Pentatonic scale. A scale that has five tones to the octave.
Among the numerous scales of this kind the following are of special
importance: (a) The tonal [G. anhemitonisch] pentatonic scale,
i.e., a five-tone scale that has no semitones. Properly speaking,
there is only one such scale (aside from transpositions): c d .
f g a . c. However, by using different tones as a tonic, five different
"modes" can be derived from it, e.g., d . f g a . c' d',
or f g a . c' d' . f', etc. On the piano, such scales can easily
be reproduced by playing the black keys only. The tonal pentatonic
scale, usually in its "first mode" (on c), are occurs
in the music of nearly all ancient cultures China, Polynesia,
Africaas well as that of the American Indians, Celts, and
Scots. The ancient Chinese construed it as a succession of ascending
fifths and descending fourths: f-c'-g-d'-a [see China IIB]. A considerable
number of Gregorian melodies are purely pentatonic and others may
have originally been so. (b) The semitonal [G. hemitonisch]
pentatonic scale results from omitting the second and the sixth
or the second and the fifth degrees of the diatonic scale: c . e
f g. b c', or: c . e f. a b c'. Since these scales include two major
thirds (ditonus) they are also called "ditonic." The second
form is of special on interest since this is the scale that, in
descending op motion, prevailed in ancient Greece: e'. c' b has
a.fe. Semitonal pentatonic scales frequently tor occur in modern
*Japanese music, (c) A pentatonic scale with equidistant steps is
the "Javanese slhidro. This has been used, under the name "pentaphonic"
scale, by Alalepna [see A. Eaglefield Hull, in Monthly Musical Record,
Sept. 1922, us« 212]. See J. Yasser, A Theory of Evolving
Tonality (1932); B. Szabolcsi, in AM xv; W. Wiora, "Alternate
die Pentatonik" (CP Bartok).