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What Is Pentatonic Minor?


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Pentatonic Scales: Boxes & Frameworks

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In this lesson we will consider the relative pentatonic minor scale of C major which is A minor.

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

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

In order to find the notes of the A minor pentatonic scale we leave out the 2nd & 6th scale degrees.

A - C - D - E - G - A
1 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 1

Remember this: C major is the relative major of A minor and conversely A minor is the relative minor of C major. They are closely "related". Let's line up the C major scale and the A minor scale to see why. (ws = whole step or 2 frets, hs = half step or 1 fret).

C major: C ws D ws E hs F ws G ws A ws B hs C
Scale #: 1 ws 2 ws 3 hs 4 ws 5 ws 6 ws 7 hs 1

A minor: C ws D ws E hs F ws G ws A ws B hs C
Scale #: 3 hs 4 ws 5 ws 6 ws 7 hs 1 ws 2 ws 3

Lining them up against each other shows that they contain the exact same notes. However because they start on different notes (the root note or 1st scale degree is different) they have a different set of intervals between their scale degrees. This is why they are different scales and sound different. Even though they contain the same notes!

The image I have included shows how they line up against one another and which notes are left out of pentatonic major and minor. Then you can see how to use the basic pentatonic "box shape" to learn to identify the scale degrees in each one since they are different.

Also keep this very important point in mind: you can use the pentatonic "box shapes" as visual references for playing diatonic scales.

This is why in the image below I have shown the pentatonic "box shape" right next to a version of the same pattern with the diatonic notes included, or "put back in".

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