Major Scales, Natural Minor Scales, Harmonic Minor Scales,

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Major scales, natural minor scales, harmonic minor scales,melodic minor scales, chromatic scales, diminished scales,Lydian augmented scales Scales, scales, scales! Just howmany scales do we really need to know?What if there was one scale to rule them all?Well, there is one scale that - while it may not rule them all - is by farthe most useful.Hint: it’s not the major scale!This is a scale that’s been around a long, long, time - maybe even thefirst scale ever grunted out by proto-humans back in the day. Thisscale, found in virtually every culture in the world, is the pentatonic ,or five-note scale. And despite its ancient origins, the pentatonic scaleis as fresh and new and useful today as it has ever been.This part of the Start Solfa series1, will explore the pentatonic scaleand its countless uses. By the end of this tutorial, you’llunderstand how to build the pentatonic scale in any key, andlayer it over chords and other training/solfa/1 Copyright Musical U,

TABLE OF CONTENTSSolfa and the Pentatonic Scale3What is a Pentatonic Scale?So why does the pentatonic scale sound good?34Pentatonic vs. Major5Where does the pentatonic scale come from?Who Uses Pentatonic Scales Now?The Pentatonic Scale in Modern Rock Music778What Can You Do With the Pentatonic Scale?1. Versatility in improvisation2. Easy To Play3. Play over modes8899Singing the Pentatonic Scale9Playing the Pentatonic ScaleThe Pentatonic Scale on PianoThe Pentatonic Scale and the CAGED System for Guitar101011Hearing Pentatonic Scales12Beyond the Major PentatonicMinor Pentatonic ScalesPermutated Pentatonic Scales131314Pentatonic Scale Cheat SheetMajor Pentatonic ScalesMinor Pentatonic Scales151516Five Notes to Rule Them All172 Copyright Musical U,

Solfa and the Pentatonic ScaleIn previous parts of the Start Solfa series so far, we’ve covered thebasics of finding “ do ” and applying solfege syllables in a given key, aswell as singing and hearing intervals. Now, we will look at thepentatonic scale, and see how this particular set of intervalscan help us recognize even more patterns in simple melodies.Solfa syllables2 will be your best friend in remembering and being ableto recall the distinct intervals used in the pentatonic scale.What is a Pentatonic Scale?By definition, a pentatonic scale contains five pitches per octave. Apentatonic scale can be formed in any major or minor key, but for thepurposes of this article, we will focus on major pentatonic scales ,which contain the five most commonly used pitches in simple songsand folk melodies. To derive the major pentatonic scale from the majorscale, simply remove the 4th and 7th degrees, which leaves you withfive notes per octave.A major pentatonic scale consists of a series of intervals starting fromdo: Do-ReDo-MiDo-SoDo-LaDo-DoTherefore, the pentatonic scale degrees are 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 . If wesing a major pentatonic scale, it will sound like e-mi-isnt-childs-play/3 Copyright Musical U,

Major Pentatonic - Listen Online3The scale has a very distinct, pleasant sound that works great layeredover many chords and other scales. As stated above, it contains themost commonly used pitches in many popular songs. Its lack ofhalf-steps contribute to its distinct sound, as compared to amajor or minor scale.There are countless songs that use the pentatonic scale exclusively;with a quick Google search, you can find a vast number of tunes usingthe pentatonic scale. Check out a list of songs at Beth’s Music Notes4.And if you need more persuasion that this scale has a specialsignificance, just watch this fun video demonstration of the pentatonicscale by Bobby McFerrin:Bobby Ferrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale5So why does the pentatonic scale sound good?Let’s look into precisely what makes this scale so universallypleasant-sounding and easy to layer over chords and other scales.In a major scale, the fourth and seventh degrees form a tritone . Thisinterval introduces tension and suspense to the s:// ne6tB2KiZuk4 Copyright Musical U,

