pentatonic scale

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

pentatonic scale

Music any of several scales consisting of five notes, the most commonly encountered one being composed of the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the major diatonic scale
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pentatonic Scale


a tonal system that has five steps to the octave. The main type of pentatonic scale (the tonal, or natural scale, as well as the Chinese or Scottish scale) has no semitones, and its tones can be arranged in perfect fifths. In this scale, there can be only two intervals between adjacent steps—the minor third or the major second. Characteristic of the pentatonic scale are three-step groups, or tetrachords, that have no semitones (for example, mi-sol-la). Because of the absence of semitones, strong harmonic tendencies are not inherent in this scale. It lacks a definite tonal center—that is, any of the five tones can serve as the central tone. Consequently, five variants of the pentatonic scale can be produced from a single combination of tones.

The pentatonic scale, which has been called protodiatonic by the Soviet musicologist G. L. Katuar, is a natural stage in the development of musical thought. For this reason, the scale (or its rudiments) is found in the oldest musical folklore of various peoples. In its pure form the pentatonic scale is common in the music of China, Vietnam, and other Oriental countries. In the USSR, it is widely encountered in the music of the Tatars, Bashkirs, and Buriats, for example. Elements of the pentatonic system are also inherent in the most ancient Russian folk songs.


Kozlov, I. A. “Piatizvuchnye bespolutonnye gammy v tatarskoi i bashkirskoi narodnoi muzyke i ikh muzykal’no-teoreticheskii analiz.” Izv. obshchestva arkheologii, istorii i etnografii pri Kazanskom gos. universitete, 1928, vol. 34.
Girshman, la. Pentatonika i ee razvitie v tatarskoi muzyke. Moscow, 1960.
Kvitka, K. V. “Ladovye sistemy v muzyke slavian i sosednykh narodov.” In his book Izbr. trudy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1971.
Riemann, H. Folkloristische Tonalitätsstudien. Leipzig, 1916.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In addition, it is common for Ewe composers and performers to utilize two closely related pentatonic scales, which creates a sense that the tonal construction is hexatonic when it is pentatonic.
As the wedding party returns to the Duke's home, leaving the forest behind, the musical elements of exoticism, such as the pentatonic scale and indigenous Japanese instruments present during their exile, are diminished.
Some pop songs are based loosely around the pentatonic scale but don't follow it so closely, according to the Jo Jingles study, and don't generate the same innate response in youngsters.
Here the dyads are omitted, and the different forms of pentatonic scale are represented by P and the subscripted integer following it.
Spirituals use the minor pentatonic scale. The minor pentatonic scale uses the black keys on the piano for a certain sound.
But while I use the Chinese pentatonic scale (just play five consecutive black notes on the piano) for the ceremonial scenes (marches, weddings, and the street festivals), there is a greater use of middle eastern rhythms and drones."
The different notes will create a harmonic droning noise from across the pentatonic scale.
The traditional pentatonic scale is explored in depth by the time the author introduces the concept of tablature and how it relates to the pictured fingering charts.
Still, her observations about the sounds are quite compelling: during a chanted sermon, in which the melodic shape outlines a pentatonic scale, the shouted pitches are "directly related to the musical scale of the chant....
The only scale contained within the C12 chromatic that looks like this is the anhemitonic pentatonic scale, with groups of whole tones separated by minor thirds.
I designed the curriculum around the tune Don't Eat Green Bugs, written by Bradley Sowash, which is based on the notes of the pentatonic scale. I wanted my students to learn about and improvise within the five-pitches.
* Every day (new material): major and minor 9th arpeggios, minor pentatonic scale