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Hey, I'm starting out with scales, and I've been learning the Minor Pentatonic scale pattern 1 first.

I've read that, the root note defines what scale you're playing. So, if the root note is on 6th string 5th fret, that's the A Minor Pentatonic scale.

I've also read, that to find out the Minor chord in the scale, just flatten the 3rd note, but the 3rd note in this pattern would be D, and that's wrong, since A minor is made up from A C E.

Am I doing something wrong? This is getting me really confused

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    You flatten the third note in the major scale, not the pentatonic scale. – Von Huffman Jan 14 at 1:33
  • Oh, really? I thought it was different. Like, If you wanna find out a Minor chord, you need to look at the minor scale. Same for major ones. – user65342 Jan 14 at 1:37
  • By flattening the third, sixth, and seventh notes of a major scale you create a natural minor scale. Doing that to a C major scale will create a C minor scale. It's common to describe the minor scales in terms of the major scale to make it simpler, but it can confuse you further if you still don't have the basics. Major = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ; Minor = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 – Von Huffman Jan 14 at 1:57
  • To turn a major chord into a minor one you flatten the third. Eg. A C# E becomes A C E. G B D becomes G Bb D. The third note of the scale (the normal 7-note scale) tells you whether the scale is a major one or a minor one. The third note in a major scale is 4 semitones above the first note. The third note in a minor scale is 3 semitones above the first note. Be careful not to mix up pentatonic scales with 'normal' (heptatonic, diatonic) ones. You might find it less confusing to forget about pentatonic scales till you're confident with 'normal' ones. – Old Brixtonian Jan 14 at 1:58
  • And by the way, what ByBw says is also excellent advice. – Old Brixtonian Jan 14 at 2:00
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Scales are just sets of notes arranged in ascending/descending order. There are many different sets of notes that constitute scales.

The most commonly used in Western music is comprised of seven notes, called the major scale.The gaps between the notes is TTSTTTS, where T=tone and S= semitone. Portrayed conveniently on pianos as the set of white keys, starting with C, the note immediately to the left of the two black keys.

That is really considered the starting point for a lot of theory. The third note in that series is indeed the major 3rd, and to arrive at minor, it's lowered by a semitone.

The pentatonic (major) scale uses notes 1,2,3,5 and 6 of that scale. The pentatonic (minor) scale uses a different set of notes - those from the minor scale. 1,3, 4,5 and 7. hence, in that scale you show on guitar, the notes are A, C, D, E and G.

The major notes in key A are A, B, C♯, D, E, F♯ and G♯. So now, it's clear that the 3rd note from A major is C♯, and gets lowered to C♮ for A minor. Because the min.pent misses out the 2nd note from the full minor scale, its 2nd note is C.

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...I've also read, that to find out the Minor chord in the scale, just flatten the 3rd note

If you count up the tones of a scale, lot depends on what "the scale" is. The third note of a minor scale (ABCDEFGA) is not the same tone as the third tone of a pentatonic scale (ACDEGA). When the chord is A minor, the C we are talking about is the third tone of the minor scale, but the second tone of the pentatonic scale.

I think that short cut tip is poorly worded.

The simple musical fact is: the third of a minor chord is a minor third above the root.

If one talks about "flatten the 3rd", we could start with a major chord where the third is a natural tone, like G major GBD. In that case we can literally put a flat on the B to get a minor chord as G Bb D. But, if the major chord uses a sharp, like A major A C# E then we don't use a flat, we use a natural to get the minor chord A C E. Rather than flatten it's lowered.

It's probably better to think of the third of a chord as:

  • an interval of a third above the root rather than the third tone of a scale
  • raised when switching minor to major
  • lowered when switching major to minor
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Most of these recommendation on "counting the third of the scale", etc., are based around a diatonic scale, which is made up of 7 notes.

In case of a pentatonic, you're skipping 2 notes out of the diatonic scale, leaving you with 5 notes.

In your case, you're playing the minor pentatonic already, so there's no need to flatten anything.

The best way to think about this is:

A minor scale includes an note that is 3 semitones above the root. This interval is called a minor third. In your case, it's A -> C

A major scale includes a note that's 2 full tones above the root. This is called a major third. In the case of A major, this interval would be A -> C#. This note is present in the pentatonic major scale.

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I don't know what the "flattening" of some notes could mean. I'm 99.999% sure it is a misunderstanding.

But let's ignore the misunderstanding, there's no need to know about flattening anything. The natural minor and major scales are easy to explain in relation to the minor pentatonic scale you already know. Look at the following pictures. I added the notes of the natural minor scale and the major scale on top of your original picture.

Natural minor scale, superimposed on the minor pentatonic scale. Root notes of the minor scale are in RED color - and as you can see, they're the same root notes. Added notes belonging to the natural minor scale, but not to the pentatonic scale, are in WHITE color. Notes of the minor pentatonic scale (except the root notes) in BLACK color.

natural minor scale on guitar fretboard

Major scale, superimposed on the minor pentatonic scale. Root notes of the major scale in RED color. Added notes belonging to the major scale, but not to the pentatonic scale, are in WHITE color. Notes of the minor pentatonic scale (except the root notes) in BLACK color.

major scale on guitar fretboard

(I don't think that would be anyone's preferred fingering pattern for the major scale - the point is just to show how it relates to the minor pentatonic scale.)

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I think saying "just flatten the 3rd note" to get the minor chord of the scale is a convoluted way of looking at how you get chords out of scales.

Much like it says in the name, an A minor pentatonic scale will have the chord A minor in it.

I think a better way to understand how chords are derived from scales is to look at what major scale the minor pentatonic scale "comes from". In this case A minor pentatonic fits in a C major scale.

Here's a resource on how chords are diatonically derived from scales

Here's a resource to dive deep into A minor pentatonic and other scales

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