Now, let’s look at the notes involved in the pentatonic scale; the fourthand seventh degrees are missing! The tritone is therefore absent fromthe pentatonic scale, and the tension and suspense disappearsfrom the scale :Here’s another way of looking at it: the major seventh and to someextent the perfect fourth intervals are considered to be dissonant in amajor scale. Look at the intervals in a pentatonic scale, and going upfrom the root note you’ll find a major second, major third, perfect fifth,and major sixth.Both the perfect fourth and the major seventh are omitted in thepentatonic scale, leaving only consonant intervals!Pentatonic vs. MajorBy comparison, the major scale - the scale that we first learn andwhich “seems” to be the basis of everything - only became popular inthe beginning of the 1600s. Let’s have a look at how the major scalecompares to the pentatonic.5 Copyright Musical U,

Each major scale step can be numbered by degrees:For the major pentatonic, remove the fourth and seventh degrees:6 Copyright Musical U,

One of the best ways we can understand this musical powerhouse isthrough another old system (although not quite so much - it dates tothe Middle Ages) - the solfa syllables (aka solfege6):Omit “ fa ” and “ ti ” and you transform the major scale into a pentatonic.Add them back in to a pentatonic and you’re back to the major.Where does the pentatonic scale come from?Though it’s commonly used in modern music, the pentatonic scale is asenior citizen in the world of music; musical instruments believed to be50,000 years old7 were found to be tuned to the pentatonic scale!Another reason the pentatonic scale is thought to be an earlydevelopment in Western music is the ubiquity of it throughout variousepochs in music. Early Gregorian chants contained pentatonicmelodies, and pentatonic scales in various forms are found intraditional Native American, African, and South Asian music.Who Uses Pentatonic Scales Now?The musical concepts of this traditional and folk music formed thebasis of genres such as jazz, gospel, and bluegrass, as well as the-pentatonic-scales-24565697 Copyright Musical U,

folk music. As these styles evolved into modern blues8 and rock, thepentatonic scale remained as an integral part of those genres.Today, it’s as ubiquitous as ever, and for good reason; thepentatonic scale offers a fantastic improvisational frameworkfor blues, rock, and beyond ! In modern jazz, you’ll often hearamazing pentatonic solos whipped out by pianists, flautists andsaxophonists9.The Pentatonic Scale in Modern Rock MusicThe popularity of the pentatonic scale in rock and blues is justified,considering how great it sounds with almost everything: dominantseventh chords, minor or major scales, church modes, and more.Soloing with the pentatonic scale over chord progressions is verycommon in rock, and is an excellent exercise for beginner musicians tostart improvising rock solos quickly.What Can You Do With the Pentatonic Scale?A quick refresher: the major pentatonic scale contains five notesinstead of the usual seven per octave, with the 4th and 7th degrees ofthe major scale removed.So, you may ask, if it’s just a “condensed” major scale, why usethe pentatonic scale at all?Turns out, the subtraction of these degrees is exactly what gives thepentatonic its power. Here are just some of the reasons you will wantto use it:1. Versatility in improvisationYou can play the pentatonic scale over a major chord progression - butalso a minor chord progression, or a classic 12-bar blues progression.Because its notes are all consonant, it sounds good over c/ Copyright Musical U,

everything; try playing the pentatonic scale over a backing track10, andyou’ll see what we mean!2. Easy To PlayMemorize certain patterns on your fretboard and keyboard, and youcan easily transpose them into any key; see our pentatonic scale tabsbelow.3. Play over modesThe church modes are either major or minor. The major modes areIonian, Lydian, and Mixolydian, and all contain scale degrees 1,2, 3, 5, and 6. In other words, the major modes all contain a majorpentatonic scale, making it a perfect scale choice for writing orimprovising in these modes, or playing over a modal backing track.Singing the Pentatonic ScaleTo really internalise the sound of the pentatonic scale you’ll want topractice singing it. Don’t worry if you’re not “a singer”! Start with ourguide to how to sing in tune11.The solfa syllables for the pentatonic scale are Do-Re-Mi-So-La-Do.Sing along with the clip below:Pentatonic Scale - Solfa - Listen Online12Now we will sing up and down the scale, singing Do-Re-Mi-So-La-Do,Do-La-So-Mi-Re-Do.Pentatonic Scale - Solfa, Ascending and Descending - Listen Online1310111213 10/Pentatonic-up-and-down.mp39 Copyright Musical U,

