn where to put the weight, learn where to put lightness. Remember that this is your Life Energy that is starting to flow in a co-ordinated way with the requirements of the music, because you are aware and in control at every moment, and you are causing this to happen.

You can combine and absorb this while learning the fingering and the notes. Best not to add it on later, you'll only have to unlearn from the way you did it initially. If you do it from the beginning
this way, it'll stay with the fingers, as part of your muscle memory.
Add to all of this the very real sensation of "Breathing" with your arms for each separate musical phrase, sing it with your heart.
If you are unable to sing it in your heart, more friendship with the piece is needed. Let it become your song that you are singing and put your full awareness into this as a performance state. It is impossible to perform without the "singing" ability, all that happens then is that keys are pressed and beats are counted.
Let's learn to perform.

Final Cadence

And so, my dear friend, thank you for taking the time to read these observations. I sincerely hope that they will add fuel to the burning desire you have to play well. I shall see you all someday, and hear all the wonderful, glorious music that you are playing. That day we will all know the Divine Truth, and we will be in the caring, loving company of the best piano teacher in the universe.

We can be with that teacher whenever we choose. All we have to do is take a breath and remember, and decide to stay because we love to.
We will discover a patience and a tolerance and good humour inside us that we once only dreamed of.
The beauty is that it is here to stay, if we wish it to be so.

I'll say goodbye, temporarily, wishing you the most exciting and enjoyable journey on the black and white way, and leave you with a few keywords.

BREATHE IN
BREATHE OUT
RELAX
BREATHE IN
BREATHE OUT
RELAX
LET GO
DEEPLY
LET GO
WILFULLY
YOUR TEACHER LOVES YOU
RELAX
LOVE YOUR TEACHER
GRAVITY
BALANCE
HARMONY
ENERGY FLOW
THE RHYTHM IS LIFE
FEEL THE FLOW
RHYTHMIC LAW
RELAX
BE AWARE
ENJOY
YOUR TEACHER LOVES YOU