Research Seminar: John Mackey

An Extended Application of the Pentatonic Scale


John Mackey PhD Candidate Edith Cowan University Perth, WA

An Extended Application of the Pentatonic Scale



My research is an ethnographic documentation of my unique improvisatory concept. I am proposing the introduction of a new modal concept. My hope is that this concept will become part of the mainstream pedagogical literature. The system is called the Major Penta - Talvian Concept, or MPTMC,  taking traditional scales and forming pentatonic scales off each note of any given scale, (Tonicization) without adhering to the parent home key.   The concept is graduated and contains a series of chromatically charged layers whilst executing the pentatonic scale.

This research focuses on the development of improvisatory vocabulary utilizing the pentatonic scale and tonicization, which creates a chromatic environment within the traditional framework of any given scale or mode.

Permutated combinations of four note groupings derived from the pentatonic scale create a multitude of melodic options. I seek to prove the effectiveness/usefulness/practicality of the MPTMC, through the composition of multiple notated examples and explanations of varied combinations of pentatonic scales and scale fragments, and their relationship to chord sequences.  

The following research questions may be addressed throughout the PhD journey.


  1. What mathematical and formulaic structure underpins the application of the Major Penta-Talvian Modal Concept?
  2. How does a soloist, superimposing scale-tone major pentatonic scales over a variety of chord sequences, create vocabulary using the MPTMC?
    1. How can the improviser regulate the percentage of dissonance and consonance during a solo, allowing for freedom in the way that the concept is shaped?
  3. How blended pentatonic lines are created utilizing the MPTMC?
    1. How does a soloist apply blended pentatonic scales over standard jazz compositions?
  4. How does an improviser apply blended pentatonic lines within original works composed in a pan-tonal style?
  5. As a practitioner, how does one learn and apply the MPTMC, and create new vocabulary for use in improvised solos?

Question 5 will be explored via the handout provided during this week's research seminar. 

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