Any scale using five notes is "pentatonic" ("penta" is Greek for "five"). However, the pentatonic scale which is used in most Western music uses notes which do not have any semitones. A pentatonic scale starting on C will use the notes C,D,E,G,A (the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th notes of a major scale).. An easy way to find such a pentatonic scale is by using all the black notes of a keyboard.
Using the pentatonic scale is a good way for children to make up their own tunnnnes. It does not matter too much which note is used for the start and the finish, because there is no feeling of a clear key. The notes always sound good when played together.
Many folksongs are pentatonic, or nearly pentatonic. Well-known songs such as "Land of the Silver Birch" or "Auld Lang Syne" are pentatonic tunes.
Classical composers have sometimes used pentatonic scales, especially Claude Debussy. His piano piece La fille aux cheveux de lin has a tune which is pentatonic except for one note. Maurice Ravel used it to write music which sounded Chinese, and in his Mother Goose suite (Ma Mère l'Oye) which sounds like a fairy tale.
The pentatonic scales used in Indonesian gamelan music are called slendro and pelog.
pentatonic song: sing out your melody sing out your song sing a petatonic scale starting on lah lah doh ray meh soh lah!
Difficult words: Octave - An octave is the distance between two musical notes that have the same letter name.
Folk music - Folk music includes both traditional music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th century folk revival. The term originated in the 19th century but is often applied to music that is older than that. Some types of folk music are also called world music.
Semitones - A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically. It is defined as the interval between two adjacent notes in a 12-tone scale (e.g. from C to C♯). This implies that its size is exactly or approximately equal to 100 cents, a twelfth of an octave.
Major scale - The major scale or Ionian scale is one of the most commonly used musical scales, especially in Western music. It is one of the diatonic scales. Like many musical scales it is made up of seven notes: the eighth duplicates the first at double its frequency so that it is called a higher octave of the same note (from Latin "octavus", the eighth).
Images for kids
Pentatonic scale in Debussy's Voiles, Preludes, Book I, no. 2, mm. 43–45.
Pentatonic scale Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.