14. PENTATONIC SCALES. PROPERTIES
When talking of the C Major scale in Chapter 1, we said that the 7 notes in this scale correspond to the “white piano keys”. Now, with the notes corresponding to the “black piano keys”, a 5 note scale is obtained, which is called the “F Major Pentatonic Scale”. Its notes and the intervals among them are the following:
F Major Pentatonic scale
Thus, we can define a Major Pentatonic Scale as a set of 5 notes where the intervals among them are: W W 1.5W W 1.5W. So, in order to obtain the C Major Pentatonic scale, we only have to begin with C and keep to the previous interval succession:
C Major Pentatonic scale
There are two options for representing this scale on the Harmonic Wheel (Fig. 21).
Figure 21. Two possible representations of the C Major Pentatonic scale.
From these graphic representations, it is easy to understand the two most important properties of this type of scale:
With the notes of a Major scale it is possible to form 3 different Major Pentatonic scales. For example, with the notes of the C Major scale, it is possible to form the F, C and G Major Pentatonic scales.
Any Major Pentatonic scale can be obtained from the notes of 3 different Major scales. For example, the C Major Pentatonic scale can be obtained from the notes of F, C or G Major scales.
The relative minor scale of C Major Pentatonic is the “A minor Pentatonic scale”, which notes and intervals among them are:
A minor Pentatonic scale
Therefore, we can define a minor Pentatonic scale as a set of 5 notes characterized by the following interval succession: 1.5W W W 1.5W W. A minor Pentatonic scale has the same notes as its relative Major Pentatonic scale, but a different tonic.
Although the Pentatonic scales have a very ancient origin, nowadays they are widely used in modern music and jazz. And, particularly, in Improvisation techniques.