I see posts here all the time about pentatonic scales. I've found charts for scales in the various keys, and then have played them. When I finished, I asked myself, "now what?"

Is the reason for learning the various scales for composing or improvising, or is there a more basic reason for beginners like me to learn them?

I haven't gotten as far as music theory in my lessons, so none of this has been addressed yet.
they are for composing/improvising, and can make learning new songs easier. In terms of music theory lessons you are not likely to hear the word pentatonic at all, most theory especially beginning theory is based on diatonic western scales, being major/minor. Pentatonic scales remove a few notes that make a standard scale more difficult to improvise with and are thus better for a beginner, they are used heavily in blues, rock, and traditional Japanese music
It's very useful when trying to play something by ear, especially if you're used to the "intervals".

Also when improvising, playing a song that you got in your head, etc.
Scales are important for many reasons.

They help you figure out what chords you can find in a key. (For example, you can with the help of scales figure out that the basic triads in the key of A minor are: A minor, B diminished, C Major, D minor, E minor, F major G major)

And they give you different options of chords aswell (Lets say i would take the basic triads of A Melodic minor instead, those are: A minor, B minor, C augmented, D major, E major, F# diminished and G# diminished)

They can help you find fitting extensions or alterations of your triads. (Example: Making a C major chord a C major 7th chord is extending the chord by adding a major 7th.)

They give you a "guide map" for improvising.


Bottom line, they are useful. But you don't need to learn all of them. Learning the pentatonic, major, harmonic minor and melodic minor is more than enough. I strongly recommend you learn theory as you learn scales, cause that way they will be more beneficial to you.

Also, this is very personal from player to player but what i believe is the best way to learn scales is by learning them by notes and intervalls. Not by shapes. Of course you'll decide that for yourself, just throwing it out there.

Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

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Last edited by Sickz at Aug 20, 2012,
Quote by Sickz


Once you've figured out the key of the song you're playing, the appropriate scale can kind of be thought of as the "go to" notes, with an emphasis on the chord tones of the current chord of the progression. Learn some basic theory and you'll begin to understand how all of this stuff fits together.
If I understand the OP is a bit lost as to the actual application of the pentatonic scales. You've
learnt the alphabet now you need to learn some words(licks).
You could also try putting on a backing track say in A minor and instead of just scale running
sit on one note and try making it rhythmically interesting and then add another note from the scale
and so on until you've played the five pitches of the scale. Each pitch will lend a different quality
to the chord on the track.
Hope this is some help.
Pentatonic scales are great building blocks - many famous solos have been built using them. A great book I came across uses pentatonic scales for some deeper applications - you can find the author demoing his concepts on YouTube, and he's very approachable. Great guy! The book is called "Jazz Guitar Soloing Concepts - A Pentatonic Modal Approach To Improvisation." Here's a YouTube link w/ Ron: