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I have noticed that everything I play on the black keys sounds "oriental". I want to know the standard fingering for this pentatonic scale?

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The black keys do indeed form a pentatonic scale, with the major mode starting on Gb and the minor mode starting on Eb. Here's the full list of modes for this scale. Personally, I wouldn't call the pentatonic scale particularly oriental in sound since it lacks the most commonly associated intervals (minor second, diminished fifth) for that sound.

One common fingering for the major pentatonic starting on Gb would be 1-2-3-1-2 (thumb is 1). Another (that involves less third skips on the thumb tuck) would be 1-2-1-2-3.

Here's a very interesting jazz improvisation over a pentatonic scale to get your creative juices flowing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkpQbjkRbzs

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  • The mode build on Db provides a rather interesting sound, for instance. The mode built on Ab is called "egyptian". Major and minor pentatonic sound decidedly non-oriental to me :) – Rein Henrichs Jun 9 '11 at 17:32
  • I've cleaned up the comments here, I think they got a little away from the point of the question :P – user28 Jun 29 '11 at 22:14
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A basic fingering like R.H. 123 12 for a major pentatonic makes sense. But I seem to naturally do 123 13, 123 13 because then the 3 13, 1 portion uses the same 3 1 for the minor thirds between scale degrees ^3 ^5 and ^6 ^1.

I find playing a pentatonic scale literally on all the black keys - F# major pentatonic - is not very comfortable for the hand. Normally a complete major scale on F#/Gb would start with finger 2 rather than 1 so 123 12 feels kind of awkward. I've tried 231 21, 231 21 so that it starts with 2 like a major scale and the thumb doesn't need to pass under for the minor thirds. But I don't like that either.

Just in case, be aware you can play a pentatonic scale starting on any tonic. Ex. tonic on A would be A B C# E F# for major, or for a minor pentatonic on B would be B D F F# A, etc. A mix of black and white keys usually allows some better fit to the hand.

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