Now try singing the scale without the audio clip. Can you produce thecorrect pitches without singing along with someone else? It’s harderthan it sounds.A good method for practice is to record yourself and play it back. Atool like Voice Memo on iPhone or Audacity is helpful for this, see ourAudacity article for step-by-step instructions. Sometimes your brainwill trick you into thinking you’ve sung something correctly,but recordings never lie. Compare your recording with the audio clipabove, and see if you can match it yourself.Playing the Pentatonic ScaleThe beauty of this scale is how easy it is to play it, once you know thegeneral pattern. Because it’s so ubiquitous and useful in blues androck soloing, let’s explore the pentatonic scale shapes as they appearon the keyboard and the fretboard.The Pentatonic Scale on PianoTry this: start on F , and play a scale on black keys only, ascending.What does it remind you of?We’re guessing you can hear a distinct Oriental feel in the scaleyou just played, reminiscent of traditional Asian music.You have actually just played a major pentatonic scale! The F majorpentatonic scale, to be precise. The pentatonic scale is often found insynth lines or keyboard parts in modern music; electronic artistGrimes’ song “Genesis” is played in F major, and in fact uses theascending F major pentatonic scale as embellishment on thesynthesizer, starting at [0:12]:Genesis - Grimes1414 WizNXQGBMEk10 Copyright Musical U,

The pentatonic scale is very commonplace in piano music in general.Seasoned piano players: you may have already realized that you canalso play “Amazing Grace” by only using the black keys on the piano,as this song is also built on a pentatonic scale! “Swing Low, SweetChariot” is yet another song you can play with just these five notes.Give it a try!To play the pentatonic scale in any key simply requires you tomemorize and apply the scale degree sequence of pentatonicscales.Remember: the scale degrees used are 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6; this neverchanges, regardless of key! If you have a known chord progression,you can use chord mapping15 to determine which key you can play apentatonic scale in to effortlessly solo over the progression, regardlessof key changes.The Pentatonic Scale and the CAGED System for GuitarThere are five common patterns for the major pentatonic scale on thefretboard. Known as the CAGED box forms, each pattern is named forone of the five open major chord shapes: C, A, G, E, or D.Take a look at the five ways to play a major pentatonic scale,and see if you can spot the open chord that each is -piano-lessons/jazz-improvisation/chord-mapping/11 Copyright Musical U,

These patterns are the key to unlocking the power of the pentatonicscale on your guitar. Once you have the patterns down, you cansimply move them up or down the fretboard to transpose the scaleinto a different key. To practice pentatonic scales most effectively, trymixing up the pattern and key you are playing in!Hearing Pentatonic ScalesOne advantage of pentatonic scales is that there are only five differentpitches (or six if you’re counting the octave above the tonic). Whentrying to recognise the scale16 in a piece of music, you will findyou can identify this scale just on the number of pitches, sinceother types of scales have more notes. However, it is worth usinga tool like this one from Teoria.com17, because if you can pick out thepentatonic scales from major scales, you will have a great advantagefurther down the line. To use the exercise, be sure you tick the boxnext to “Pentatonic Scales”, along with “Major minor”. If you erence/o-p/penta.php12 Copyright Musical U,

know major and minor scales, you can try to identify these as well.Challenge yourself to hear the difference between pentatonic and othertypes of scales.You can also try playing the scale on your instrument, to get used tothe sound of these five notes. Remember, because you know thesolfege, you can play a pentatonic scale in any key where you knowthe major scale. Just use the Do-Re-Mi-So-La-Do notes!For example, a pentatonic scale starting on D would be:Here’s the scale in G:And F:Beyond the Major PentatonicThe major pentatonic is a common and useful scale that is excellent tolearn for beginners, as it gets you used to the pattern of notes, andgets you on your feet and playing quickly. Once you’ve nailed downthe major, it’s time to explore further 13 Copyright Musical U,

