The Minor Pentatonic Scale


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This lesson will cover the minor pentatonic scale and give you some clear direction on how you can use this useful scale in various styles of music.

If you studied the lesson on the pentatonic scale, you will recall that the pentatonic scale uses five notes from the major scale. Scale tones 1,2,3,5 and 6

Hear is the major pentatonic scale written on the staff in the Key of C.

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Scale tones 1,2,3,5 and 6 translate to the notes C,D,E, G and A in the key of C. In the key of F they would be F,G,A, C and D. Using the formula.

Because A minor is the relative minor scale of C major, both the A natural minor scale and the A minor pentatonic scale will share the same notes as the C major and C pentatonic scale.

Only the starting point of the scale will change. The diagrams below show the scale on the staff and on the keyboard.

Knowing the notes of the scale is only the beginning. If you are going to use them in your playing and songwriting it will require some experimentation.

Below you will see a video of how I use these versatile scales while playing and improvising at the keyboard.

You may want to start with some simple songs in your favorite keys that use the diatonic chords for that key.

While playing the left hand chords as you normally would, experiment with the scales over the chord progression.

You will notice that the same pentatonic scale will sound different over major chords than it does over minor chords.

Dont be afraid to make mistakes! It is the only way you will discover what sounds good and what sounds not so good.

I often describe the process as being much like finger painting at the piano.


A suggested hand position to begin.

Lets assume that the song is in the key of C or A minor.

I use two different hand positions when showing to students this scale as well as when I am actually improvising or soloing with the scale.

Position one, would be Right hand thumb on A which is the sixth note of the C pentatonic scale.

The rest of your fingers would then fall naturally on B, C, D, and E.

You then have 4 of the 5 notes under your fingers with you 3rd finger being the Root of the scale.

Although the B note is not part of the 5 note scale you will find it will fit in places as a passing tone as well as being part of the G pentatonic scale which will be useful if you are in the Key of C.

Position two would be right hand thumb on the E note which is the third note of the 5 note scale in the key of C.

Skip the F note and place second finger on G, third finger on A, and fifth finger on C. Now you have E, G, A, and C under your fingers.

Try each of the above hand positions individually for a while until you are comfortable with each and then try moving from one position to another by shifting the position of your thumb from A, to E.

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