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The Magic of The Pentatonic Scale

Updated: May 13

If you've heard of the pentatonic scale, you're probably aware of how prevalent it is within music.

From EDM and hip hop to jazz and blues, the pentatonic scale is a staple of so many different styles of western music.

But what is the pentatonic scale?

The pentatonic scale is a 5 (penta) note scale and it can be played in its major or minor form.

Each of them is constructed from the major scale and natural minor scale respectively.

Let's take a look at how we can play them on the bass.

The major pentatonic:

Let's start by looking at the major scale:

how to play a major scale on the bass
Here is the major scale, it has 7 notes, excluding the octave.

As we can see, the major scale contains 7 notes excluding the octave.

All we need to do to create the major pentatonic is remove the 4th and 7th notes from the scale, making it a 5 note scale.

how to play a major pentatonic on the bass
Removing the 4th and the 7th from the major scale gives us the major pentatonic.

The minor pentatonic:

The minor pentatonic is created in a similar way to the major pentatonic.

Except, with the minor pentatonic we remove 2 notes from the natural minor scale.

how to play the minor scale on bass
Here is the natural minor scale, it's made up of 7 notes, excluding the octave.

Again, we have a 7 note scale, so we're going to two notes.

This time we're omitting the 2nd and 6th notes.

how to play the minor pentatonic on bass
Removing the 2nd and 6th from the natural minor scale gives us the minor pentatonic.

But why do the pentatonic scales sound so good?

One reason for this lies in the distance between the notes.

If you look at the pentatonic scales, you'll see there are no semitone intervals (notes that are 1 fret apart).

Semitone intervals carry a lot of tension.

You will also notice that the two notes we removed from the either scale are a tritone interval apart. The tritone interval is a very tense and dissonant sound.

So by removing these particular notes we give the scale much more consonance.

That's why the pentatonic scale is used so often when soloing, because all the notes sound 'right'.


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