• Explained: The Difference Between The Major And Minor Pentatonic Scales

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    If you’re interested in learning the difference between the major and minor pentatonic scales, then you arrived at the right page.

    The pentatonic scale is one of the most commonly used scales in popular music styles – smooth jazz, r & b, gospel, jazz, blues, and a wide variety of other styles -and it has two variants:

    • The major pentatonic scale
    • The minor pentatonic scale

    We’re dedicating this lesson to learning the difference between its major and minor variants, so that whenever you come across any pentatonic scale, you can determine whether it’s a major or minor pentatonic scale.

    “What Is A Pentatonic Scale?”

    Before we get into the definition of a pentatonic scale, it’s important for us to refresh our minds on what a scale is. Therefore, let’s take a short note on scales before we proceed.

    The Review On The Concept Of Scales

    A scale is a product of the regular succession of notes, played in ascending or descending order using a fixed intervallic formula.

    A scale can be formed when all the white notes on the piano are played in a regular succession from C:

    …to C:

    …and this forms the C natural major scale:

    …which can be played in an ascending or descending fashion.

    Following the same procedure of playing notes in a regular succession, leads to the formation of any scale in music. However, one of the most vital things to consider in the formation of a scale is the fixed intervallic formula – which is derived from the distance between successive notes.

    In the C natural major scale:

    …the first three notes are C, D, and E:

    The distance between the first and the second notes (which are C and D):

    …is a whole step:

    …and so is the distance between the second and third notes (which are D and E):

    Understanding the distance between the first three tones of the major scale creates an intervallic formula that can be applied in any key:

    1st tone to 2nd tone – whole step

    2nd tone to 3rd tone – whole step

    Applying the intervallic formula on E:

    …would produce the first three tones of the E major scale. A whole step above the first tone (which is E):

    ….takes us to the second tone (which is F#):

    …and a whole step above the second tone (which is F#):

    …takes us to the third tone (which is G#):

    Altogether, we have E, F#, and G#:

    …which are the first three tones of the E major scale:

    The Pentatonic Scale – Explained

    There are so many ways to classify scales and one of the ways is according to the number of notes per octave.

    Monotonic scales – one note per octave

    Ditonic scales – two notes per octave

    Tritonic scales – three notes per octave

    Tetratonic scales – four notes per octave

    Pentatonic scales – five notes per octave

    Hexatonic scales – six notes per octave

    Heptatonic scales – seven notes per octave

    Octatonic scales – eight notes per octave

    The pentatonic scale is a class of scale that has five tones per octave. The term pentatonic literally means five tones.

    The same way the major scale can be formed by a collection of all white notes on the keyboard, the pentatonic scale can be formed by playing all the white notes on the keyboard from Gb:

    …to Gb:

    …or from Eb:

    …to Eb:

    The Gb to Gb pentatonic scale:

    …is classified as a major scale – hence, the term major pentatonic scale, while the Eb to Eb pentatonic scale is called a minor pentatonic scale.

    “Simply Put…”

    There are two common pentatonic scale types:

    • Major pentatonic scales
    • Minor 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:

    “Here’s 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:

    Now that we’ve covered the pentatonic scale and its two main types ( the major pentatonic and the minor pentatonic scale), let’s go ahead and learn the characteristic difference between them.

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



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