Today I was introducing a student to the minor pentatonic scale. I was about to show the student the whole scale when I recalled the scene from Ray where an old piano player teaches the young Ray Charles to improvise using three notes. I remembered thinking, as I watched the movie, “Three is the perfect number to start with. Easy to remember, but varied enough to allow plenty of expression.”
I taught my student the three notes (the same three little Ray used), launched into a blues boogie-woogie rhythm, and two minutes later my student was telling me how fun and easy blues improvising was.
A year ago I introduced the minor pentatonic scale using the whole finger pattern–twelve notes–and students often stumbled and got frustrated before they caught on. Up until today, I would teach an octave–six notes–with good results. But after today, I’m convinced three notes is the perfect place to start.
I wonder if Ray would have stuck with the piano if his first lesson had been on reading music notation….