How to Play Pentatonic Scales

The pentatonic scale uses only five notes.

Learning how to play the pentatonic scale on the piano makes it possible to play this scale on any instrument. The basic pentatonic scale consists of five pitches that can be arranged in any order to fit the composer's needs. Sometimes composers will transpose the pentatonic scale into other keys as well. The scale appears often in modern, African, Native American and Chinese music. The unusual combination of tones creates a characteristic, exotic sound.

Learn the notes in the pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale in C has the following notes: C-D-F-G-A and then repeats at the octave.

Play these notes on the piano by finding the white key next to the set of two double keys. This key is C. D can be found between the two white keys, while F appears to the left of the set of three black keys. G and A can are the next two white keys after F.

Practice playing up and down the scale on your instrument. On the piano, use one finger for each note to make it easier to play fast. This may be harder at first, but by using one finger per note, you can increase your coordination and eventually, play quickly.


  • If you play an instrument other than piano, simply use a fingering chart to determine the correct fingerings for your instrument.
  • Technically, a pentatonic scale can be any scale that uses only five notes in the music. You can experiment and create your own five note scales.


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