OFFTONIC THEORY
   Part II: Building Blocks
      Chapter 7: Modes and Scales


7.5 The Pentatonic Scale

We call it "the" pentatonic scale, but it's actually only "a" pentatonic scale. Pentatonic just means that it has 5 notes, and there are quite a few collections of pitch classes with that description. But when we talk about "the" pentatonic scale, we mean this one:

Example 7.36 — pentatonic scale modes

Example 7.36

Generally, we're actually talking only about the first one here, the major pentatonic. This scale is somehow quite fundamental; we see it pop up in a variety of cultures across the globe, from Native American to European to African to East Asian, and probably even into Oceania as well. Everyone does pentatonic in some way! There's even a cool video by Bobby McFerrin, who's an amazing genius at everything (seriously), demonstrating this phenomenon. The audience gets the 3 without being told, but they do get told the 6, and while they get the 5 without being told, he's been singing the 5 for a while by then. It's not magic. But it's still really cool.

Why only 5 notes? Is that enough?

Yeah, actually. Not for chords, sure, but for melodies it's fine, and a lot of music uses the pentatonic scale. I mentioned when I was talking about the aeolian mode that a lot of pop music doesn't use the 6th degree at all. That's because they're mostly using the minor pentatonic, not actual aeolian! It's hard to avoid the 2, which the minor pentatonic lacks, but it's quite easy to never see a b6. The best way, though is to try it yourself. Go to the Offtonic Scale Keyboard and play through some of the pentatonic scales, and see if you can compose little melodies as you noodle around.

There are some very important features of the pentatonic scale that you ought to be well aware of. First, it has no semitones. It has whole steps and minor thirds. It has no major sevenths, obviously, and it has, very importantly, no tritones. So everything sounds good (well...) in the pentatonic scale; you won't come across any strongly dissonant intervals. In the major scale, the tritone is between the 4 and the 7, and the half steps are between the 3 and 4 and the 7 and 1. Well, the major pentatonic is the major scale with the 4 and 7 removed. No tritone, no dissonance, and... no tension. Don't worry, be happy! (OK, Bobby McFerrin does have some notes outside of the scale in the harmonies, but not the melody, and that's what counts, right?)

Man, this guy.

I know, right? The other important thing: the modes are... not really usable. See, the major pentatonic is missing arguably its least important notes. Western music will loudly disagree, saying that the 4 and 7 are the most important notes ever and any scale without them can't progress. It's right, but eh. If you don't want functional harmony, you don't need them. Kick 'em to the curb! But, see, the major pentatonic has the 1, the 3, and the 5, the tonic triad, and the minor pentatonic has the 1, the b3, and the 5, the tonic triad for that scale. The other three modes do not. That makes them unstable and not really very usable. You can play around with them and see if you can figure anything interesting out. I think that the second mode, the "dorian" pentatonic, is actually quite full of possibilities, and I've even heard music in it. The other two, though, I really don't think so.

Why the scare quotes?

These modes are named to be consistent with the modes of the diatonic scale, but there's a little problem: the fucking characteristic note is missing. Dorian is dorian because of the 6; where's the 6 here? Phrygian is phrygian because of the b2; where's that? Mixolydian is what it is because of the b7; that's gone too! The pentatonic scale is the diatonic scale minus the interesting notes! So the name for the third mode may be "phrygian", but fuck it, I ain't callin' it that without a b2. Still, I don't have any better ideas, so there it is.

Another thing that must absolutely be known, in case it wasn't clear, is that the black keys on the piano are a pentatonic scale, in particular, the F# major pentatonic (F# G# A# C# D#) or the Eb minor pentatonic (Eb Gb Ab Bb Db). White keys are the diatonic scale; black keys are the pentatonic scale. That's not really on purpose; that's just how it ended up. Also, the pentatonic scale is actually a stack of fifths. Start on, say, C and go around the circle of fifths: C, G, D, A, E. That's the pentatonic scale! You can also think of it this way: the diatonic scale consists of 7 notes in a row in the circle of fifths; the other five notes in the circle of fifths form the pentatonic scale and are also next to each other. If the diatonic scale is F C G D A E B, if we keep going (enharmonically) we get the pentatonic scale, Gb Db Ab Eb Bb.

