What are Pentatonic Scales? Music Theory Lessons

Piano Lessons / music theory / What are Pentatonic Scales? Music Theory Lessons

Welcome to my ongoing series of music theory lessons. Today we will be covering Pentatonic scales.

“Penta” means five, and as such these scales all have 5 notes in them. Major and minor scales contain 8 notes and chromatic scales contain 12; so 5 notes is quite a difference from other scales. As far as the intervals for pentatonic scales go, you can form one in any key by using the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th note of that major scale.

It’s actually great that we are using a piano keyboard as an example because the black keys on the piano actually form a pentatonic scale all on their own starting on G-flat. You might have noticed that if you play just the black keys on a piano, they tend to sound good together. That’s because it’s literally impossible to play a wrong note using just the black keys!

What’s really great about pentatonic scales is that all the notes sound really good together. I’m not kidding when I say you can play the black keys and make nearly anything sound good. Even someone who has never played the piano before can play just the black keys and create something that sounds pretty nice. If you’ve never improvised before this is a great place to start learning; just start playing the black keys and make something up. If you have a friend, try playing together just using the black keys; you will be pleasantly surprised at how good it can sound!

That’s really about all there is to know about pentatonic scales. I hope you enjoyed this exploration and look forward to next week’s video when we cover more music theory topics.

Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729