Sound Beginnings and the Do Pentatonic Scale

Sound Beginnings and The Pentatonic Scale

We are in the Silver Buttons semester of Sound Beginnings this spring.  Many parents are curious about the Do Pentatonic Scale and why we use it.  It seems strange to skip over a note, doesn’t it?  Why don’t we sing Fa? Why not leave out Mi or Re?  Well, there actually is a good reason why we are teaching the Do Pentatonic Scale this semester.  Keep reading and your questions will be answered.

The DO Pentatonic Scale is a five-note scale: DO, RE, MI, SOL, LA. “Pente” is Greek for “five” and “tonic” means “tone”. These notes are not consecutive and the half step is skipped over, putting a beautiful minor 3rd at the top of the scale. As we have been learning in Sound Beginnings, the minor 3rd is the first interval young children can hear and imitate correctly. Think of the Sol-Mi songs we sing in music class–these songs are all using the minor 3rd interval.

The Pentatonic Scale (Pentatony) The Pentatonic Scale (Pentatony)


Due to its simplicity, the pentatonic scale is the basic scale for folk songs. The folk song genre grew out of natural human expression using the voice. Since two sets of minor 3rds are inherent in the scale it has a natural and instinctive sound and is easy to sing and imitate.

Nowadays it is no longer necessary to explain why it is better to start teaching music to small children through pentatonic tunes: first, it is easier to sing in tune without having to use semitones (half-steps), second, the musical thinking and the ability to sound the notes can develop better using tunes which employ leaps rather than stepwise tunes based on the diatonic scale often used by teachers”


Kodaly – the creator of this scale – fully embraced its use when teaching young children. He taught that “it is easier to sing in tune without having to use half steps”. Kodaly continues that it is easier to ‘hear’ the notes and sing them in a melody that employs leaps rather than stepwise tunes. His philosophy further teaches that the beginnings of music education must be made in the pentatonic scale because it is the wellspring of all music.

Everything from ancient music of the Eastern world, to Gregorian chant, to 20th century composers like Debussy have at their core the pentatonic scale. In addition, the pentatonic scale carries with it an endearing, simple, lilting, carefree quality which characterizes childhood itself.

In music class this semester, we are singing the song, “Mary Wore Her Red Dress.” This song is comprised completely using the Do Pentatonic Scale.  And you thought we were just singing about clothes…

After we know all this of course we are going to use the Pentatonic Scale!

sound beginnings logo

Want to know more about Sound Beginnings? Come to The MAC for a free sample class! This FUN curriculum is specifically designed for children ages 2-4 years old and their parents. By providing a solid music and preschool foundation, Sound Beginnings prepares students for success in Let’s Play Music and Kindergarten! The curriculum is organized into four non-sequential semesters each lasting 4 months and provides experience with important music concepts and skills through songs and games. Classes include singing, movement, games, stories, and activities, focusing on different concepts each semester.

Sound Beginnings Instrument Day

Instrument Day! is always a favorite day in the Sound Beginnings class!

Sound Beginnings is a parent and child music class for young children–2-4 year olds.

sound beginnings logo


This semester’s class was named “White Horses”

white horses logo

and many of the games, songs, and activities centered around horses.  The final class each semester of Sound Beginnings is called Instrument Day.  This is a super fun day when students can bring their parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends to participate in class with them.

Sound Beginnings Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian Music and Art Center

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Each family bring instruments from home—some are professional string or brass instruments, some are children’s toys, and some are homemade.  Whatever the children bring, they are excited to share with the class.  We always make a rhythm instrument to take home and this year it was the jingle glove!

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian


Just find a child’s size glove and hot glue jingle bells on the fingertips for a super fun and easy instrument.  Of course the parents are the ones doing the gluing, but the children are the ones picking out the color of the glove and the jingles.

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

Instrument Day at The MAC Meridian

At The MAC we love to see the joy on the children’s faces as they explore music and share it with their families. Thanks MAC families!