Here's a nifty little feature: just like the diatonic scale, if you play the pentatonic scale upside down, you get another pentatonic scale back. In particular, the "dorian" pentatonic in the mirror is the same "dorian" pentatonic, just like the full dorian scale. Otherwise, we have major inverted into "phrygian", and minor inverted into "mixolydian". I'm not sure this is horribly important, but I think it's worth a mention, especially when we see some scales later on that don't invert into a mode of themselves.

Finally, I'm not going to bother with tetrachords and whatnot here, because the scale regions don't really make sense in a pentatonic context. So, let's see some examples!

Section Contents

7.5.1 Major Pentatonic

This scale is, as I mentioned, extremely popular, so it's hard to pick a few representative tunes. But I'll do it anyway. Let's start with an English tune most of us probably know, Amazing Grace:

Example 7.37 — Amazing Grace

Example 7.37

What in the fuck.

Ah, yeah. So, Amazing Grace was a hymn written by an English clergyman named John Newton, but it wasn't actually set to the melody we know until later. That beautiful pentatonic melody was an existing traditional English melody called New Britain. You can read about the song on Wikipedia. It's very heavily associated with the US and with African-American freedom in particular (some even think of it as an African-American spiritual because it's so pretty), but everything about this hymn is actually English. Funny how all of our patriotism is actually repurposed English melodies, huh? Our national anthem is an English drinking song (To Anacreon In Heaven, the drinking song of the Anacreonic Society); our song about letting freedom ring is actually the British National Anthem, etc. Thank God for William Billings. Anyway.

This tune is well-known, so when I lead my sedarim on Pesach, especially if we have non-Jewish guests, I like to start the seder with this melody as a way to let them know that our guests are welcome. Kadesh Urchatz is just a list of the steps of the seder, a useful mnemonic for keeping track of where we are and what's left to do, and it happens to fit pretty well to the tune, so hey, why not?

And the third line?

Heh, I can't remember who came up with this. In HRSFA (Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association) we liked to make mashups like this one. The words are from The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, from Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd. It's a shame they removed the Ballad from the movie. They kept it in the orchestral score, but it's just not the same.

Let's look at the actual notes a bit, though. Remember those? They stay very locked inside the Eb major pentatonic. If you look at the white notes, by which I mean the half notes and dotted half notes, all of them are actually the notes of the Eb major triad. You could consider this harmony as being completely static.

But?

As is common with pentatonic music, if you harmonize it with notes outside the pentatonic, you can get a whole lot of mileage. Here's Frank Ticheli's rendition of Amazing Grace for wind ensemble, which I played I think freshman year of high school. Listen for the countermelodies, the little fugue section, and the interesting harmonies, as well as Ticheli's signature way of writing music (it's extremely similar to An American Elegy, a piece written to commemorate the victims of the Columbine shooting). Ticheli's Amazing Grace is clearly in major, plain old major, even though this core melody is pentatonic.

This whole tune is actually quite repetitive (which is usually desirable). We have our first phrase up to measure 4, and then the first two bars of it repeat, but the end at bars 7 and 8 is up instead of down. Then we stay up at 9, but we go back to the rest of the first phrase at measure 10, and the last four bars are, again, the first phrase but it stops after three bars. It's the same four bars each time, with some variation! This kind of simplicity lends itself very well to communal singing, and it's quite probably why this hymn is so popular.

Moving on to another corner of the world, we have the unofficial Korean anthem, Arirang:

Example 7.38 — Arirang

Example 7.38

Sorry about the lack of words; I don't know Korean! I actually knew this from a Wee Sing Around The World tape I had as a kid. It's one of those songs that apparently everyone knows in Korea, both North and South. It was even an anthem against Japanese occupation. You can learn much more about it on its Wikipedia page. Actually, it transcribes the song in 9/8 instead of 3/4. Eh. It's a folk song; it could really go either way. The fact that it's in the same key as Amazing Grace is a complete coincidence; I clicked on the first promising video I found for each and they both happened to be in Eb. There's nothing special about that key!

Another thing that strikes me, though, is how damn similar Arirang is to New Britain, the air to Amazing Grace.

Air?

Air is just another word for melody. But look at the contour. Even the phrase structure is incredibly similar. One's English and the other is Korean, so I don't think there'd be any connection, but that's kind of uncanny, isn't it? Both tunes in plagal major pentatonic, 16 bars of 3/4 (though Amazing Grace uses a pickup and Arirang doesn't, but big deal), very similar phrase structure, etc. The two tunes are from completely different parts of the world and used for different purposes, and yet they're extremely similar. I think that's really cool. And every strong beat is in the tonic triad, too!

