# Minor Pentatonic Question

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by TeleAnthony, May 20, 2019.

1. ### TeleAnthonyTele-Meister

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So I am reviewing minor pentatonic theory and I find many references to it being constructed as 1, b3, 4, 5, and a b7. However, I wrote out the minor scales for C, A, G, E, and D (I am working on CAGED system) and then removed the 2 and 6 to construct the pentatonic for each and noticed the following: On C minor has a flat 3 and flat 7; Eb and Bb. A minor pentatonic has none which I understand because it's a natural minor, relative minor scale to C major. G minor pentatonic only has a flat 3; Bb; E minor and D minor pentatonics have neither a flat 3 or flat 7. So why do I see everywhere on youtube that the minor pentatonic has a flat 3 and flat 7? What am I missing?

2. ### beninmaTele-AfflictedSilver Supporter

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I think you're thinking of your b3 & b7 in reference to some other scale that is not the correct reference point to start on, perhaps from the major scale that the minor is relative to?

G Major:

G A B C D E F#

G Minor:

G A A# C D D# F

G Minor Pentatonic:

G A# C D F

The Pentatonic doesn't flatten relative to the minor scale. The b3 and b7 are there in the minor scale. You're just deleting the 2nd and 6th tone from the minor scale.

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3. ### basherTele-Afflicted

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It's a problem with terminology. "Flat 3" is kind of slang for an interval of a minor third -- an interval composed of three half-steps -- but that doesn't have anything to do with the note name. The E minor scale has a G, which is a minor third away from E, and a D, which is a minor seventh away. Whereas the minor third and minor seventh in a C minor scale are Eb and Bb, respectively. They're the same intervals as in the E minor scale.

(Edited per @DougM. Serves me right for counting on my fingers.)

Last edited: May 20, 2019
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4. ### DougMFriend of Leo's

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You have to learn the circle of fifths, and how key signatures work. And you need to understand intervals. The key of G for instance has one sharp, which is F#, because in a major key the 7 note is 1/2 step (or one fret) below the root. The b7 of a key is a whole step below the root, so in the key of G it's F. b7 means a whole step below the root, but depending on the key, that note could be a flat, sharp, or neither. The same applies to the b3. That means that the 3 note is three frets, or one and a half steps, above the root, where a major third is a half step higher, or four frets (or two steps) above the root. Depending on the key, that note could also be a flat, sharp, or neither. In the key of A, the major three is C#, and the minor, or flat three is C. Once again, it's called a flat three because of its place in the scale, whether it's a flat or sharp or neither. Maybe it would be less confusing to call them minor 3 and minor 7 instead of b3 and b7, because those designations are referring to the note's relationship in the scale, not that it's an actual flat.

Last edited: May 20, 2019
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5. ### DougMFriend of Leo's

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A minor third is three half steps above the other note, not four. Four half steps is a major third.

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6. ### BuzzgrowlTDPRI Member

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There is no flat or sharp 3rd. There is a minor 3rd or a major 3rd. Flats and sharps are for all other notes except 7ths and the root. 7ths can be major or dominant. It's a convention. If you want other people to understand you, use this convention.

Last edited: May 20, 2019
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7. ### BuzzgrowlTDPRI Member

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In a way yes but the "flat" 7th is not really minor because it lives very happily inside the mixolidian scale - a major scale - where it is 2 half steps below the root and is usually called a dominant 7.

8. ### marcfloresTele-Meister

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Every key as a minor pentatonic has a b3 and b7 because you are referencing the major scale in each key. So you wouldn't say the A minor scale has no pentatonic because you'd be referencing the A major scale for the A minor pentatonic scale.

9. ### DougMFriend of Leo's

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Your terminology and understanding are flawed. A whole step below the root is called a flat seven or minor seven, and the seven in a major scale is a half step below the root. Mixolydian is a mode, which is a major scale with a minor (or flat) seven, instead of a major seven. The minor seven does not exist in a standard major scale.

10. ### AAT65Friend of Leo'sSilver Supporter

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Ignore this post if you like..
I can’t keep quiet!! The key of Gm used flats, not sharps... it’s spelled
G A Bb C D Eb F G
and Gm pentatonic is then
G Bb C D F

(A full major or minor key uses each note name once and only once, possibly qualified by # or b.)

No, I really can’t agree with this assertion. It’s not how I’ve learned music theory.
A minor 3rd is an interval of 3 semitones, between two notes but not necessarily from the tonic (key home note). So from E to G is a minor 3rd (no matter what the key is). A major 3rd is similarly an interval of 4 semitones.
Flat 3rd (b3) means something very specific: it is a specific note which is a minor 3rd from the tonic. I think using b3 as a synonym for Minor 3rd is potentially confusing.
If a key has a b3 then in the key we are talking about the 3 is flat compared to the parallel major. In Gm the 3 is Bb, which is a b3 because in G (major) the 3 is B (natural). Degrees of a scale are conventionally numbered relative to then major scale.
In traditional music theory you will see the same for chords. In the key of C or of Cm, E is III: in the key of C or of Cm, Eb is bIII. Nashville chord numbers may be different for minor keys, to cause some extra confusion...

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11. ### beninmaTele-AfflictedSilver Supporter

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I think I agree with you I struggled writing this out as I'm no expert. Definitely more clarity when you write it the way you did.

I very often mention these things in lessons and usually get told "it's the same note.. call it what you like, in certain situations it's more appropriate to call it one or the other."

That of course gets very confusing with odd chords.

