Brain Damage on Demand






Symmetry in Music

As you can see, one is a mirror image of the other. But which is the original?
The pattern remains the same, despite it's reversal...

What It's All About

When I first got interested in ambidexterity, I realized that my hands were not equals. On the piano, this was partly due to the fact that I practiced certain riffs with my right hand only. But when I learned these riffs with the left hand, I discovered the fingering was completely different. So, from the perspective of my muscle memory, I was learning a completely different riff. The hands still didn't have the same skill set.

This led me to the inevitable practice of scales in both directions. True to the mirrored-motions approach I have come to trust, I would play my scales the "right" way. And then I would play them the "wrong" way, the way it would be played on the opposite side of the mirror, if placed next to the keyboard.

When mirrored, there are two notes in every octave that remain the same: D, and G#/Ab. Which means you can mirror other notes using either of these as your pivot point. You don't, however, need a mirror. To find the "backward" key name, just pick your pivot point (D or G#/Ab), and count outward in both directions. At each key, note which pair of keys are equal distance from the center. Now switch the key names. A=>G; G=>A... A#=>Gb; F#=>Bb... et cetera .

Here is the normal keyboard, each key labeled.

Here is the keyboard mirrored, each key labeled.

Wait, wait, wait. That was a much more complicated explaination that it needed to be. Hmmm... Look at an octave from D to D (trust me on this one). Now name the notes -- in reverse order. Now play *that* note instead of the one you intended to. You'll notice that G#/Ab retains the same name when listed backwards. (Unless, your octave starts and ends on G#/Ab, in which case your center note will be D.)

Inversion of Sound

When you play things mirrored, there is an obvious result. Up is now down, and down in now up. In that respect a scale sounds different. But another thing happens. The mood of the scale or chord changes.

Let's take the first five notes of a C Major scale. When mirrored, you end up with the first five notes of a A minor scale, descending. A happy tune suddenly becomes sad. If you start with an A minor scale, you'll end up with a C Major. However, if you play the *whole* scale, you'll end up with a a Phrygian scale, coming from major, or a Mixolydian coming from a minor scale. You get something bizarre and interesting if you mirror a harmonic minor scale... ("harmonic major" perhaps?)

The same is true for chords. If you start with a C minor chord, you end up with an A Major chord. A major 7th chord ends up as a diminished chord with a natural 7th. Diminished and Augmented chords (having equal intervals between each note) have the same quality when mirrored.

Opposite key and mode

We've learned that if you mirror motions in the hand it not only changes direction, but it changes the mode of the intervals, and the whole mood. What you might not have noticed is that *everything* becomes the opposite of what it was. Flats become sharps and sharps become flats.

If you start with the key of G (one sharp), and you mirror it, you'll end up with a key with one flat. Which is F. If you look at the circle of fifths, you'll discover that mirroring something will make it go into the key across from it on the circle: C stays the same. F = G; Bb = D; Eb = A; Ab = E; Db = B; F#/Gb are identical.

We've also learned that the mode of the key changes. But what's the rule? Modes are also mirrored, around the same pivot points.

Play a mode in the key of C -- let's say Lydian, whose starting note (B) is 3 half-steps above G# (a pivot point). Now mirror it, and your starting note will be F (3 half-steps below G#), which begins the Lydian scale. All modes will rotate around D or G# just like notes will. Aeolian = Myxolydian, Lochrian = Lydian, Ionian = Phrygian, Dorian = Dorian -- no matter which key you are in.

Mirroring Songs

Assuming you've been following me this whole time, now comes the fun -- and frustrating -- part. Playing whole songs! Some songs reverse beautifully. You end up with something that is completely opposite in tone and mood. Two of my favorites are:

  • Solfeggietto (I actually learned to play the mirrored version of this by sight.)
  • Superman theme (A friend and I modified a MIDI player to play the "correct" notes of the mirrored keyboard. What we ended up with was Bizarro Superman's theme! It's dark and mysterious, and all backwards!!)

There are three ways to learn a song:

  • Convert the score to the proper notes (either by hand, or with a notation program that has the "invert" command).
  • If you already know how to play it normally, learn it by sight.
  • Cheat: buy a mirrored instrument (read below)

Mirrored Pianos

Lo and behold, someone actually made a Left-Handed Piano: a piano whose high notes are toward the left and whose low notes are toward the right! They also sell what's called a Mirror Keyboard module that will convert your midi-capable keyboard to a lefty!





These pages, tho lacking coherance, structure & spellcheck -- being the ramblings of the deranged --
are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced without prior permission from the author.
Copyright © 1998-2007, Simmon Keith Barney, All Right Reserved.
Cxi tiu pagxaro, kvankam sen senco, sen strukturo kaj sen literumkontrolado -- estante la babiloj de perturbulo --
estas kopirajtigita kaj ne povas esti kopiita sen permeso de la auxtoro.
Kopirajto © 1998-2007, Simmon Keith Barney, Cxiuj Rajtoj Rezervitaj.