Introduction to Using the Pentatonic Scale

What is a pentatonic scale. 

A pentatonic scale consists of five notes. You don’t have to be a musician to play with a pentatonically tuned instrument. If you play with these notes you can’t go wrong and whatever you play will sound beautiful and harmonious. This is because all the notes that would clash have been removed. Ancient civilisations and different cultures throughout time have used the same magical sounding scales. You probably remember being taught to sing Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti,  Do. If you remove the Fa and the Ti from your instruments you can all enter the magical world of, what I call, ‘Pentatonia’ and have a harmonious jam together. 

Tuned Percussion 

Using tuned percussion is a very accessible way of adding another way of interacting musically to your jamming sessions. The Glockenspiel is a great instrument to use for a pentatonic session as it is very easy to adapt. In the key of C major you have the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C. Just remove the F and B sound bars. The Alto Glockenspiel is particularly beautiful because of its lower, mellow sound. You can get individual sound bars, so C, D, E, G and A would work fine. There are also Chimes that come with three sound bars together (C,D and E) and these add a high celestial texture to the sound of your sessions. There are pentatonically tuned Pan Drums that sound beautiful but they are expensive. 

Stringed Instruments 

You can re-tune stringed instruments to become pentatonic by tuning down any string that isn’t C, D, E, G or A.  We use a small celtic harp that has been tuned this way. There are tuning apps that you can install on your phone to help you with this. This can work for other stringed instruments but only if you’re playing the strings open (not playing chords).

How This Fits Into the Group Session. 

By bringing in pentatonically set up instruments to your session you are offering a melodic element and more choice to your jammers. It gives people who have never played an instrument before the chance to feel what it’s like to play in a band. Because the instruments are tuned to sound lovely together people can relax and express themselves rhythmically and melodically. It creates a very relaxed, creative atmosphere in which people can explore playing music together.  

Imagine facilitating a chilled jam session where people are pleasantly surprised and delighted to be playing an instrument for the first time and really contributing to the sound of the session. Why not give it a go? If you would like more information on where to access the instruments do leave a comment or get in touch. Happy jamming! 

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