Minor Pentatonic Scale: Theory & Ear Training

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As the name suggests, the Minor Pentatonic Scale has five notes and a minor quality…

… and yet another existence proof that scales are not made up of “half-steps” and “whole-steps”.

The simple, primitive minor quality of the Minor Pentatonic Scale makes it very useful in folk, rock, and blues.

Theory

Here, for example, are the notes in the C Minor Pentatonic Scale identified by letter name, scale degree (numbers), and Solfege syllable…

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  1. The scale structure of the Minor Pentatonic Scale is always 1-b3-4-5-b7-1, no matter what key you are in.
  2. The Solfege syllables of the Minor Pentatonic Scale are always Do-Me-Fa-So-Te-Do, no matter what key you are in.
  3. The only thing that changes when you change keys are the letter names.

Comparative Scale Study

All five notes in the Minor Pentatonic Scale are used in the Minor Blues Scale. Don’t try to “memorize” this fact, but do realize how much certain scale types have in common.

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For extra credit, notice that the C Minor Pentatonic Scale is a mode of the Eb Major Pentatonic Scale and vice versa.

Solfege Ear Training

Let’s take a moment to talk about how to get the most benefit from the Solfege ear training studies below…

  1. Singing the Solfege syllables out loud is the most effective way to internalize the unique sound-feeling of each note in any musical scale. Why? Because singing out loud requires you to actively process the sounds at a much deeper level than merely passively listening.
  2. It is absolutely essential that you go slowly enough to allow the unique sound-feeling of each Solfege syllable to make a meaningful impression on your mind’s ear.
  3. This is not interval training. It’s okay if you hear the intervals between successive notes, but your goal is to hear and feel the unique character of each Solfege syllable with respect to the key center DO and to each other.
  4. Solfege ear training generalizes to any key. In other words, if you can hear and feel the unique harmonic pull of Ti towards Do in the key of C, you will be able to hear and feel the unique harmonic pull of Ti towards Do in any key!
  5. At first, it’s quite alright to play each note on your instrument before you sing, but I promise you this: If you do these studies as described above, you will quickly internalize the unique sound-feeling of each Solfege syllable in you mind’s ear without help from your instrument.
  6. In summary… Sing out loud, take your time, and fight for every note. If you do, you will enjoy musical dividends for a lifetime, guaranteed!

C Minor Pentatonic Scale: Linear, Ascending…

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C Minor Pentatonic Scale: Linear, Descending…

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C Minor Pentatonic Scale: Do-X-Do, Ascending…

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C Minor Pentatonic Scale: Do-X-Do, Descending…

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learn more… Minor Blues Scale: Theory & Ear Training