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Learning the Pentatonic Scales Part III

As previously discussed, Pentatonic scales are made up of 5 notes, and the variations are almost endless! The most common ones used are the Major and Minor pentatonic scales, but, there are some other scales used around the world that are worth exploring.

As a way of quick revision the ‘well-known’ pentatonic scales are made up as follows –


Pentatonic scales can be divided into 2 groups –

Anhemitonic - No semitone interval
Hemitonic – Contain a semitone interval

The Major and Minor pentatonic scales are both Anhemitonic.

The Hirajoshi Scale used in Japanese music is Hemitonic:


It’s a minor scale but it has a certain exotic flavour.

The modes of Hirajoshi also form some very interesting usable scales:


These scales are actually derivations of Japanese Koto tunings to make them fit to the notes contained in Western scales. The names given to these modes are open to debate, but the ones used here are the most common.

There are obviously numerous pentatonic scales. Here are a few of the other notable scales:

Dorian Pentatonic - 1 2 b3 5 6
Sometimes referred to as Kumoi (different to the 3rd mode Kumoi of the Hirajoshi scale)

Indian - 1 3 4 5 b7
Gives the feel of an Indian Raga

Pelog - 1 b2 b3 5 b6
Pelog is normally a 7 note scale from Indonesia (Java and Bali), but very often played as a 5 note subset, due to the fact that very often the instrument it is played on (gamelan), does not have the keys for the missing notes!

Scriabin - 1 b2 3 5 6
The Major Pentatonic with a b2. Named after the composer Alexander Scriabin

If you are stuck for new ideas or just want a change from the norm, try some of these out in your playing!!

Until next time, work hard and have fun!!


-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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