by Tamsyn

February 12, 2011

When I first learned about the pentatonic scale, I was taught to associate it with the Asian culture. I have since learned that the pentatonic scale is universal to all nations, and most countries have folk music written using this scale. Old Dan Tucker is one of my favorite American examples. The easiest way to play a pentatonic scale on the piano is to play all of the black keys, beginning with F#. The solfege for the scale is Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, Do.Using the pentatonic scale for children’s voices is a powerful technique because the scale is instinctive to them by nature. A child singing “na-na-na-na-na-na, you ca-n’t catch me!” is using the scale. Ring-a-round-the-Rosies, Mary had a little lamb, and Rain, Rain, Go Away also use it. The Kodaly and Orff methods for teaching music to children exclusively use it for their beginning students.
My challenge? Find a way to incorporate the scale into your teaching, especially parents teaching music appreciation to your children through singing. Children who have a hard time singing in tune can especially benefit with a steady diet of pentatonic music because the hardest intervals to hear (the minor 2nd, augmented 4th, and major 7th) are completely eliminated.
Here is an interesting video that shows the intuitiveness of the scale in action:

About the author 


My name is Tamsyn and I love music. I got my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from USU. I spent many years teaching private piano lessons until I had children of my own. I have attended several children workshops on how to teach children music. I really like the Kodaly method, but have adapted a lot of different techniques for my own children.

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  1. Hi, would love to share a music-making approach from London U.K. It’s called The ‘Improvise Approach’ and it utilises the C major pentatonic scale. If you and your children enjoy making up tunes, take a look at the ThumbJam app from the App Store. Use this app as your musical instrument with the backing music tracks contained within The Improvise Approach ebook ( Music only available from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon – Improvise One (2016j Improvise 2 (2018)
    Ebook contains all the setup information as well as 10 music tracks to instantly play along to.

  2. Not only children but the elderly as well. Music is for everyone! Along with percussion instruments, I use Native American-style flutes, steel tank drums, the guzheng, tuned Tibetan singing bowls and handbells with the 4th and 7th tone removed – all in the same key with dementia patients all while improvising music. It's amazing how wonderful it sounds!

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