The reason for my question is that I'm developing a simpler way, using one's fingers instead of the music staff to introduce basic theory to non-musicians.

It's called "THE Music Theory" - "THE" stands for "Two Handed Easier".

In THE course I define major & minor as the respective interval groupings of "WWHW" and "WHWW" as they are the only two patterns that concatenate to form diatonic scales - a P5 specifying the 'second tonic' of 'so', the first being 'do'.

Using this method one can quickly determine and see the interplay of scales, notes and chords - and even more quickly if you play guitar.

For example, If you ask me ‘What keys have a C-minor chord’ well it has to be B-flat, E-flat and A-flat, and!, I can tell you that in those keys the C-minor chord is the 2nd, 6th and 3rd chords respectively - and that chord progression knowledge is the cornerstone for writing songs, solos, whatever … it’s core-harmony.

The shortcoming of the tetrachord method - sandwiching a "W" - gives you the seven notes of a scale but it doesn't create the helix pattern of the circle of fifths.

So I'm wondering if there already is a formal term for these two specific interval patters onto themselves ... not just as a portion of a mode.

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    Possible duplicate of What are the greek modes, and how do they differ from modern modes? – user48353 May 8 '18 at 3:06
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    Please check the suggested duplicate to see whether it answers your question. You are asking about fifths, but instead the historical procedure was to consider tetrachords. – user48353 May 8 '18 at 3:09
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    I realize the link isn't a direct answer, but I think it's as close as you'll get. I was pointing out that traditional theory builds up from tetrachords (e.g. C D E F) rather than five as expressed in your question (e.g. C D E F G), so for example a major scale is composed of two halves of WWH and WWH. Good luck with your project! – user48353 May 8 '18 at 3:59
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    What are you asking? A perfect fifth is a 2:3 ratio. What interval stack creates it is irrelevant. – Carl Witthoft May 8 '18 at 12:59
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    Why not call it "pentachord"? Seems appropriate. – Hatebit May 17 '18 at 7:35

The comment above suggesting to call them pentachords seems to be correct to me. Specifically, the major (or Ionian) and minor (or Aeolian) pentachords. There's a wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentachord) but it's pretty bare -- I think tetrachord is by far the more common term, for historical reasons.

Pianists also have major and minor "five finger patterns," but I am pretty sure that terminology is specific to keyboard players.

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  • Wow... didn't know that. Thank you! But why do you call WHWW Aeolian instead of Dorian? I see that starting on the 6th would give WWHW but it's notes #6-10 vs. #2-6. – Randy Zeitman Oct 25 '18 at 1:51
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    I chose Aeolian because I suspect it is more familiar to most people (because it's analogous to natural minor). You're correct that the Dorian pentachord would be the same. The difference between Dorian and Aeolian is scale degree 6, and these pentachords are only the first 5 notes. – Shane Evans Oct 25 '18 at 15:59

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