Join us for the next round of classes beginning January 9! Register HERE

The Birth of The MAC

The MAC Meridian family

Micah and Tina have known each other ever since they met as 14 year-old high school freshman. They have always had a love of the arts and cultural activities.  One of their favorite dates has always been to go on an art walk to local galleries, then hit a food truck or small locally owned restaurant for a bite to eat.

When Micah and Tina began having children in 1992, they knew they wanted their children to have a strong art and music background-with an artist father and a musician mother that’s a pretty obvious path!  Raising their children in Mesa Arizona for the first few years, they found many options for music and art for their children’s education, and watched their four children grow and develop their own talents.

boy playing cello

When they made the move to Meridian Idaho in 2005, they saw those opportunities shrink exponentially as they searched diligently for quality and affordable art programs.  They wanted something more than a so-called “instructor” in a room with art supplies on a table and the children left to their own devices.  They also looked for something that was affordable and fun, yet still educational and skill-building.  After several years of searching, they gave up and nurtured their children’s artistic pursuits at home.

Meanwhile, Tina had found a great music program called “Let’s Play Music” and began to teach classes for young children out of their home.  Within 3 years, those music classes were maxed to capacity and it stayed that way for years.Let's Play Music at The MAC MeridianLet's Play Music at The MAC Meridian

As Tina explored the possibility of expansion of Let’s Play Music and the mommy and me music classes called Sound Beginnings into a new venue, adding art classes was an exciting addition.

student art painting

The MAC Grand Opening August 2015

Micah and Tina searched for months for the perfect space for the music classes and the new art classes. Two of their top requirements were that the location had to be in NW Meridian and it had to be family friendly. Finally they found the perfect spot! Located near 2 elementary schools, a daycare facility, and a pediatric dentist, The MAC is nestled right in the heart of where many young Meridian Idaho families live.

student art painting

The MAC Grand Opening August 2015

The MAC is truly a family-run and family-oriented facility.  You will see Tina teaching many of the music classes, Taylor (daughter) teaching many of the art classes, and you will see Sam (son) manning the front desk. The MAC has added a few new teachers in the last 18 months who feel like family!

Let’s Play Music and Sound Beginnings are growing by leaps and bounds at The MAC!  Art classes are gaining in popularity and enrollment!  If you haven’t been to The MAC yet, what are you waiting for?

Hey Music Thanks for the Therapy

One of my earliest memories is of lying on the floor next to the piano while my mother played from a big book of popular songs called, “Reader’s Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs” and my younger sister danced around the room. My sister would always say, “Mom-play the oo-oo-la-la song.” We knew what she meant, she wanted “Blue Moon.”

treasure of best loved songs

From my vantage point I could see the hammers striking the strings of our Kimball spinet piano and it was fascinating. Music was important to my parents.  So important, that the first piece of furniture they bought after getting married was that Kimball spinet.

baldwin piano

I come from a family of 9 children (no that is not a typo).  My mother’s greatest musical talent was a desire for her children to be musical and to instill a love of music in every one of us. My father has a beautiful singing voice and he can sing every song in the hymn book at church without looking at the music.  Not just every hymn, but every verse of every hymn and for each verse he will sing a different part-bass, tenor, alto, and soprano.  Yes, it does sound a little odd when he belts out those high notes, but every time I hear him I’m impressed with his ability to pull it off.

Growing up I played three instruments-the piano, the harp, and the French horn.  Two of those instruments I love and one I loathe.  I had to lug my French horn back and forth from school every day, and that was a heavy load for a petite girl who could have fit herself into the case.  Sooooo, my father built me a custom French horn trailer for my bike out of a luggage carrier and bungee cords. Since I don’t think an actual picture of this trailer exists, my totally talented artist husband sketched this out for me in just a couple of minutes.  This is me:

sketch of a girl on a bike

Forty years later I still have people commenting on me riding my bike to school with my French horn trailing behind. Apparently it’s legendary.

