So I'm using the pentascales as a warming up/practice exercise. I try to play all of them with both hands. Eventually I want to play the hands together. My question is: should I be able to play them blindly, by heart, in other words, be able to know from memory where each note falls for every scale? That sounds like a lot to memorize.

I understand that the pentascale notes follow the pattern: START - 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - END so if I look on the keyboard I can calculate where the next note needs to fall. However if I want to play faster I won't have time to do this mental calculation for every note.

So how should I approach this problem:

  1. Should I memorize?
  2. Should I play slowly and not memorize?
  3. Should I not care about his exercise (is non-sense)?

How are you guys able to play a pentascale without having to think too much?

EDIT: A PENTASCALE IS MADE UP USING THE FIRST 5 NOTES OF A SCALE. It can thus be played with all 5 digits without moving out of one position.

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    I would personally derive them on the fly until I've accidentally memorized them. Aug 4, 2016 at 3:37
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    Based on the answers I see below, it looks like there is some confusion regarding terminology and the pattern you presented. I, like most of those answering, assumed you were referring to a Pentatonic scale but the pattern that you presented is not Pentatonic; it's the first 5 notes of the major scale. Could you clarify whether or not you are referring to a Pentatonic scale (example: C Pentatonic - CDEGA). If you are, you will need to address the issue with the pattern presented, which would be 1-1-1 1/2 - 1. Answers have, and will probably continue to have, mentions of minor patterns too. Aug 4, 2016 at 14:56
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    I was not talking about the pentatonic, sorry for the confusion. Just 5 notes.
    – Pika Sucar
    Aug 6, 2016 at 18:39
  • Unfortunately, penatonics have 'just 5 notes' as well! (Hence the name!) It needs to be stated 'just the FIRST 5 notes of a scale'.
    – Tim
    Aug 7, 2016 at 7:34

3 Answers 3


By pentascale I'm assuming you mean the first five notes of a regular major or minor scale? Not a pentatonic scale, right?

If you're just playing five-note patterns like C-D-E-F-G, C#-D#-E#-F#-G# and so on, you might well be playing every pattern starting with right-hand thumb and left-hand pinkie, and then playing each successive note with the next finger, using five fingers to play five notes.

However, at some point in the future you'll want to do more than five notes, so you'll need to turn during the scale so you don't run out of fingers. So I'd suggest you practise your five note patterns using conventional scale fingerings. That way you won't have to unlearn a load of stuff when you play more than five notes.

Scale exercises like this are really important but you need to develop the skills in a way that you can build on them subsequently, rather than it being something you have to abandon because you can't build on it.


While you're finding your way round the first 5 notes, you may as well consider the final two extras that make up the complete scale, along with the octave of the first note. At which point, you could continue with another octave of the same pattern. So, yes, get used to being able to play all 24 scales in their entirety.Sooner or later that's what you'll need the knowledge of anyway. Being able to play only the first 5 notes won't be of much help in the future. Unless you happen to be a child, with smaller hands, who is just having a bit of fun on the piano.


EDIT: The OP has clarified his/her intent, illustrating that s/he is asking about the first five pitches of a diatonic scale, not the pentatonic scale. But I will leave this up, I think, in case it helps future readers.

Meanwhile, I suggest the author go ahead and start learning the major/minor scales in their entirety; it's only two extra notes :-) Furthermore, s/he will create better fingering habits in the context of the entire scale than with just the first five pitches.

If you "eventually want to play hands together" but you don't yet know the scales, I would kill two birds with one stone and go ahead and start playing them with both hands together, deriving each scale as you go.

Your two-hand abilities on the scale will quickly start to improve, and you'll notice very soon that you just "know" the pentatonic scales without really having to think about them.

(Quick note: I think you just made a little typo, but I want to clarify that the pattern of the pentatonic scale is actually START - 1 - 1 - **1 1/2** - 1 - END.)

One practice tip might be to focus on the pentatonic scales that have the same contour on the keyboard. For instance, the F, C, and G pentatonic scales have no black notes, thus their contours and fingerings are the same. (If you know the circle of fifths, you'll see that these tonics are adjacent to each other on the circle; this will hold true for other sets as well.)

  • Looked up 'pentascale'. Not pentatonic!
    – Tim
    Aug 6, 2016 at 7:56

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