By Western pentatonic scale (which shows up in other musical traditions as well), I mean all the modes of the major pentatonic scale, which is anhemitonic (scales that do not contain semitones) and can be considered as generated from a chain of fifths.

The reason why I am interested in this is that pentatonic can technically describe any 5-note scale, and I would like to be able to specify this Western pentatonic scale in a similar manner to how one specifies "the heptatonic scale" as "the diatonic scale".

However, I wouldn't be surprised if no such term, besides "modes of the major/minor pentatonic scale" or "Western pentatonic scale", existed, seeing as the meaning of diatonic is also sometimes vague.

1 Answer 1


"Major pentatonic" is often used to describe this collection. The adjective "major" not only suggests that the collection is based off of the Western major scale, but it also differentiates it from the minor pentatonic, 1 ♭3 4 5 ♭7 (e. g., A C D E G, a rotation of the major pentatonic).

  • Since C maj.pent. contains C D E G A, and A min. pent. contains A C D E G, they are modes of each other. I wonder whether 'major' here means 'more important', as compared with 'major' referring to intervals meaning 'larger'? ( The major scale can't be 'major' 'cos it has large intervals - well, maybe one - surely?)
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 6:25
  • @Tim - I doubt it. The major pentatonic scale has a major 3rd between scale degrees 1 and 3. The minor pentatonic scale has a minor 3rd between scale degrees 1 and 2.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 13:32
  • @Dekkadeci Yep; it's all about the quality of the tonic triad.
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 14:24
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci - a major triad can be made from C D E G A - C E G, and a minor triad from the same five notes - A C E. There's another m3 between E and G, but I suppose that won't count for anything. Only M3 is C>E.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 15:32
  • Is there a term that includes both the major or minor pentatonic, besides pentatonic or "Western pentatonic"? That's what I intended with my original question, if it was unclear.
    – awe lotta
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 16:52

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