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I was messing with the A minor pentatonic scale and discovered that if I sharpen the 2nd note of the scale, it sounds very interesting to my ears, even more than the original scale.

Does this already have a name, maybe a mode or something? And I am sure I know quite a few songs using this interval, but couldn't remember where I heard it! I would like to know if you remember any.

It looks like this ;

A C# D E G

Thanks

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

We could call this an A7add11 arpeggio. (Or, more accurately, the notes from an A7add11 chord.)

Although this is still a set of five pitches, it is no longer a pentatonic scale in the traditional sense; one feature of the related diatonic major and minor pentatonic scales, which are in common usage, is that they do not contain any semitone intervals. (There is some information about the difference between pentatonic scales with and without semitone intervals here.)

In fact, as pentatonic scales have only five notes, they can often be thought of as being mid-way between common arpeggios (eg. major and minor triads which have three notes) and common scales (eg. diatonic modes and harmonic/melodic minor scales which have seven notes). For this reason, the simplest way to describe the notes you present here (A C# D E G) is as an A7 chord with an added D. We could call this an A7add11 chord (not a suspension, as there is also the third, C#, and not an add4 as the inclusion of a third implies that the D is interpreted as an 11th, using tertian harmony). And, when considering these notes 'as a scale' (i.e. one at a time) you are simply considering them as an arpeggiated chord, rather than as a chord where all the pitches are played simultaneously.

Of course, this is somewhat unreliable; depending upon which note you choose to consider to be the root, you could interpret this to be a number of different chords, although in this case four of the notes outline an A7 chord, so this seems preferable. Sometimes though, sets of pitches don't seem to be so easy to describe in terms of traditional harmony. At this point Pitch Class Set Theory can help. This allows a rigorous way to describe any set of pitches. Putting your pitches into this PC Set Calculator returns the PC Set 5-29. Then, looking up PC Set 5-29 on this table we can see that your pitches can be described as a Kumoi Pentachord (and no, I'd never heard of one either…!)

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amazing, so it is actually a A7add11 arpeggio! –  Spring May 20 at 13:09
    
Pretty much - sometimes the easiest explanations are the best. Of course, it is also a subset of a whole load of other scales (some obvious, like the Mixolydian, others less obvious), but of course any scale with eleven or fewer notes is a subset of some other scale(s). –  Bob Broadley May 20 at 13:11
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I would normally not argue semantics like this, but since the user is asking for correct terminology, I feel it's worth mentioning: it is not quite correct to refer to a scale as an arpeggio, since arpeggio is a way of playing a chord, while (pentatonic) scales are ways to construct melodies on these chords. –  Lee White May 20 at 13:34
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@Basstickler I don't see a reason to make it more complicated. I play these notes over A chord as a melody, and phrase them, just like you can lead Am arpeggio over a song in Am on guitar. Here I play A7add11 arpeggio over A key. While it might have other names, seeing it as a chord also certainly helps, so I can "refer" to it, and I don't need to say "Raga Gandharavam scale" or "minor pentatonic with a sharpened 2nd" instead I say "notes from A7add11 chord" Because it does not have a better name. –  Spring May 20 at 16:17
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@Spring - I still find it important to note that the A7add11 notation could lead to a few misinterpretations when playing with others. As I mentioned in a previous comment, the use of each chord symbol or scale comes with implied harmonic or melodic choices. I would suggest playing the scale over a few different chords, including an A7add11, and see which chord seems to best harmonize the interesting feeling that you get from it. I would guess that the A7add11 is not the proper chord, as it is pretty uncommon, though it may be. –  Basstickler May 20 at 21:00

It doesn't seem have an agreed upon name . It's sometimes called "sus penatonic" or "mixolydian pentatonic" but other scales are called with the same names too.

Beatles song "Within You Without You" starts with a short passage in this scale. You can hear more examples in Indian and fusion music. Try googling C E F G Bb for some more examples and discussion.

You can play it over dominant seventh chords (just like the mixolydian which it's a subset of) for added exotic flavor.

Here is an instance where it's called "sus pentatonic".

Here where it's called "mixolydian pentatonic.

I openly pointed out that this scale does not have an agreed upon name and that these names are also used for other scales

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The mixolydian pentatonic scale goes I II III V VIIb and the sus pentatonic scale goes I II IV V VIIb, while Spring's scale goes I III IV V VIIb, so this information is definitely not correct. –  Lee White May 20 at 12:48
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Here's an instance where it's called "sus pentatonic", and here's one where it's called "mixolydian pentatonic. I openly pointed out that this scale does not have an agreed upon name and that these names are also used for other scales. –  cyco130 May 20 at 12:52
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I see... I had never seen those used like that before. I think this shows that there's no clear terminology for this kind of "altered" scales indeed. –  Lee White May 20 at 13:04
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@cyco130 oo eyvallah hocam :) –  Spring May 20 at 13:13
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"Try googling C E F A Bb". You meant "C E F G Bb". –  David Knipe May 20 at 22:45

Technically there's no name for a scale that goes like A C# D E G. Cyco130 showed us this link where it is called "sus pentatonic", and this link where it is called "mixolydian pentatonic". However, both these names are also frequently used for slightly different scales, so the terminology is not completely clear.

From a keys' point of view, it seems like you're simply turning the minor key into a major one, where the G is a seventh note. Sevenths are very common in major keys, so what you are doing is perfectly acceptable. Basically, you've just found one of the many ways to subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) change the key of what you're playing. By simply sharpening that C, your key moves from Am to A. Personally I like to do that particular key switch for the very last chord of a song; if the song is in A minor, ending with an A major chord makes your song sound like the sad (minor) mood has an unexpected happy (major) ending.

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tnx but a bit confused, as far as I know Pentatonic major scale is "A B C# E F#" so it is different than what I play –  Spring May 20 at 11:18
    
That's indeed how the pentatonic scale is taught in theory, but there is nothing wrong with playing notes outside of your scale. These scales are simply a basic 'guideline' -- good soloists take a lot of freedom with how they apply these scales. Technically there's no name for a scale that goes like A C# D E G, but as I said, what you are doing is simply a nice way to change the song's key. –  Lee White May 20 at 11:21
    
The definition of a pentatonic scale is "a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave" [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentatonic_scale]. What is often called "the pentatonic scale" is a pentatonic scale. It can also be called a gapped blues scale for missing notes. Accordingly, I'd be describing this scale as a major flat 7 with 2 and 6 omitted. But I wouldn't be describing the second note as sharpened, since there is a natural gap with full steps where a passing tone can go that is the omitted second. –  Tom Anderson May 20 at 23:19
    
@Lee White If you want to improve the post next time please add user comments to their orginal answer and not to yours. tnx –  Spring May 23 at 15:11
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@Spring, what I did is very common. There is no problem with including somebody else's statements in an answer you are posting, as long as you are courteous with giving credit. I have no idea whether you're just having a bad day, but there is no use in police-ing posts around and trying to decide for others what they can and cannot say. Also, your edit comment "the removed links already exists in the orginal answer" is incorrect. You removed them from my post and then added them to cyco130's answer. I have all due respect for you and Cyco, but I am reverting your edit to my post now. –  Lee White May 23 at 18:15

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