View Full Version : why pentatonic?

07-18-2002, 09:21 PM
hi guys, i would like to know why we remove the 4th @ the 7th from the major scale to create the pentatonic. dont get me wrong,i know how it is created but not sure as to why. from what i can see, removing these two notes from the scale gets rid of any half steps insted leaving only 1 and 1.5 step intervals. is this the reson for the pentatonic,to smooth out the scale so there is not much tension??if so is this why they call it the "safe scale"??
Thanks, look forward to your reply,Peter

07-19-2002, 02:09 AM
The Major Pentatonic is made by starting on the root of a Major Scale and counting up 5 notes adding that note then counting up another 5 notes adding that. It is really stacked Diatonic 5ths starting on the root

C G D A E - C Major Pentatonic
in ascending order it becomes


The scale you are more likely familiar with is A Minor Pentatonic which is the 5th Mode of C Major Pentatonic


Why reduce the Major Scale in this Fashion?

Remember the Pentatonic fits (Overlaps) the Major Scale in three places.

In C Major / A Minor

F C G Fourth(IV) Root(I) and Fifth(V) For Major Pentatonic
D A E Second(ii) Sixth(vi) and Third(iii) For Minor Pentatonic

C D E F #G A B G Major/E Minor
C D E F G A B C Major/A Minor
C D E F G A Bb F Major/D Minor

Above are three closely related scaled F, C and G Major.
Above the notes of each Scale ( each starts on C for this demonstration) are the quality of each chord that starts on that scale degree ( M = Major, m = Minor, o = Diminished).
The bold notes/chord qualities shows where they are the same in two or more scales. C major occurs in all three scales as does A minor. The top two share E Minor and G Major, the bottom two share D minor and F Major.

Notice which notes are common among all three of these scales?

Maybe the question I should ask is: Do you notice which notes do not belong to all three scales?

And the Which ones are left over when you toss these odd notes out?

What does it all mean?
You could take C major and G major and toss the F and F# notes
then both of these new scales would share all six notes
(C D E G A B )
you could improvise over bothe G major and C major with this one 6 note scale you could add the F major scale to this and drop the B and Bb notes and the resulting 5 note scale
(C D E G A : Do you recognize this?)
could be used to improvise over C major F Major and G Major.

How is this for an answer?

07-19-2002, 04:24 AM
thanks James, i am going to spend some time digesting your answer as i am not to clear on it and then ill post a reply. thanks buddy

07-19-2002, 09:40 PM
ok buddy, ive had a think and i understand your explination but please correct me if i am wrong. the reason why the major pentatonic omitts the 4th and the 7th is so the scale works over more then one major scale. correct?

07-19-2002, 10:59 PM
This is how I CHOOSE to look at it

07-20-2002, 02:28 AM
and thats fine with me mate. actually looking at it that way makes a lot of sense when i come to think of it a little more.
but what is your thought on the fact that by removing the 4th and the 7th gets rid of the two half steps in the scale and creates a scale that has 1 and 1.5 steps only? does this make it musically more stable?
thanks again,Peter

07-20-2002, 03:03 AM
Not really, just more ambiguous and more bland. It is al the bending and flavor notes you add to the Pentatonic that make it's use interesting. It is like removing the frosting from a cupcake or removing the peanut butter from a reese's peanut butter cup.

07-20-2002, 10:36 AM
Just to quickly add my thoughts about this.....

I think we should have a look back in history. Pentatonic scales are older than any other scales we are talking about today, eg major scales. For a long time Seconds were considered dissonant and unmusical. So this might explain why 4th and 7th got thrown out (at least in Western Music)

Another aspect is that 4th and 7th make up a tritone, the most unstable interval of all. Even today the 4th is considered an 'avoid note' when playing a I or Imaj7 chord, as it would 'destroy' the root functionality of a I chord.

I see the pentatonic as something that works just damn well and is fun to play with, without getting too much into theory...


