• Who Else Wants To Learn About Pentatonic Scales?

    in Beginners,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning about pentatonic scales, this lesson is for you.

    Pentatonic scales are regular scales that you can hear in everyday average songs. These songs include: TV commercials, hymns and spirituals, folk music, classical music and so on.

    Pentatonic scales mean a whole lot to aspiring jazz and gospel pianists because they fit into various improvisational situations both in traditional and contemporary styles. For this reason, we’re dedicating this post to exploring pentatonic scales.

    Attention: If you’re just coming across the term pentatonic scale for the first time, I’m starting this lesson with the definition of the pentatonic scale because of you.

    Pentatonic Scales – Defined

    There are two words that make up the term pentatonic scale, and they are pentatonic and scale. Before we proceed, let’s break down these two words.

    Here’s a breakdown on the term pentatonic:

    The term pentatonic can be divided into penta and tonic. Penta is a Greek word that means five, while tonic has to do with tones. If you put both terms together, you’ll literally have ‘five-tones’.

    …and a definition of the term scale:

    The term scale according to Jermaine Griggs “…is a regular succession of notes in ascending or descending order [based on a fixed intervallic formula.]

    Putting it together, the pentatonic scale can be defined as a regular succession of five notes in ascending and descending order [based on a fixed intervallic formula.]

    Now that we’re done with the definition of pentatonic scales, let’s explore various pentatonic scale types in the next segment.

    Pentatonic Scales Explored

    Although there are various pentatonic scales in music, we’ll be exploring four known types in this lesson. However, there is something I need to show you just before we begin to explore these pentatonic scales.

    “Pay Attention To This…”

    There are 12 notes in music:

    …seven of them are white:

    …while five of them are black:

    Playing the five black notes on the piano in a regular succession in ascending and descending order produces pentatonic scales.

    “Check Them Out…”

    Db to Bb:

    Eb to Db:

    Gb to Eb:

    Ab to Gb:

    Bb to Ab:

    Although all the five tone scales above are pentatonic, we’ll be exploring two main pentatonic types:

    • The major pentatonic scale
    • The minor pentatonic scale

    …and their “bluesy” variants:

    • The major pentatonic blues scale
    • The minor pentatonic blues scale

    The Major Pentatonic Scale

    Playing all the black notes on the piano from Gb to Gb:

    …produces the major pentatonic scale.

    There are no half steps in the major pentatonic scale. From Gb to Ab:

    …is a whole step, from Ab to Bb:

    …is a whole step, from Bb to Db:

    …encompasses three half-steps (aka – “sesquitone“), from Db to Eb:

    …is a whole step, and from Eb to Gb:

    …is a sesquitone.

    In a nutshell, the major pentatonic scale can be considered as a natural major scale without its fourth and seventh tones. Playing the C natural major scale:

    …without its fourth and seventh tones (which are F and B):

    …produces the C major pentatonic scale:

    “Check Out The Major Pentatonic Scale In All Twelve Keys…”

    C major pentatonic scale:

    Db major pentatonic scale:

    D major pentatonic scale:

    Eb major pentatonic scale:

    E major pentatonic scale:

    F major pentatonic scale:

    Gb major pentatonic scale:

    G major pentatonic scale:

    Ab major pentatonic scale:

    A major pentatonic scale:

    Bb major pentatonic scale:

    B major pentatonic scale:

    The Minor Pentatonic Scale

    Playing all the black notes on the piano from Eb to Eb:

    …produces the minor pentatonic scale.

    This scale is known as the minor pentatonic scale because it consists of all the notes of the Eb natural minor scale:

    …save the second and sixth tones (which are F and Cb):

    “Check Out The Minor Pentatonic Scale In All Twelve Keys…”

    C minor pentatonic scale:

    C# minor pentatonic scale:

    D minor pentatonic scale:

    Eb minor pentatonic scale:

    E minor pentatonic scale:

    F minor pentatonic scale:

    F# minor pentatonic scale:

    G minor pentatonic scale:

    G# minor pentatonic scale:

    A minor pentatonic scale:

    Bb minor pentatonic scale:

    B minor pentatonic scale:

    The Major Pentatonic Blues Scale

    C major pentatonic blues scale:

    Db major pentatonic blues scale:

    D major pentatonic blues scale:

    Eb major pentatonic blues scale:

    E major pentatonic blues scale:

    F major pentatonic blues scale:

    F# major pentatonic blues scale:

    G major pentatonic blues scale:

    Ab major pentatonic blues scale:

    A major pentatonic blues scale:

    Bb major pentatonic blues scale:

    B major pentatonic blues scale:

    The Minor Pentatonic Blues Scale

    C minor pentatonic blues scale:

    C# minor pentatonic blues scale:

    D minor pentatonic blues scale:

    Eb minor pentatonic blues scale:

    E minor pentatonic blues scale:

    F minor pentatonic blues scale:

    F# minor pentatonic blues scale:

    G minor pentatonic blues scale:

    G# minor pentatonic blues scale:

    A minor pentatonic blues scale:

    Bb minor pentatonic blues scale:

    B minor pentatonic blues scale:

    Why Every Musician Should Master Pentatonic Scales

    Pentatonic scales are important for a variety of reasons, and in this segment, I’ll be giving you three reasons why it’s important for every musician to learn and master pentatonic scales.

    #1 – There’s No Avoid Note In The Pentatonic Scale

    In a previous lesson, we learned that the fourth tone of the major scale is an avoid note and I also explained how you can avoid the avoid note. The pentatonic scale does not have the avoid note.

    In the key of C major:

    …the avoid note is F:

    …an there’s no F in the C major pentatonic scale:

    Heck, the pentatonic scale doesn’t have the fourth and the seventh tones of the natural major scale, and that’s why the major pentatonic scale can be formed by casting out the devil in music.

    #2 – They Are Easier To Sing/Play

    Pentatonic scales are comparatively easier to sing than the traditional scales, and that’s why it is usually used to introduce children to music.

    In terms of note aggregate, the pentatonic scale has just five notes, versus the seven in traditional scales.

    #3 – They Are Flexible

    Pentatonic scales are easy to apply and can be applied in diverse ways, especially in jazz improvisation. Over the C minor seventh chord:

    …the following major pentatonic scales can be applied…

    The Bb major pentatonic scale:

    The Eb major pentatonic scale:

    The F major pentatonic scale:

    …and that’s three pentatonic scales over one chord.

    In jazz improvisation, it’s possible to use a particular pentatonic scale to improvise over several chord changes. For example, the C major pentatonic scale:

    …can be used to improvise over this 3-6-2-5-1 chord progression…

    Chord 3:

    …the Edom7 [#9#5] chord.

    Chord 6:

    …the Amin9 chord.

    Chord 2:

    …the Ddom9 [add13]¬† chord.

    Chord 5:

    …the G13sus4 chord.

    Chord 1:

    …the Cmaj9 chord.

    That’s how flexible pentatonic scales can be.

    Final Words

    Learning the much we have about pentatonic scales leaves you with the responsibility of exploring and mastering how they are played in all twelve keys.

    I’ll see you in another post where we’ll be talking about the fingering of these pentatonic scales in all twelve keys.

    Until then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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