The Five Note Scale

penta-c-mjr-smlPenta meaning five is used to describe a scale with five notes. Thus this scale its name of Pentatonic. 

This section describes the most common use of this five note scale.

The concept of the pentatonic is to use 5 notes within an already known major scale. 

The note choices will also be found in many other scales. 

Thus providing you with a scale that may be used in place of other scales with more notes.

There are two versions of this scale – the major and minor pentatonic. Sound familiar?

The Pentatonic Notes

The significance of this scale is that it starts with the major scale and uses only 5 notes.

The pentatonic scale pattern is whole and 3 half steps in the pattern. More important is recognizing the intervals used. They are all major intervals.

The staff below shows the scale for the major pentatonic that starts on C


Constructing Pentatonic Scales

These scales are developed mathematically using whole steps and minor 3rd steps (3H). To make sure we understand which notes we will build this scale for ‘C’ major pentatonic.

The Intervals
1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 8
The Notes
C - D - E - G - A - C The Steps S + W + W + 3H + W + 3H   

Here is that pattern in Gb (g flat) shown on the keyboard.

Gb Pentatonic: Gb – Ab – Bb – Db – Eb – Gb



Notice how only the black keys are used in this particular pentatonic scale.

Minor Pentatonic

As with the major scales the minor pentatonic has a similar relationship. The A minor pentatonic is related to the C Pentatonic as an inversion.

Remember how the same notes are played for the natural minor as was for the major scale? You do the same for the pentatonic minor.

Inverting the C pentatonic to A minor pentatonic the note sequence is:

A – C – D – E – G – A.

Compare the notes on this staff with the C major pentatonic above.

A- Minor Pentatonic:

penta-a-minIt is the minor 3rd below the major pentatonic just as in the major and natural minor relationship. These scales are related in a way that makes them interchangeable in use. Playing the notes in order will give you a different should.

It’s very similar to happy and sad sounds of the major and minor scales.

Learning Resources