What is a pentascale?
A pentascale is the first five notes of a major or minor scale.
Penta = 5
Scale = a patterned set of notes
Pentascales are incredibly versatile! Pianists often learn pentascales before the full, one-octave scales because they’re shorter, they fit under the five fingers, and they follow a simple, easy-to-remember pattern. Plus, pentascales help with learning triads (basic 3-note chords), AND they appear in all types of music!
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There are two main types of pentascales: major and minor. Many people say that major pentascales tend to sound “happy,” while minor pentascales sound somewhat “sad.” Whatever they sound like to you, it’s actually pretty easy to make either pentascale!
All scales, no matter their quality or how many different notes they contain, follow a pattern of intervals. Pentascales use a mix of two different intervals: whole steps and half steps.
In both major and minor pentascales, there’s just one half step – the difference is where that half step falls. Every other note is separated by a whole step.
Major pentascale pattern: the half step appears between MI (note 3) and FA (note 4).
Minor pentascale pattern: the half step appears between RE (note 2) and ME (note 3, pronounced “may”).
Playing Pentascales on the Piano
Using these patterns, you can create pentascales starting on ANY piano key. Simply place your five fingers over the five keys of the pentascale and play away. Different pentascales will require different numbers of sharps or flats in order to make the correct order of whole and half steps. For example, the C major pentascale uses only white keys, with no sharps or flats. This is because it already contains the proper sequence of intervals, with the only half step being between MI and FA.
On the other hand, D major requires an F-sharp to ensure that MI and FA make the only half step.
Of course, if you just need a quick reference, we have this handy Pentascale Guide for you. You’ll find all the major and minor pentascales on the piano. Click the button below to download. Happy Practicing!