That last bit actually makes kind of a big difference, because Amazing Grace I think has more harmonic possibility than Arirang. Arirang was certainly not written with harmony in mind, but you can add some nice harmony if you don't stay in the scale. Unfortunately, Frank Ticheli didn't write a wind ensemble version of Arirang. Fortunately, John Barnes Chance did. Variations on a Korean Folk Song is one of the standards of the band repertoire that anyone associated with wind ensembles ought to have played or at least heard performed. Its structure is as a theme and variations (if you check the comments on the video — I know this sounds like a bad idea, but trust me — there's a link to where each variation begins). What this means is that first there's a relatively simple version of the theme, and following that there are several more complicated and interesting versions of the same theme, maybe reharmonized, given a different style, broken down and developed, etc. These are fun to write because you get to come up with creative ways to handle a single tune. If you listen to all of the variations here, you can get a sense for different ways in which you can recontextualize a simple pentatonic tune.

Of course, it's not just folk songs that use major pentatonic. Here's Pee Wee King's Tennessee Waltz:

Example 7.39 — Tennessee Waltz

Example 7.39

There are many recordings, and a lot of them actually break out of major pentatonic at measures 14 and 30 for one note. I looked around until I found this one. I actually know this tune from a CD of dance medleys my mom had (probably still has, I don't know) featuring a bunch of Jewish and world music in dance formats like foxtrot, mambo, etc. There were, like, 50 tracks on there, so I ended up learning a lot of very classic music, and the Tennessee Waltz was on there, if I recall correctly. I even wrote an arrangement for clarinet quartet at one point since I think this song goes pretty great for that ensemble. I make no claims to the greatness of the arrangement; it was a long time ago! But it's there. I did that as a kind of theme and variations, including even one variation in 4/4! I realize now that all three examples I gave in this section are in 3/4. How many fucks do I give? 3/4 of a fuck, tops. It's more than 0.

Now, the major pentatonic is interesting because it's very close to a part of the overtone scale.

You've mentioned this before, several chapters back. Is this a mode?

No. It's... Gah. Physics. I don't really want to get into it, but basically, if we start at some frequency, say, 55 Hz (which is an A1), the multiples of that frequency form the overtone series: 55 Hz, 110 Hz, 165 Hz, 220 Hz, 275 Hz, 330 Hz, 385 Hz, 440 Hz, 495 Hz, and so on. These are called overtones or harmonics. The reason we care about these frequencies has to do with the math and physics of sound — both the math and the physics, separately — but never mind that. Here's what the first few notes of the overtone series look like (starting from C2):

Example 7.40 — overtones

Example 7.40

What's going on with these weird symbols?

That's a 3/2 flat on the B and a 1/2-sharp on the F. Bdb is the note halfway between A and Bb, and Ft is the note halfway between F and F#. In the text I'm using a d for the half-flat symbol and a t for the half-sharp symbol.

Why Bdb instead of At, then?

Because we tend to think of that note as a low Bb, not a sharp A.

In any case, if we look at the harmonics labeled 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12, we have basically the major pentatonic (in plagal position, which is perfect for Amazing Grace and Arirang), except that the 7th harmonic is too high. But it's still pretty close! You can play with the overtone scale on the Offtonic Scale Keyboard. Try to play some of the examples using those harmonics. What I notice right away is how low the third is, the 10th harmonic. The 7th is very off but we already knew that. If you remember back in Chapter 5 when we were looking at intervals, the 10th harmonic makes a 5/4 pure interval with the 8th (because 10/8 = 5/4), which is 14 cents or so lower than a major third, and the difference is quite noticeable. The 7th harmonic makes a 7/4 pure interval with the 4th (again, because it's 7/4), which was also one of the pure intervals we looked at, narrower than the minor seventh. Using these pure intervals, you can make something pretty similar to the major pentatonic! In fact, other than the not-so-used 7th harmonic, the cultures that independently created the pentatonic scale did not do so with equal-tempered notes but used pure intervals of some sort, or at least very impure, estimated intervals. On the opposite extreme, we have the 5-tone equal tempered scale. This scale doesn't even need to be written down, so I won't write it down. Instead, check out 5-TET in the Offtonic Scale Keyboard and try to play the same songs. It's the octave divided into 5 equal intervals instead of the 12 of the chromatic scale.

