North American Indigenous (NAI)

Key of A:   A B C D E F# A

Below is the pattern for the NAI scale using whole and half steps. 

 Wwhole step,   h = half step,  m3 = 3 half steps ( or a whole step + a half step ).

 W    h    W    W   W    m3 

A ^ B ^ C ^ D ^ E ^ F# ^ A 

Half steps: half steps on a piano are the distance between any two adjacent keys, white or black.

Whole steps: a whole-step is two half-steps combined. A whole-step above a key on the piano is two keys to its right, while a whole-step below a key on the piano is two keys to its left.

What most of us today are familiar with as the North American Flute scale, is Minor Pentatonic. A five note scale that uses the 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 scale degrees of the Aeolian mode (natural minor). This is however not the original scale used by the North American Indigenous people. 

     This minor pentatonic scale was introduced and popularized in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s by Micheal Graham Allen, who created a Native American style flute but used the Japanese shakuhachi flute scale of the pentatonic minor. 

     The North American Indigenous (NAI) scale consists of six notes. It is interesting from a western theory perspective, because it gives the player more freedom of expression. The reason for this is because this scale contains a blues major pentatonic scale ( 1,2,4,5 and 6 scale degrees of the major scale) with the option of adding a minor third. This minor third when played can invoke the modalities of both a Dorian mode and an ascending Melodic Minor scale without their seventh scale degrees. This would make a great choice for those who want freedom of expression, but also a scale that was actually played by the indigenous people of the Great Plains.