Oftentimes in our rush to become ukulele players overnight, there is a tendency to skip over the most fundamental musical lessons. The thinking goes something like this. “Why should I waste my time learning Frere Jacques
and Mary Had A Little Lamb
? I’m going to start learning all the solos from Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain
I have learned that many of the building blocks of the more complicated music can be found in simple nursery rhymes. Hence, my discovery of The Brother John Conspiracy.
We only have 12 notes to work with in western music, so it stands to reason some of these tones are going to get used more than others. In nursery rhymes, for instance, most of the time we are only using the notes of the Major Scale (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do). This is the starting point of musical study. Practice the major scale up and down singing the solfege syllables (the do-re-mi) until you can do it in your sleep. Once you embed those tones in your consciousness, the magic begins. It was at this point in my practice when I uncovered the conspiracy.
When I played and sang the first three notes of the scale, do-re-mi, I would only hear the melody to Frere Jacques (also known as Brother John). Then I began hearing other things. Do-re-mi was also the first three melody notes to Doe A Deer, Que Sera Sera, Tennessee Waltz, This Land Is Your Land, Sweet Georgia Brown, Addams Family Theme, Groovy Kind of Love, and thousands, if not millions of other songs. It had to be a conspiracy! How can it be that by simply learning the first three notes to Brother John I had also learned the first three notes to millions of other songs. I just had to listen for them to come out in my practice!
I also have it on good authority that Miles Davis used the do-re-mi sequence on a number of occasions.
The Brother John
Play the first three notes of the C Major Scale.
Sing the solfege syllables while playing (do-re-mi).
Listen for familiar songs to pop into your mind.
Slightly alter the rhythm (think Sweet Georgia Brown).
Try this exercise in all twelve keys.
Keep a list of the songs you find.
Send me the list.