Minor Pentatonic Scale

In this lesson we will discuss the minor pentatonic scale and examine its link with the natural minor scale.

Similar to the major pentatonic scale, the minor pentatonic is constructed of five scale tones contained within one octave. The minor pentatonic scale shares similarities to the major pentatonic, including large intervals due to the absence of semitones (half-steps). Where the difference stops is in regard to sound quality. Both these pentatonic scales sound distinctly major or minor respectively.

Relative Minor Pentatonic

Major scales are related to minor scales and vice versa. This relationships is also true of pentatonic scales. The minor pentatonic scale is derived from the major pentatonic scale. Using the notes of the major pentatonic, but starting on an interval of a major 6th away from the root, results in the minor pentatonic scale.

For example, if we consider the C major pentatonic scale, starting on the note A and continuing until the octave is met, results in the A minor pentatonic scale.

major 6th
above C
C Major
Pentatonic
C D E G A C D E G A C
A Minor
Pentatonic
A C D E G A

Alternatively, the minor pentatonic scale can be thought of as a 5 note scale using only degrees 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of the natural minor scale. For example, starting with the A natural minor scale, removing degrees 2 and 6 result in the A minor pentatonic scale.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
A Natural
Minor
A B C D E F G A
1 3 4 5 7 8
A Minor
Pentatonic
A C D E G A
min
3rd
min
3rd

Minor Tonality

The minor pentatonic scale is unmistakably minor in tonality. This is owing to the fact that the minor pentatonic scale contains two minor 3rd intervals, as well as all three tones of the tonic minor triad.

Pentatonic scales are commonly used across many styles and cultures. However the minor pentatonic scale is most prominent the blues genre.

Minor pentatonic scales being scaled down minor scales are simplistic in nature. The minor pentatonics scale tones are melancholy in sound quality. It is for this reason that the minor pentatonic scale is broadly used in the music styles of traditional folk, jazz and pop.

Minor Pentatonic Scale Construction

Notice in the example below that there are no half-steps in the minor pentatonic scale. In contrast to many other scales the intervals are quite large, with the smallest being a whole-step. The removal of any trace of half-steps makes the pentatonic scale sound consonant in any order or combination.

2 1 2 2 1 2 2
A Natural
Minor
A B C D E F G A
3 2 2 3 2
A Minor
Pentatonic
A C D E G A

The minor pentatonic scale is taken from the root note of the natural minor scale and named accordingly. There are 15 minor pentatonic scales to study in the exercise. Below is a table of the minor pentatonic scales:

Scale Name Notes
A Minor Pentatonic A C D E G A
E Minor Pentatonic E G A B D E
B Minor Pentatonic B D E F# A B
F# Minor Pentatonic F# A B C# E F#
C# Minor Pentatonic C# E F# G# B C#
G# Minor Pentatonic G# B C# D# F# G#
D# Minor Pentatonic D# F# G# A# C# D#
A# Minor Pentatonic A# C# D# E# G# A#
D Minor Pentatonic D G A C D F D
G Minor Pentatonic G Bb C D F G
C Minor Pentatonic C Eb F G Bb C
F Minor Pentatonic F Ab Bb C Eb F
Bb Major Pentatonic Bb Db Eb F Ab Bb
Eb Minor Pentatonic Eb Gb Ab Bb Db Eb
Ab Minor Pentatonic Ab Cb Db Eb Gb Ab