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What Is Pentatonic Major?


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Pentatonic Scales: Boxes & Frameworks

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In this tutorial we will discuss pentatonic scales.

The prefix "penta-" means "five". This is the singificance of the name of the scale. It is derived from the standard 7 note diatonic scale ("dia-" meaning "through" as in "all the way through the tones of the natural scale system").

In this first lesson let's look at the pentatonic major scale and the patterns it makes on the guitar fretboard.

You arrive at the 5 note pentatonic scale by "leaving out", avoiding or simply not playing 2 notes of the 7 note diatonic scale. We are going to deal with both major and minor because they are both widely used, but more importantly, because they are closely related.

We will use the C major scale in this example:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 1

I have listed the letter notes of the scale and underneath the scale degree number: the C is the 1st scale degree, the D is the 2nd scale degree and so on.

In order to find the notes of the C major pentatonic scale we leave out the 4th & 7th scale degrees.

C - D - E - G - A - C
1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 1

Notice that the notes F & B are still "there", we haven't made them "non-existent". We are simply avoiding using them in order to achieve a certain sound: the sound of the pentatonic major scale! This is the same thing we do when we play any scale, though: we select certain notes and exclude others in order to arrive at some specific, unique sound.

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