WOW that is weird. It actually sounds like the "dorian" pentatonic rather than the major pentatonic, though.

Oh, you must be playing the wrong mode, then. Try using a different note as your tonic.

...Ha ha ha ha. Very funny. It's exactly the same.

Yep. Exactly the same. Your ears play tricks on you when it comes to the 5-TET scale. Actually, the 5-TET scale demonstrates an interesting principle: the pentatonic scale is actually a pretty damn even division of the octave into 5. It's not exact, obviously, since there are 12 notes in the 12-TET chromatic scale we all know and possibly love and you can't evenly divide 12 by 5, but the resulting division is actually pretty good. Try this. In the Offtonic Scale Keyboard, select 5-TET, and then select some of the pentatonic modes to see how the circles shift. Those circles are placed along the line in proportion to the intervals, so you can see that all six of the circles are exactly evenly spaced in 5-TET. In each of the pentatonic modes, though, you can see the circles shift a bit.

Why did you label the 5-TET notes C D E G A?

That question will have to wait until a later chapter for an answer. It's actually very interesting, so hold on tight.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at the next important pentatonic:

7.5.2 Minor Pentatonic

The minor pentatonic is just the (natural) minor scale without the 2 and b6. When we talked about the aeolian mode, we mentioned how a lot of music skips over the b6 anyway, making it a step closer to minor pentatonic. While you could think of the b6 as the characteristic tone of aeolian, the fact is that it's not an important note, unlike the b3, which makes the scale minor, and the b7, which gives it the feel that makes it different from Common Practice minor. The minor pentatonic scale has both notes, so it has pretty much everything. Again, though, having only 5 notes makes it limited, so harmonies generally use plenty of notes outside the scale.

First example: it's not Japanese, but... it pretends to be? I don't know. It's Swedish group's SMiLE.dk's hit that was featured in the original Dance Dance Revolution, Butterfly. The intro and verses use the 2 and b6 so they're not pentatonic, but the chorus totally is:

Example 7.41 — Butterfly

Example 7.41

I know this song! I thought it was Japanese. All this butterfly stuff, going across Japan to find a samurai... You're telling me it's Swedish?

Oh, it's not me telling you. It's Wikipedia.

Cultural appropriation much?

It was a huge hit in Japan, so... I dunno?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure they went with the pentatonic sound specifically to evoke what the world imagines Japanese music to sound like (and to be fair, they do use pentatonic scales quite a bit). We can also see, in these four measures (they do repeat), some very obvious parallelism: the first two bars have the exact same rhythm as the second two. Even the contour is basically the same, except that the last two notes of 1 go up and the last two notes of 3 go down; starting on that last note, measures 2 and 4 are identical. In fact, let's look at the first three beats of 1 and 3. In 1, we have G# B C#, and in the second, we have F# G# B. In both cases, we're just going up the C# minor pentatonic scale. The intervals aren't the same; G# to B is an m3 while F# to G# is an M2. But in terms of scale distance, they're both one scale step. I'm not sure calling it diatonic transposition makes a lot of sense for a non-diatonic scale, but that's essentially what it is.

You can also hear an interesting feature, which is that the m3 gaps are treated essentially as scale steps. In measure 2, for example, we have C# E C# B G#. Jumping up to that E is a bit awkward; jumping up to a D# would not have been, since it's a neighbor tone of the C#. The E, an m3 away, is treated here as a neighbor tone. When the same figure happens at measure 4, the G# is a legit neighbor tone of the F# and it doesn't have that same feel, but usually we resolve to the tonic by step when everything around us is a scale, and here we get there by leap, E down to C#. So that feels different too. In major pentatonic, we do have a 2, so things sound quite different. But in minor pentatonic, we have a 4, which allows measure 3 to clearly have a different harmonic root from the previous two bars. Major pentatonic is more harmonically static.

Minor pentatonic also shows up a lot in pop music. Here's the first verse and chorus from Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity. You may want to not pay attention to the lyrics.

Example 7.42 — Virtual Insanity

Example 7.42

That's hard to read! The rhythms and the key... WHY?

