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An answer on my previous question mentioned 2 other common pentatonic scales besides the 'common blues' scale.

I'm guessing one of them is the major pentatonic scale, but what is the other one, and how/where is it used?

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  • Doc - please ensure all relevant info is in the question, rather than requiring folks to figure out what your numbers mean (especially challenging when you have incorrectly written them down) - also, none of the answers mention 2 other scales. One does mention various other scales, though.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Nov 29 '20 at 15:04
  • @DoktorMayhem - wrong place, I know! But congrats on passing slim in the reps table. As far as I know, slim hasn't contributed for several years, but still his upvotes come in.
    – Tim
    Nov 29 '20 at 16:30
  • Thanks @Tim - he is still active, mostly edits and updates now.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Nov 29 '20 at 17:08
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You question linking is confusing. The linked question doesn't even have the word "two" in any part of the page.

Anyway, the two common pentatonic scales are major pentatonic ^1 ^2 ^3 ^5 ^6 and minor pentatonic ^1 ♭^3 ^4 ^5 ♭^7. But the two scales are really just the same set of tones with an changed tonic. ^6 in major becomes the ^1 in minor and vice versa. You could say the minor scale is the relative minor or the major pentatonic scales.

Both scales can be seen as subsets of a diatonic scale. This is the so-called "gapped scale" description of pentatonic scales you sometimes see.

If you put a half step between the ^2 ^3 in major or ^4 ^5 of minor you get the basic blues "scales."

These aren't the only pentatonic scales. Any 5 notes scale could be called a pentatonic scale. But these are the common western pentatonic scales.

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There is really only 1 type of (Tonal) Pentatonic Scale with 2 different tonal (variations) qualities, a Maj. or (Nat.) Min. which are also all relative Maj./Minor to each other (the same as with Heptatonic or 7 note scales). These Pentatonics, all of which are constructed out of Anhemitonic intervals (no halftones); (1) Major Pentatonic (1, 2 , 3 , 5 , 6) and (2) The Minor Pentatonic (1,♭3 , 4 , 5 , ♭7). Not to confuse „Types“ as in different categories with „Same Type Variations“.

The common „Minor Blues Pentatonic“ scale (is considered to be a „modal scale“) and is not really a pentatonic scale as it actually contains 6 notes (Hexitonic), which is sometimes referred as a pentatonic +1 scale (which contains a halftone or chromatic tone also known as a „blue note“ a ♭5 (1, ♭3, 4, ♭5, 5, ♭7 ). This is also the same with the „Major Blues Pentatonic“ (a Hexitonic scale or pentatonic +1), it contains a ♭3 (the „Blue“ note) in it, (1, 2,♭3, 3, 5, 6 ). Both the Major/Minor Blues pentatonic scales are the modes of each other BUT are very often used in Tonal music AND belong to a subset of „Tonal Scales“ known as the Hexatonic / Heptatonic and Nonatonic „Blues Scales“.

This leads us to the 2nd kind (type) of 5 note Pentatonic (Modal) which has 2 variations, the 1st is called the „Pentatonic Modes“ and the 2nd is called the „Modal Pentatonics“ /AKA: Modes Of The Pentatonic) which are both completely different in function and not to be confused (which most people do) as being the same thing. The „Pentatonic Modes“ are 5 note pentatonic scales (Ionian(Maj.)/ Dorian / Phrygian / Mixolydian and Aeolian (Nat.Min.) ) BUT they can and MUST be re-arranged to fit the given mode, this is something that is often overlooked or not even known (exception Ionian and Aeolian, which remain as anhemitonic intervals and maintain the tonal or „parental“ pentatonic shapes) the others can and do consist of hemitonic intervals (containing halftones). Some of the Pentatonic scales mentioned here in the answers belong to the „Modal Pentatonics“ type (Egyptian, Blues Major/ Blues Minor-etc.), which are all simply subsets belonging to one of the 2 general main pentatonic mode variation types- (both very often used in Jazz and other Modal Music). The „MPs“ sometimes do have names but are often simply noted as Mode 1, Mode 2, Mode 3-etc. This is because with this type of mode there are 5 possible Mode types that all use the exact same „Final“ or „Modal Home Tone“, i.e. the 5 Modes of the C-Maj. Pentatonic scale; Mode-1(Maj.Pentatonic) C-2-3-5-6 / Mode-2(Egyptian) C-2-4-5-♭7 / Mode-3(Minor) C-♭3-4-♭6-♭7 / Mode-4(Ritusen or Suspended)C-2-4-5-6 and Mode-5(Minor Pentatonic)C-♭3 , 4 , 5 , ♭7. As you can see in the main 2 types of Pentatonics (including all the given variations), 1-Tonal and 1-Modal both with 2 variations each (not withstanding that both contain numerous subsets with numerous supersets or sub-variations, especially as far the modes are concerned), that the Maj. and (Nat.) Minor pentatonic never change their interval structure when it occurs naturally as part of any given mode. I just wanted to mention this pentatonic mode type but won’t go any further into it as this can get very involved and was not part of your question.

The answer to your last question how the minor pentatonic scale is used, there are 4 very common possibilities (1) simply over minor progressions, including Blues based in a minor key (2) i.e. very often in blues music with progressions based on dominant tonic chords or chords / progressions containing a Dom7 (9/11/13-etc.) (3) over an Aeolian Modal Chord Sequenz (this mode is an exception in this case: the pentatonic mode shape remains exactly the same as the none modal pentatonic shape)(4) Both The corresponding Maj./(Nat.)Minor unaltered Pentatonic scale can be used over any of the CMaj. Modes without any problems EXCEPT the scale / solo / melody will not be in modal context (exception Ionian and Aeolian), it will allow you to avoid or prevent you from playing modally regardless if the chord sequence or backing music has been arranged and played modally.

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There are a variety of different pentatonic scales. "Pentatonic scale" refers to any scale containing five different pitches.

There are five pentatonic scales that are all derived from the same set of notes:

Note names | Scale name              | Major scale degrees

C D E G A = Major pentatonic         = 1 2 3 5 6
  D E G A C = Egyptian pentatonic    =   2 3 5 6 1
    E G A C D = Blues Minor          =     3 5 6 1 2
      G A C D E = Blues Major        =       5 6 1 2 3
        A C D E G = Minor pentatonic =         6 1 2 3 5

The above pentatonic scales are distinguished by the fact that they contain no semitones. The term anhemitonic, which means "containing no semitones" is applied to these scales. The consequence of this property is these scales do not contain the harshest dissonances found in, for example, major scales: the semitone, the tritone, and the major seventh.

One can also construct pentatonic scales that include one or more half-steps. They're called hemitonic scales.

Pentatonic scales are found in music spanning from ancient to modern and in cultures across the globe. In modern Western music, the above listed scales are very common in blues, jazz, and rock. Wikipedia's article on pentatonic scales contains a very good list with links to additional articles on the musics of various cultures and styles.


The above-linked article is the primary source for this post.

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    Since the five shown all have the same five notes, in different orders, would they be better labelled as pentatonic modes?
    – Tim
    Nov 30 '20 at 9:05
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    I don't know who invented the names "blues major" and "blues minor", but those pentatonic modes don't have much use in the blues, and that's a euphemism.
    – Matt L.
    Nov 30 '20 at 10:09

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