Minor Pentatonic ScalesIf you know major pentatonic scales, it’s very easy to derive minorpentatonic scales.In the same way that each relative minor scale contains the samenotes as its corresponding major scale, the minor pentatonic scale willhave the same five notes as its major cousin!A refresher: the first degree (tonic) of the relative minor scale of anymajor key is found three semitones down from the tonic of themajor scale. For example, the relative minor pentatonic scale of Cmajor will be the A minor scale. If you’re familiar with the Circle ofFifths18, you can easily use the tool to find your relative minors.The minor pentatonic scale is well worth learning after you master themajor pentatonic. It’s used in pop, rock, country, metal, and beyond.It’s another perfect beginner scale for soloing with19.If you want to whip out beautiful blues solos, the minor pentatonic is amust-have tool you’ll want in your arsenal, along with the major andminor blues scales20. Blues and the minor pentatonic scale go togetherlike bread and butter.Permutated Pentatonic ScalesYes, “pentatonic scale” does most often refer to the major and minorpentatonic scales. However, you’re not limited to just those two.Think about it: the only real “requirement” of a pentatonicscale is the presence of five notes per octave. Therefore, thereare thousands of possibilities of permutation!Once you master the major and minor pentatonic scale, experimentwith changing up some of the notes. You can even derive your must-know/14 Copyright Musical U,

pentatonic scales from modes21, by including the trademark intervalsof that mode!Pentatonic Scale Cheat SheetWant to pick up your instrument and get playing as fast as possible?Here’s some shortcuts that’ll get you playing pentatonic scales withinseconds!Major Pentatonic ScalesLet's look at the C major pentatonic first. The notes used will be Do,Re, Mi, So, and La; in other words, C, D, E, G, and A:Now let's look at the notes in the remainder of the major pentatonicscales in each key. Notice that the notes used fit with the unique keysignature of each key:C Major Pentatonic: C , D , F, G , A D Major Pentatonic: D, E, F , A, BE Major Pentatonic: E , F, G, B , CE Major Pentatonic: E, F , G , B, C e-custom-pentatonic-scales15 Copyright Musical U,

F Major Pentatonic: F, G, A, C, DF Major Pentatonic: F , G , A , C , D G Major Pentatonic: G, A, B, D, EA Major Pentatonic: A , B , C, E , FA Major Pentatonic: A, B, C , E, F B Major Pentatonic: B , C, D, F, GB Major Pentatonic: B, C , D , F , G Minor Pentatonic ScalesThe relative minor of C major is A minor. Therefore, the relative minorpentatonic scale of the C major pentatonic will be the A minorpentatonic!The notes used will be La, Do, Re, Mi, and So, or A, C, D, E, and G:Notice that the A minor pentatonic scale is the relative minor scale of Cmajor, and therefore uses the same notes, but starting on a differentpitch.Here are the notes used in each different key of the minor pentatonicscale:16 Copyright Musical U,

B Minor Pentatonic: B , D , E , F, A B Minor Pentatonic: B, D, E, F , AC Minor Pentatonic: C, E , F, G, B C Minor Pentatonic: C , E, F , G , BD Minor Pentatonic: D, F, G, A, CE Minor Pentatonic: E , G , A , B , D E Minor Pentatonic: E, G, A, B, DF Minor Pentatonic: F, A , B , C, E F Minor Pentatonic: F , A, B, C , EG Minor Pentatonic: G, B , C, D, FA Minor Pentatonic: A , C , D , E , G Five Notes to Rule Them AllWith its myriad of uses and its special place in nearly every genre ofmainstream modern music, the pentatonic scale’s usefulness cannotbe overstated. Learn its patterns on your instrument, and mostimportantly, practice singing along with solfege syllables to cement thepitch pattern.Producing the scale with the corresponding solfege helps connect thesounds of each scale degree with a syllable, making it more likely thatyou will instantly recognize the notes of a scale because your brain willprocess them based on their solfege identity.17 Copyright Musical U,

The Pentatonic Scale on Piano 10 The Pentatonic Scale and the CAGED System for Guitar 11 Hearing Pentatonic Scales 12 Beyond the Major Pentatonic 13 . seventh chords, minor or major scales, church modes, and more. Soloing with the pentatonic scale over chord progressions is very comm

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