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Pentatonic Scales - Part II

Last week we looked at the classic Major and Minor Pentatonic scales.

These scales are spelt as follows:


In the Key of C the notes are:


As we saw last week, the Minor Pentatonic is the 5th mode, so if we start from the A (the 5th note) of the Major Pentatonic, the notes are:


Which is a Minor Pentatonic Scale.

This means that C Major Pentatonic and A Minor Pentatonic scales have exactly the same notes in them. This is the same process we used when we looked at the modes many weeks ago!

In music theory terms A Minor is the ‘relative minor’ of C Major. They both contain the same notes. The difference is the starting or ‘root’ note. If you play the notes starting and ending on the C, it will sound ‘major’, if you start and end on the A it will sound ‘minor’!

This knowledge means that when we are playing a song with a Major tonality, we can actually think of playing melodies, fills or improvising in 2 scales. The Major Pentatonic OR the relative Minor Pentatonic. This vastly increases our options; most people find it easier to solo in minor.

The relative minor is 1½ tones below the Key note.

For Example:


And vice versa, the relative major is 1½ tones higher than the minor note.

This major and minor outline can also help us to play modes. The Pentatonic scales contain the main notes, then to make it sound like the mode, add in the defining note of the mode as discussed in previous articles.


This gives us a simple framework to develop upon and makes playing the modes in different areas of your instrument easier, especially for guitarists.

Review and practice this material to start assimilating it into your playing and we'll take it another step further next time!!

Work hard and have fun!!


-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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