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Introducing the Pentatonic Scale

In this lesson we will learn all about the Pentatonic scale. The Pentatonic scale is probably the most widely used scale in the world. It can be found in all kinds of music, particularly popular and folk music, from countries as far apart as China and Peru. (See our riff using the scale in the style of the Dixie Chicks)

C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B


The Pentatonic scale is formed of notes 1 2 3 5 and 6 of the major scale. Starting on C this produces C D E G A - a five note scale, hence the name penta-tonic.

If you know your scales that makes finding another pentatonic scale easy - it's just a major scale with two notes missing - notes 4 and 7!!

Understanding Tones and Semitones.

If you're a bit rusty on your major scales, no need to worry. To find other Pentatonic scales we just do the same as we did in our major scale tutorial - we count the tones and semitones.

Have a look at the keyboard again. If we count all the notes - black and white, we'll see there are 12 notes between one C and the next.

The distance from one of these 12 to its neighbour is known as a semitone. If you have a keyboard, try playing up the keyboard from one C to the next, playing all 12 notes.

Notice how some white notes have another note in between them (eg. from C to D there is a black note in between), whereas some don't (eg. from E to F). The gap from C to D consists of two semitones, and is known as a tone.

This pattern of tones and semitones is how the scale gets its particular colour. The major scale is formed out of the following mixture of tones and semitones :

    tone, tone, 3 semitones, tone, 3 semitones.

Finding other major scales.

To find any other major scale, you simply repeat the pattern of tones and semitones shown above, starting from the note in question.

For example, let's try D major:

First note

D

Tone higher:

E

Tone higher:

F#

Three Semitones higher:

A

Tone higher:

B

Three Semitones higher:

D



(Just in case you're not clear, F# indicates the black note immeditately above the F).












 


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