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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

In 2006 I experienced the good fortune of  attending a workshop conducted by legendary American Jazz luminary Barry Harris. His opening remarks to us have never left my mind to this day since (to me at least)  he seemed to describe the entire steelpan instrument family. I have always found this observation quite helpful as an introduction to music theory on pan.


He began like this as far as I can remember…”In the beginning, God created the universe and in it he placed twelve tones C, C#,D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A# and B. After listening to them for a while he thought they sounded colourful so he called the group of notes the Chromatic (colourful) scale…He mulled over his creation for  a while then decided…You know what?..I think I’d better make two families out of you twelve tones. So he divided them into the Whole Tone families of C, D, E, F# G#, A# and C# D#, F, G, A and B….He then said …here’s what?... I’ll further subdivide these two families into two more sub-families and thus were born the Diminished family of C, Eb, F#, A…D, F, G# B, and E, G, Bb, C# and the Augmented family of C, E, G#...D, F#, Bb…E, G#, C and F, A, C#...Aha…let’s now make music…”


What struck me at once was that Barry, knowingly or not had described the note layout of the Chromatic Tenor pan, the Whole Double Second Pan, the Diminished Treble Guitar pans  and the Augmented Quads and Four-Cello.


So thus according to Barry Harris the Chromatic scale begat all music. These tones  which we will henceforth refer to as notes are separated by semi-tones which is the smallest distance between each note of the Chromatic Scale. So it follows that from C to C# is one semitone, from C# to D is another semitone, from D to D# another semitone and so on till get eventually get back to C.


For this first offering I have included a video I came across by Pebber Brown. Follow him as he discuses Major Scales, the Circle of 5ths/4ths, Key Signatures and Major and Minor Keys….do enjoy…


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YEAH again MASAI; I'm a bit tied up with a "Dossier" that I have to send to the "Queen's Council", about the Brian Copeland Infringment a violation, of OUR 4ths & 5ths spider web BIG TENOR PAN, he Brian Copeland called his Genesis first of it's kind G-pan, where we won our case via a Default Judgment, as they fail to file a defense as required by the High Court, a due process rule of Law, which entitled US to file for Judgment for the whole amount claimed, and WE DID, which they TRIED to DISMISS, where U cannot dismiss a claim while it's in due process, I don't know what they dismiss, but we need to get PAID...

Doe, a deer, a female deer

Ray, a drop of golden sun

Me, a name I call myself

Far, along long way to run…


Remember that song from the possibly most viewed movie of all time? Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La Ti, Do or Solfege (we say sol-fa) is our next topic. Solfege goes a long long way towards memorizing scales. It’s fun and worth the bother to learn it. Even the Mighty Terror knew and promoted it’s importance for panists when coming to learning music.

Do, Ray Me Fa So…La Ti Do

Band playin’ music

Every where you go….


Attached are a few charts and a video on the subject…I have included two extended Chromatic charts. Don’t let them stress you too much…just try to have fun with Solfege…



Excellent!! Sharing information is always a good thing.

Happy to do so too…we pan people don't do enough of it….

Not only pan people...lol

Hi again people. In this post I want to introduce the minor tonality and also have a little more fun with solfege. When I was first introduced to minors many years ago I unstood simply that to form a minor chord you just “flatten” the third of a major chord. Yeah man, simple enough. The thing is back then nobody told me all minors weren’t created equally. Ah mean to say, take the major scale (modes) which upon examination you will observe contains three different minor scales. You have the Dorian mode which is formed by the intervals T-S-T-T-T-S-T: to give you DEFGABCD. The Phrygian mode formed by S-T-T-T-S-T-T: which results in EFGABCDE. The Aeolian, formed via T-S-T-T-S-T-T, resulting in ABCDEFGA. So therin lay the problem which was further compounded when I learnt that there also exsisted a Harmonic minor and a Melodic minor scale. Six in all? …”look trouble now”…


Well in reality we only have to worry about three minor scales starting with the Natural minor which is the scale formed on the sixth degree of a major scale. Also knows as the Aeolian mode, in the scale of C major this scale comprises the notes ABCDEFGA. The other two must-know minor scales are the Harmonic minor formed from the notes of the Aeolian mode but raising the seventh note by a semitone. Thus: ABCDEFG#A or T-S-T-T-S-T-S. And the Melodic minor, formed also from the Natural minor but raising both the sixth and seventh tones by a semitone to give you ABCDEF#G#A or T-S-T-T-T-T-S. The Melodic Minor, unlike the Natural and Harmonic forms is written differently when descending, where it then returns back to the Natural minor rule. Thus the descending Melodic minor is written as: AGFEDCBA.


So let’s practice some solfege…


The Major scale: doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do


The Natural Minor scale: do, re, me (pron. “may”), fa, so, le (pron. “lay”), te (pron. “tay”) do.


The Harmonic Minor scale: do, re me, fa, so, le, ti, do


The Melodic minor scale: (Ascending) do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do.  (Descending) do, te, le, so, fa, me, re, do.


Attached are two charts depicting the A Natural, Harmonic and Melodic minor scales as well as a slightly advanced video on the four minor scales by Julian Bradley.



Hi again people in continuing the discussion I'm adding two more informative videos. Please feel free to comment or add to the discussion. I would love to hear people's experiences with Music Theory, especially the self-taught ones like me.  Over the years I have been to several music workshops. At each one I picked up a little something. Workshops, old talk and keen observation over the years have taught me most of what I know. So let's talk Music...Someone is bound to learn something...

The following videos both discuss Intervals…We'll chat more about it next time around...



Excellent work in this post, merrytones , even though I'm clueless on the topic :).

One of the values of this forum is education.

I see you even got a contribution from my friend Errol Phillips.

The man is an extremely knowledgeable, versatile and talented panist and musician, but he's a bit reserved.

He can contribute a lot to this forum on issues pertaining to the art form , and I do hope that he returns.

Yeah Glenroy…I'm trying to coax Errol to continue…I recognize that he could be a valuable asset to this venture…it's all about sharing what we know with our peers in a non-judgmental manner…I really don't care about who knows more than who…I'm still learning anyway so people who know more than me are quite welcome to contribute...

merrytonetothebone, CH, ( et al /and others ) JJJ here, was preoccupied with some legal issue, with a United States D.A. in Ref of an "Indictment", but I'm back on track now...

OK merrytonetothebone; here goes, your 1st Arabian Mode/Scale, play it just like is here; C F G G# G F C F pause for 1, then C E F G G# G F E C# E C# E C# C ~~~~ work with it for a while, if U need any further info on it, feel free and I'll walk U through ...

I checked out this scale JJJ…interesting too…it closely resembles the Double Harmonic Major (C C# E F G G# B C) the only difference is that you're not using the "B"…if you use a "Bb" it becomes the Phrygian Dominant a really beautiful option over a Dominant 7th chord...


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