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12. ### jbmandoPoster ExtraordinaireSilver Supporter

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The deal is that a scale uses the note names in alphabetical order, each letter is used only once, so what you have to do to a note in the MAJOR scale (all harmony and chord names are based on the major scale - even if the chord itself is minor) is determined by the required intervals between the notes of the desired scale.
Check this out, beginning at post #4: http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tab-tips-theory-technique/257931-double-stop-chart-i-made.html The info pertinent to our discussion is found in posts 4,5 and 6.

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13. ### gtroatesTele-Meister

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A couple of (music theory nerdy) points to clear up while reading this thread:

A “dominant 7th” refers to a chord, the interval of a minor 7th by itself is not interchangeable with the words dominant seventh. The first, fourth, and fifth triads in a harmonized major scale are named the tonic, sub-dominant, and dominant chords respectively. Therefore a dominant 7th chord is the seventh chord found on the root of the dominant, composed of root, third, fifth, and minor seventh. The chord type dominant 7th has been expanded to include “secondary dominant” chords which are dominant 7ths which resolve to the minor or major chords within the key, as in the fifth chords of two, three, four, five, or six. The seventh chord doesn’t represent a key option as it is a diminished triad which is not the tonic of any key.

The notes C flat and B natural, B sharp and C natural, F natural and E sharp, F flat and E natural, are only the same notes on instruments with half steps fretted or keyboard instruments which are based on tempered half steps. String orchestras with all fretless fingerboards actually play sharp notes closer to the notes above them and flatted notes are played closer to the notes below them. Wind instrument players even though they have buttons and holes to cover can be “lipped” upwards or downwards to match the string players concepts of sharp and flat. Guitar and piano teachers can be guilty of not wanting to muddy up the basic theory of their students with something which doesn’t apply to their instrument, so they will tell students they are the same note. The sound of the key of C# Major is different Than the sound of Db Major when played in symphonic music. Another very useful reason to have things like B natural and C flat in the music is when writing repeated notes out like trills, if you are in the key of C Major and want to write out a minor second trill between B flat and B natural the notation would get busy quickly with accidentals. If instead you wrote out B flat then C flat, the rest of the trill would just be the notation of B and C with the first two accidentals covering the notes through the measure. Double sharps and Double flats are necessary too. When writing out an F# augmented chord in notation it is easier to read and comprehend theoretically as a stack of thirds (F#, A#, and C##) than as the enharmonic version which looks like there is a fourth stacked on top of a third (F#, A#, and D natural), although the second is a first inversion D augmented, if the writer means to write F# as the root they would use a C##. To represent a diminished seventh chord accurately as a stack of minor thirds and not as a sixth chord can often lead to the use of at least one double flatted note, for example, C, Eb, Gb, and Bbb.

These all seem pointless for playing styles by ear, but if you get to the point of trying to read orchestral scores as most college music history courses for music majors do these are things that are very helpful to understand as they exist throughout classical and modern orchestral scores.

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14. ### kboldTele-MeisterSilver Supporter

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I think you're mixing up basic music terminology.
Music contains a lot of shorthand to describe processes simply.

Firstly, sharps (#) or flats (b) attached to notes define a specific note, independent of everything else. e.g. F# is the note F# (which can also be expressed as Gb - the same specific note).

b or # preceeding a number indicates that that interval of the scale is raised (#) or lowered (b) by a semitone. So the number is a reference related to the root note of the scale. This is independent of whether the note itself is # or b.
In minor pentatonics, the intervals are 1 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b7 - 8 (octave)
e.g. In Em pentatonic, the b3 note is G

Note that any b3 interval is a minor scale, while any 3 interval is a major scale.
i.e. Major pentatonic intervals are 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 8 (octave)
e.g. In E major pentatonic, the 3 note is G#

Then you have the shorthand M3 and m3. This refers to intervals between notes, which may be independent of the root note.
i.e. This can refer to any M3 (4 semitone step) or m3 (3 semitone step).
e.g. In Em pentatonic, there is a m3 step between 1 and b3 (E and G)
there is also a m3 step between 5 and b7 (B and D).

The M3 and m3 steps are how chords (triads) are constructed:
Major chords: M3 + m3
Minor chords: m3 + M3

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15. ### TeleAnthonyTele-Meister

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LIGHT BULB MOMENT. Thank you Kbold.

16. ### The AngleTele-Meister

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As others have said, this is all about intervals. It's hard to describe but easy to illustrate.

If you write out the C scale and assign each note a number, you get this.

C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

If you fill in the intervals, it looks like this:

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B
1 -- 2 -- 3 4 -- 5 -- 6 -- 7

Now compare the major scale to the minor pentatonic:

. . . . . . . C . C# . D . D# . E . F . F# . G . G# .A . A# . B
Major Scale . 1 . . . .2 . . . .3 . 4 . . . .5 . . . 6 . . . .7

Minor Penta . 1 . . . . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . .4 . . . . . 5 . . .

The 2nd note of the minor pentatonic scale is the flatted 3rd note of the major scale, and the 5th note of the minor pentatonic is the flatted 7th note of the major scale. That's the whole thing.

EDIT: Looks like someone else switched on the lights ahead of me.

Also, if you're starting to get interested in theory, there's no better resource online than Jazz Guitar Online. Even if you're not interested in jazz, don't let that frighten you off. The website has tons of free lessons in the Blog section, including some that cover basic music theory, scales, and chord construction. You can learn a ton there without spending a dime. (Their ebooks are also top-notch, but wait for them to go on sale.)

Last edited: May 21, 2019
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