Day 7.



Pentatonic Scales



I guess this is as good a place as any to mention the Pentatonic scale . Penta meaning five. Tonic meaning tones. Five tones or notes. A five note scale.


There are many pentatonic scales possible but the ones most often used in Rock are the major pentatonic and the minor pentatonic.


The major pentatonic is comprised of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th positions of the major scale.


The minor pentatonic is comprised of the 1st, b3rd, 4th, 5th and b7th positions (of the major scale, since, as I mentioned six pages ago, we are using the major scale as a basic reference point and defining the minor (pentatonic) scale in terms of the major). (See the minor used in much Rock music, two pages ago).


They are very often chosen on a practical, improve-the-fingering basis because they eliminate the half-step intervals of their respective full scales. Makes it easier to work the strings and the fret board.


Also, harmonically, each of the pentatonic notes is strongly individualistic and has little tendency to resolve to another note, ie.: the positions that are eliminated, in the major pentatonic, the 4th and 7th, and in the minor pentatonic, the 2nd and the b6th of the natural and harmonic minor scales, have strong 'pull' toward the nearest note. They create a desire to hear another note, to feel a resolution (of vague tension).


Definition: resolve: to bring a note back into the sound/feel of another note or group of notes.


Why don't you play a few pentatonics using more or less the fingering patterns that you've already learned, that is, the fingering patterns minus a few fingers (or positions).


The major pentatonic can be used as a shortened version of a major scale (and is therefore very useful for bass playing since you would rarely want to play all the notes in a scale) and the minor pentatonic can similarly serve to replace any of the different minor scales. This capability to replace any of the different minor scales is very interesting: by using this single pentatonic scale you can play within any of the minor scales that other musicians are using. This single five note scale is incredibly useful !


One fascinating use of pentatonics is the mixing of (same root or tonic) major and minor pentatonic scales! This is (usually) done while playing within a dominant 7th scheme (more on 7th chords in about fifteen or sixteen pages). By switching back and forth between a major and a minor pentatonic - while playing in the same area of the neck - you can create highly unusual, unique, improvised note sequences which enhance the spirit of rock music! This takes a lot of experimentation but is well worth the effort! Do try this.


There are a lot of things you can do with pentatonic scales. Like using them as substitutes for other scales, chord-based bass note sequences and modes. However, many of these harmonic ideas lie well beyond the scope of this beginning bass booklet (nice alliteration!). You can delve into them by reading more advanced music theory sometime in the future.


The above info is enough basic knowledge about pentatonic scales for the moment. As you can probably feel, pentatonics are an area that millions of Rock musicians are very fond of. This is definitely one topic you would do well to come back to after finishing this booklet. Make a note of this somewhere.



End of day 7.