Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsLet’s start off our consideration of scale theory by saying a bit about pentatonic scales - 5 note scales. C pentatonic consists of C, D, E, G, A. In other words, it’s C major but you avoid the notes F and B. You avoid the fourth and the seventh steps. Classically, as you know, the seventh is considered a dischord and the fourth is also considered an avoid note in the sense that you wouldn’t typically write - or play - a phrase that ends on the fourth. The notes that are left are called C pentatonic and you get this sort of sound.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsPentatonic scales like that are used quite a bit in folk music and sometimes in pop.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsNotice that if you take all the black notes and you root it on G flat, then that’s G flat pentatonic Of course, if you root it on some other note then it isn’t a pentatonic scale. Notice the intervals as well. It goes tone, tone, minor third, tone. So, because there are notes missing, we get bigger jumps than just tones and semitones. We’re going to have a look at this scale in operation in the next section. There are a lot of pentatonic scales. I’ll give you just a few others, to give you examples.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 secondsThe Kumoi is a Japanes scale that is like the pentatonic, but it’s got a minor third in it. So instead of it’s So, obviously in jazz, if you want to use it, you can use it in a minor context.

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 secondsNot everybody agrees on the names of these scales, by the way, so you might find different authors give you different notes. Another Japanes one is the Hirajoshi, which is the same thing except this time you flatten the sixth as well. In jazz, if we were to use it, we’d probably think in terms of flattening the thirteenth.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 secondsA more exotic one is the Pelog. This is an Indonesian pentatonic scale that has a lot to do with Gamelan music. This time - it’s like the Hirajoshi but it has a flattened second as well - or a flattened ninth if you want to think of it like that in jazz terms.

Skip to 3 minutes and 20 secondsYou hear it’s got a a sort of Eastern colour to it. I must say I don’t make any conscious use of these scales but I think you should know they exist, but we are going to look at the pentatonic scale now in a jazz context.

Pentatonic Scales

We consider some five note scales which may be employed in jazz.

You can download the charts for “C Pentatonic” and “Five Note Scales” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: III. Solo Piano and Advanced Topics

Goldsmiths, University of London