As you may know, I am writing a small instrumental sketch for every musical scale that inspires me, exploring its mood. The project is called “Moods and Modes” and you can learn more about it clicking here.

Today I am gonna talk about pentascales. “Pentascale” is a seldom used musical term used to describe a 5-note scale made up of the first five notes of a major or minor scales (e.g. C-D-E-F-G).

Its usefulness lies in the practice of piano teaching: every (five fingered) piano student has learned to play simple melodies based on the notes you can play without moving your hand on the keyboard: one finger - one note.

Major pentascale

Put your right thumb on a C on the piano, and your other fingers will naturally position themselves in the successives white keys of D-E-F-G. This is the simple major pentascale:

This scale is seldom used in music composition but… why not? To have more material to work with, I cheated a little bit and permitted myself to move the hand, playing some of the 5 notes (C-D-E-F-G) also on the lower or upper octave. This is the extended scale:

This is a short melody composed with this material:

This melody sounded to me as festive and somewhat strange, so I imagined a bunch of aliens saluting the rising sun on their planet, I gave the melody to an alien-sounding synth sound, and Sunrise on Mars was born.

Minor pentascale

If you put your right thumb on an A key instead, and let your other fingers lay down on successive white keys, you get a minor pentascale (A-B-C-D-E):

Cheating a little beat as before, I added some notes (A-B-C) also on the upper octave:

The character of this scale is more sombre and reflective. The melody I came up with is this:

I imagined played in a smokey bar with a latin jazz feel. With an old piano and a muted trumpet to set the mood, this ended up in Autumn Sunset

That’s how the tracks number 5 and 6 of my Moods and Modes project were made. I’d really love to know what you think about it.

Thanks for reading!

If you like this project and my music, consider supporting them by:

  1. Subscribing to my newsletter. By doing so, you will be informed of every new release, ang get a free download of Sail Away, the second track of the project
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  3. Streaming, saving and adding to your playlists these tracks on Spotify: Sunrise on Mars and Autumn Sunset
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Stay tuned for the next releases! Coming next: old plain simple C major!