The key is hopefully not too bad. I mean, if you get used to playing in D# minor, it's fine. Why did Jamiroquai pick this key? No idea. Maybe it fit the singer's voice better than others. As for the rhythms, yeah, it is hard to read, and that's because this is jazzy music. It's all syncopated, and it's not actually hard to sing, just to notate. The basic concept of this style of syncopation is that everything happens a little bit before the beat. Sometimes the note on beat 1 is a bit longer for emphasis, which makes the note on beat 2 later, and the note on beat 3 has to be earlier to prevent the rhythm from getting too square. If you look carefully at this rhythm, you'll hopefully learn how this genre of jazzy popular music does things. The rhythm does straighten around bar 27, probably to ratchet up the tension a bit before the chorus.

Speaking of which, the chorus is not in minor pentatonic. I hope that's obvious. It's just in regular minor, hence the Cx's and the E#'s. But the verse is, almost entirely; there are some points where the singer goes a little bit off-pitch as a stylistic embellishment, like at 23: he bends that note up a little bit at the start of the note. Other than that, the melody is strictly pentatonic, and the harmony is completely... not. This is one of the big features of the pentatonic scale. Because none of its notes really clashes with the others, it's easy for a pentatonic scale to sound good when played over a large range of chords. In this case, the chords in the verse are D#m7 - G#7 - C#9 - F#M7 - B#ø7 - BM7 - A#+ - D#m7 (you can look up the chords on a variety of websites), the whole thing repeated a few times with some variations. But you can see that there are 7 different chords here (8 chords, but D#m7 is on both ends), and the D# minor pentatonic sounds fine over all of these.

Let's look at the structure of the verse. We can split it up into mostly four-bar sections, with one being six bars. There are seven sections total. We see that the structure in the verse isn't completely symmetrical, while the chorus has four obvious phrases of four bars each. I'm going to be including pickups in the measure that follows them. So, we have the first phrase, starting on 1-4 and ending on 5-8. Then we have a second phrase, starting on 9-12 and ending on 13-16. It has the same chords as the first phrase and is very similar, structurally. If we disregard the specific melody in the first section of each of these two phrases, we can see that the contours are somewhat similar but only loosely, starting high on the A# and going down; what really identifies them together is the chord structure. This loose similarity is a big clue that the song may have been composed in a kind of improvisatory fashion (especially since the lyrics are just a naturist rant, but anyway). On the other hand, the second section of each of these phrases has the same first two bars: C# D# F#. There's a little preview of that in measures 11-12, interestingly enough. But then we get a different thing, a little bridge section, going on at 17. Three two-bar groupings, 17-18, 19-20, and 20-21, all have the same pattern but a different ending. The first one ends very low but on a rhythmically weak position, so it needs a response. The second is that response, but its ending isn't definitive enough, ending on the dominant. The third one ends it more definitively, but, again, on a weak beat. After this we get another phrase similar to the first two; 23-26 is very similar to 9-12. But 27-30 is the lead-in to the chorus, with repeated straight quarter notes turning up the tension. If I were to label these four phrases of the verse, I'd label them as follows: Verse A - Verse B - Verse A - Verse B - Bridge - Verse A - Ending.

So why do I need to know this?

If you're writing songs, you may be able to do this kind of thing instinctively. I'm sure that most great songwriters have a sense for this without it having to be taught. But what if you're maybe not the greatest songwriter in the world yet, and you're wondering why your songs always sound so boring and so similar? You have to analyze. You have to look at other music, ideally a wide variety of it, and figure out what they're doing that you could be doing. Even if you decide that it's a stupid idea, you should at least understand what you're rejecting. Study the form of these songs enough, and you'll be able to better critique your own writing.

There's another interesting thing about this structure: the second verse has a similar though not identical melody, but it does have exactly the same structure. And the topic of the lyrics in the structure is also similar! All of the Verse sections — Verse A and Verse B — are complaints about modern man's abuse of technology or something (I know, I know). The Bridge sections are complaints about how there's nothing that can be done about it. The Ending sections are warnings. The content also fits the mood of the sections. This tight integration of words and music is extremely effective, though I'm not sure if the audience was really receptive to Jamiroquai's... "message", if we want to be charitable. It's an unfocused rant with nothing concrete or factual. But at least it's nicely broken down and fitted to the music, so that's something?

