The pentatonic scales are five-note scales with two of the major and minor scale-tones missed out, leaving stripped-down music-ready scales with basically no wrong notes. This makes the pentatonic scales a really good starting point for getting into creative popular-styles keyboard playing – which is what the Musicarta Pentatonics Workbook offers.
There are optional, comprehensive theory modules for reference with hard copy downloads, but more importantly, there are staged, progressive keyboard drills which give you the opportunity to work through the build-up of the major and minor pentatonic scales in all keys yourself, with full video support.
But mostly, the emphasis is on getting some real, attractive pentatonic music into the collection of pieces you can just play - pieces which illustrate whatever 'theory' we;re looking at - and teaching them in a way that gives you real creative keyboard skills.
Watch the introductory video for some examples, like the minor pentatonic One-Octave Blues - up and down the minor pentatonic scale in three places – nice, easy all-white-keys for beginners, every step demonstrated and how to practice it. You can't go wrong!
The major pentatonic scale is demonstrated with another characteristic showpiece which is worth your while mastering for its stylistic building blocks even if the style is not quite your 'cup of tea'.
Note that Musicarta is the field leader in coaching the syncopation in these typical popular style pieces: what to practice, how to practice it, and video demonstrations to follow.
Then on to the characteristic additional semitones which you'll find in the pentatonic scales, both major and minor, and which you're going to want to know about to flesh out your melodies and improvisations, and to hone your playing-by-ear skills. The new resources are demonstrated with pieces which build on what you already know, so you actually hear the new options you're acquiring.
And as you learn more notes, you get more options. Mix'n'Match Blues is an exercise in playing by ear which also invites you to exercise your musical judgement and craft your own arrangement from a selection of possibilities. Composing at the keyboard, we call it here at Musicarta - sort of slow-motion improvisation, really.
Because of their simplified, five-note structure, the pentatonic scales are a great entry point for 'playing by ear'. It's really not much of an exaggeration to say that most of the popular music melody you hear is mostly pentatonic, so if you can find the major and minor pentatonic scale-tones on the keyboard – which, if you work through this course, you will be able to – you'll be way ahead of the game in terms of picking popular music melodies out at the keyboard.
Our playing-by-ear module uses 'logical melodies' to maximise your progress, and progressive exercises which will leave you essentially "knowing what the keyboard sounds like". And whether you're working on other people's material or playing your own, isn't that just what you want to know?
And so to improvisation. The simplicity and familiarity of the pentatonic scales, together with their 'no wrong notes' properties, makes them great for first steps in improvising.
Blues improvisation is nearly all purely pentatonic, usually minor. Piano blues is a whole genre in itself, of course, but even with just the basics, you'll have that blues sound down, and you can get a nice two-handed groove going. Twelve-bar pentatonic blues riffs get your mojo working - and what's music without mojo?
Soaring major pentatonic soloing is also massively productive in terms of effect from resources. Running up and down well-chosen fragments of the five-note major pentatonic scale easily generates great emotional impact.
But we all have to practice. Not just running up and down scales - even pentatonic scales. More like pentatonic scale-tone patterns, which are 'practically music already' patterns, you're soloing without knowing it. The Musicarta Pentatonics Workbook has enough practice patterns to keep you going for a year, which will teach you how to find the music you want to play and coach you in getting your fingers round the keys.
Personally, I heartily recommend the this workbook - not just as its author, but because the pentatonic scales really are so foundational that it's difficult to think of a creative musician who doesn't know them thoroughly, use them profusely-and is mighty fond of them! And they're so immediately rewarding to work on too.
Do try the free sample material and, hopefully, I'll see you on the course!
Bob Chappell/Mister Musicarta
Cape Town, May 2018
P.S. Mister Musicarta's YouTube channel has a Pentatonics Workbook playlist where you can hear lots of examples on pentatonic music, most of them covered in the Pentatonics Workbook course.
Who is the target audience?
- Any musician looking for a structured approach to creative music skills like playing by ear, and 'composing at the keyboard' (aka messing round at the keyboard!), and
- Improvising contemporary-styles (pop-rock-jazz) keyboard players looking for more targeted ways of practicing their keyboard and aural skills
- Nothing more than a keyboard, enthusiasm and a desire to increase your creative popular music abilities!
- Being able to read music is not essential
- Students will be able to identify by ear and find major and minor pentatonic scale-tones all over the keyboard
- Students will learn half a dozen or more pentatonic piano solos in a variety of styles and be able to play variations on them