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Playing with the pentatonic scale

The pentatonic scale is very common in traditional musical systems from around the world. Here are two examples of pentatonic music, from Morocco and Uganda, and a third by Frenchman Claude Debussy, who was inspired by the pentatonic music of Java.

You can perhaps hear the similarity between these three pieces. Try playing them all at the same time so you can hear how they fit together harmonically. (These pieces are all in the same pentatonic scale on C#.)

As you can probably hear, the pentatonic scale has a very distinctive sound, with a fixed pattern of just five pitches in the scale.

play button

You can make your own music in the pentatonic scale using the Note Canvas below. Click play to hear just five notes in the pentatonic scale on C#.

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draw note button

Use the Draw note tool to draw in your own new notes, and try some different instruments.

On this page, the Note Canvas tool is set up to allow only the notes of the pentatonic scale on C#. They are the notes represented by light blue lines. If you look on the left of the tool, you can see where the five notes of the scale are numbered.

Try playing your pentatonic music along with the examples from the top of the page.