Moving on, the minor pentatonic scale also has one very special alteration that gives it extremely wide use in modern pop music:

7.5.3 The Blues Scale

The blues scale is just the minor pentatonic scale with a passing tone added between the 4 and the 5. Looks like this:

Example 7.43 — blues scale

Example 7.43

That passing tone could be a #4 or a b5 depending on function, but it can also be used in other ways. In blues, and jazz and rock and everything that inherits from blues, which includes most modern popular music, the notes on this scale aren't right. But they are. See, they clash with the chords, and that's OK. I'm going to tell you to listen to basically any blues tune, but you can start with this one I wrote that I'll copy from Example 6.37 (but sing the melody before listening):

Example 6.37 (again) — Sharp Nine Blues

Example 6.37 (again)

The b5 is the Ab. In measure 11, we have a G# leading up to the A, then the Ab as a passing tone between the A and the G. But that's not what it's doing at measures 4 and 8, right? What it's doing at 4 and 8 is clashing with the A in the piano! Same with the F right at the start, clashing with the F# in the piano, and same with the C at 9, clashing with the C# in the piano. These notes are essentially bent down from where they "ought" to be.

Wii U Wii U Wii U! Rule Zero police!

Chill; it was in quotes. I don't mean that it actually ought to be that way. But this bending down is what makes these notes what they are: blue notes. They're often explained away as being Westernizations of the 7th harmonic in different situations, as we saw in the funked-up major pentatonic a couple sections ago, but I don't know if I trust that explanation. I don't know if that's actually where they come from. What I know is that they're essential to the sound of the blues. The b3 and b7 can be bent down; the b5 doesn't really need to be bent anywhere because it's still going to clash.

The best thing I can do for you is to tell you to improvise on this scale, on the Offtonic Scale Keyboard or any other instrument you have on hand. Hell, even just playing the scale is something. I'm going to try to describe this to you, but what I want you to do is to play the scale up and down in swung eighth notes, so doo, da doo, da doo, da doo, etc. Now, just keep playing around on it. It all sounds great, even unaccompanied!

You can of course play it over minor chords too, not just the dominant 7th chords of the traditional blues. After all, the blues scale is just a minor pentatonic with an extra note. You can use that to sound a bit mournful, for example, if that's the feel you're going for with your jazz or blues. Here's a great example, B. B. King's The Thrill Has Gone. He still bends his notes on the guitar.

Actually, you can really listen to almost anything by B. B. King and it will probably contain a great example of the blues scale in its natural habitat. I'll let you do that. You can also listen to Horace Silver's African Queen and Cape Verdean Blues, both of which mix the blues scale with other material.

By the way, there's also something called a major blues scale, which is Mode II of the regular (minor) blues. It's just a major pentatonic with an extra note between the 2 and 3, so it's 1 2 #2/b3 3 5 6. It's not really worth talking about.

7.5.4 Other Pentatonic Modes

You can play with the remaining modes of the pentatonic scale on the Offtonic Scale Keyboard. I find that the "phrygian" and "mixolydian" pentatonic scales are pretty useless. The "phrygian" one goes 1 b3 4 b6 b7, and it's missing a 5. That means that you can't really establish the tonic very well, like with the locrian scale, and I simply don't know of any music that uses it. The b6 is an unstable tone that tends down to the 5, but there's no 5 in the scale. It's just weird.

The "mixolydian" pentatonic goes 1 2 4 5 6, and it has a different stability problem. I don't think you need the third, but it helps, so what ends up happening immediately here is that the 4 becomes the tonic. The 6 strengthens the 4, and the 1 strengthens the 4 too. I also don't know of any music that uses this scale, and I don't have a clue why anyone would, but hey, maybe it's out there somewhere.

The "dorian" pentatonic, on the other hand, is pretty great. It goes 1 2 4 5 b7, and while it doesn't have a third, I think that's OK. I don't know of any music that uses it either, but I love playing with it. See, the third is important for functional harmony, but if you don't use functional harmony, you totally don't need it. You can make great melodies with this scale. I'm going to make one right now, and you can play it in the Offtonic Scale Keyboard or sing it because I'm not giving you a recording. Ready?

Example 7.44 — other pentatonic melody

Example 7.44

I'm not going to claim that this is the best melody ever written in this mode, but it's the only one I know so yeah. I guess it sounds like minor pentatonic, but with a 2 instead of a b3. Maybe I should have used the minor key signature. What I do think is that this scale is greatly weakened by harmony, and if you want to use it you may want to consider not having any chords at all. But at least the scale itself is stable enough.

That's enough for the pentatonic scale. We'll see other pentatonic scales — that is, other scales with five tones — in a bit, but the pentatonic scale is this one. Next, let's go to one family of scales that I really like for reasons that should become obvious: