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Understanding The Major Pentatonic Scale

For Just Five Notes, This Scale Has Huge Potential!

As you maneuver around the keyboard and learn more about its music, you may discover what seems like a never-ending world of scales. We can’t deny that piano lessons largely focus on scales, but unless you learn them, you really restrict your potential to play a wide variety of songs. One of the scales that you may run into is the major pentatonic scale. This particular scale is unique in that it’s comprised of only five notes instead of the traditional seven (we just remove the 4th and 7th note in the major scale) and they’re what distinguishes non-European music such as Gospel, Blues, Jazz and Folk music from classical music.

Click Here And Learn The Major Pentatonic Scale With Ease!

Becoming popular in American music only recently, the major pentatonic scale is prevalent in Scottish, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, and Buddhist music. The trick to recognizing and appreciating it is understanding its structure. This is because its very characteristic is universal or natural-sounding to almost everyone.

The Three Types Of Pentatonic Scales

There are three types of pentatonic scales, however this article will discuss the major pentatonic scale. The hemitonic scale employs half-notes and flats, while the other type — the minor pentatonic scale — focuses on the natural minor scale. The major pentatonic scale however, as you can probably guess, plays notes from any of the major scales (C, D, E, G, or A). Also known as the anhemitonic pentatonic scale, this pattern plays notes within a single octave.

A Pleasing Harmony That’s Extremely Easy To Play

When played, the notes of this scale are often whole steps apart (or minor thirds apart) which makes them extremely easy to play. If you’re a visual piano player, then you may appreciate the fact that the notes of this scale are played in pairs. That is, two differing notes of each pair sit on a single staff line. Once you hear the results, you can recognize a strong sense of Asian influence and each note creates a pleasing harmony.

It’s Ambiguity Is Necessary For Improvisation

What’s particularly interesting is that this is a scale that’s played across instruments – meaning that even rock guitarists play this scale as well — for one it’s creative opportunities. That’s why the scale is so popular in jazz. Its simplicity allows for steps and leaps that other scales don’t allow, but the octave that they’re played in contains it in a way that provides some structure.

This simple freedom is necessary for improvisation. The thirds and sevenths that are prevalent in traditional scales can be restrictive. And the lack of them gives the pentatonic scale the ambiguity it needs to suggest musical interpretation.

Click Here And Learn The Major Pentatonic Scale With Ease!

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • ralph brown jr January 26, 2010, 9:39 pm

    I’m looking for music scales from japan, and china related to the Buddhist
    fan-bei. Anything you have!


  • Erik Thiede January 27, 2010, 10:33 am

    Hi Ralph,

    The only thing I can think for you is maybe the pentatonic scale. There are only FIVE notes in the scale (instead of SEVEN).

    Major pentatonic = major scale MINUS the 4th and 7th
    Minor pentatonic = natural minor scale MINUS the 2nd and 6th.

    Play around with these scales…

  • Bob618 November 22, 2010, 10:20 pm

    I am teaching myself keyboard at home, its been about 2 years now ( slow).
    I have gotten to knowing the keyboard very well, being able to sight read both staffs pretty well. Knowing my chords in C Major, D Major, F Major, G Major and A Major. Now I am onto scales so I have done the major scales of all the notes, then figured out the pattern to getting the minor scales and I am working that pretty well too.
    Just recently I began to work with the Pentonic Major and Minor, so what should i be practicing how to make my scales our of the formulas then practice each scale or just figure them out once and practice all the scales from a sheet each day – what do you suggest?
    Where to I go from here… working the blues scale ? Or is there something else in there first
    I feel so confused right now like there is something else i should be doing or working on here … I guess that is why an instructor really helps ….any advice is appreciated….

  • Shailesh December 24, 2010, 11:32 am

    chinese scale means playing all sharp notes thats all….The black keys on a piano….thats chinese scale.

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