07-20-2002, 10:58 AM
Some Greek is credited with inventing the Major scale.
It is actually based on the overtone series.
By dividing a string in to integer fractions, 1/2(1 Octave), 1/3, 1/4(2 Octaves), 1/5, 1/6, 1/7,1/8, 1/9 etc
Guni do you know where on the web to find this so youknow what fractions generate which scale degree?
I think all primitive cultures had the Pentatonic in one form or another.

07-20-2002, 11:19 AM
Here's the Overtone Series.


I found this on this site: http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/, which is really a great source.


07-20-2002, 02:38 PM
can you tell me how a 4th and a 7th make a tritone please

07-20-2002, 04:42 PM
ok, take c major for example:

4th = f
7th = b

the interval between those two notes is a tritone (or diminished 5th or augmented 4th). A tritone splits the octave excactly in the middle.

Does that answer your question?


The Bash
07-20-2002, 09:30 PM
Btw You guys ever read the doctrine of Ethos?
Pretty Cool musical metaphysics.

Ok, my pent. input.
First thinking is good.
Theory is good.
Thinking and theory are great for practice.
They ain't worth crap when it comes to improvising.
I'm ducking cause I know I'm bout to get canned with a tomato.
But its true, you can think and theorize yourself right out of playing.
Theory doesn't make music, its not a creator its a product.
Sure you can use theory to create but only after your capable of creation. Catch22

I'm proably biased (cause that's how I did it) but I like James approach on moving from pent to modes.
I didn't have the luxary of knowing what I was doing (was a lot of hit and miss).
I started out a pent player coping Page/Beck/Gilmoure etc. licks when I needed another color I just put my finger someplace, if it worked I rembered it if it sucked I tried to never do it again.
Now at the time my ear wasn't good enough to catch everything note for note so what I couln't hear I just made up by coping the feel/attitude/color/style of whoever.
In fact I still do this, though my ears much stronger I find you seldom need to play anything NOTE for NOTE. Sometimes yes, others to a lesser degree mostly just key phrases fill the rst in with yourself. It's less painful doing 80% covers and 20% my own tunes that way:)
Plus you learn a lot, cause unless your very lucky I'd guess your ear could use some work and you proably can't hear everything a player is doing. Don't. Don't worry bout it the Feel Attitude out weighs the note for note thing. Steal what you can fill in what u can't over time you'll get better at copping licks.
So just play and let your ear guide you. Stop playing and do your thinking. Then stop thinking and do your playing.
Or maybe the fact I can't think and play at the same time is due to being blonde.
Anyway, I suggest emulating your favorite players.
and work around there outlines (steal what u can fill in the rest). You'll learn tons about phrasing that way.
A note is just a note like any other note without the proper phrasing. Like a word void of a sentance.
And listen to everything and anything (steal it all)
Guitar Player's No. 1 Commandment "Thou Shall Steal!"

NP- Deep Purple (Burn)

I though that NP thing was kinna cool so see what I did
I Stole it :)

07-20-2002, 11:21 PM
LOL... well, itīs not really stealing, since I suggested that more of us here at Ibreathe should add their NPs at the end of their posts...
Warm regards
NP: Andy Timmons- And-Thology Disc 1

07-24-2002, 07:12 AM
Because the pentatonic scale lacks the minor second interval it is impossible to make a disonant chord. This makes it possible to have improvisational jams with beginning students that are fail safe, if they have any sense of rythme and the instruments are tuned to pitch the sound will be harmonious. Orff and Kodaly teaching methods for children use the pentatonic scale for kids in k-2. It works great.

07-31-2002, 01:24 AM
The right question to ask is why use the Major Scale.

Who ever thought of muddling things up by adding these other notes?

07-31-2002, 12:48 PM

Right, who needs something else but the pentatonic ? :D

The Bash
07-31-2002, 06:07 PM
Yea :)
I say find the one note at play it over and over
or find the wrong one and play it over and over till it sounds right.