I spent my junior high and high school years as a band and orchestra geek and loved it.  To this day, every time I walk into a music store, school music room, or rehearsal hall and smell the valve oil, dried spittle, and bow rosin, it just calms my soul and I know I’m with my peeps.

In high school when I would come home after having a not so good day, I would sit at the piano and play Mendelssohn’s “Agitation” as fast and loud as my fingers would allow.  Always made me feel better and that was my go-to stress reliever, and inevitably left me with a sore left hand.

On those days when I felt I would burst from happiness, my go-to song was Debussy’s First Arabesque. This piece still makes me happy inside.

On days when I was feeling adventurous and excited I would play Fire Dance from the Petite Suite by David Watkins.

On days when I just wanted to fit in with other teenagers I would play Jessica’s Theme from the Man from Snowy River. (Because apparently every teenager that played the piano loved the drama of this piece and it was a necessity to know how to play it.  Common question in the 80s, “Do you know how to play “Jessica’s Theme” from the Man from Snowy River?”)

Eleven years ago my husband and I decided to move 1000 miles away from our home, our family, and our friends so we could start a new life.  It was rough and I was very sad and very lonely.  The Kimball spinet came with me and we spent countless hours together that first year because it was my best friend.  It was always there, it let me express myself without words, it soothed my troubled heart, and it made me remember what it felt like to be happy.

Even now, when my children see me stressed, sad, or anxious, they ask, “Have you played your harp or piano today?”  They just know.  Music is what feelings sound like.  Music is what gives sound to my thoughts and life to my soul.  I may not be the best pianist or harpist, but that doesn’t matter. What making music does for me is life-forming and life-changing.

Hey music thanks for the therapy picture

Sound Beginnings FAQ

How is the curriculum calendar structured?
The curriculum is organized into 6 non-sequential semesters. Each semester includes 15 sessions over a 4-month period.

How long and how frequent are the classes?
Classes are 30 minutes, taught weekly.

What is the cost of tuition?
Tuition is $140/semester ($35/month) for the first child age 0-4, or for more than one child from the same family, the family rate is $180/semester ($45/month)

What materials do I get?
Each semester includes a Home Study CD, a student manual, and a surprise percussion instrument.

What is the cost for materials?
The cost for materials is $35 each semester.

How big are the classes?
Classes typically have 5-8 families, with 7-10 children.

Why are they group lessons?
It has been well documented that children in group settings learn and perform better. They are more comfortable and stimulated in this environment. They thrive on the synergy and playful interaction of the Sound Beginnings class.

What is the parent involvement?
Parent involvement in music training is crucial. The parent/caregiver attends with the child every week and reviews class activities at home.

Is there any vocal training?
Sound Beginnings adheres to the philosophy that the voice is the first musical instrument. Most of class time is spent singing. The voice is trained to sing in tune, to sing naturally and openly, to sing in harmony, and to sing accompanied. At ages 2-4, specific tone, placement or support instruction is not completely beneficial. Sound Beginnings is not a performing group.

Can I register for the 2nd or 3rd semester without having been through the 1st semester?
Yes. Sound Beginnings is non-sequential, meaning that students can begin and end with any semester. There are no pre-requisites.

How is Sound Beginnings different from other music classes?
Sound Beginnings is full of songs, games and activities that expose children to important musical and preschool concepts and skills. It incorporates the philosophies of Kodaly, Orff and Dalcroze, adapted specifically for children ages 0-4. Classical music is introduced with “movement” that will forever endear children to this genre. There are numerous innovative, creative ideas for internalizing music, and ear training is emphasized from the start. Sound Beginnings is an excellent precursor to Let’s Play Music and Kindergarten.

Why should I enroll my child in Sound Beginnings?
Your child will LOVE it! You will love it because you will see him/her develop and demonstrate both musical and preschool skills. Your relationship with your child will grow as you enjoy class time and practice time together, in a playful, nurturing environment. Your outlook on playing with your child in a musical way will never be the same!