Guitar Scales: the Indian Pentatonic

Well…this scale isn’t really Indian, but it’s definitely a variation on the pentatonic scale! The reason it gets called the “Indian Pentatonic” is that the sound you get from it is often reminiscent of Indian Classical music (at least it is to the untrained ear). It could also be called the mixolydian or dominant pentatonic, as it has qualities of the mixolydian mode, and fits well over dominant 7th chords.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

The basic minor pentatonic scale has five notes:

1 b3 4 5 b7

This means that, in comparison to the major scale, we’ve taken only the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th notes and then flattened the 3rd and 7th. That’s how the minor pentatonic scale is made.

Here’s some tab for the A minor pentatonic:

You’re probably quite familiar with this shape (even if you weren’t aware of it!), but if you’re not, I suggest clicking the link above to learn more about the minor pentatonic scale first.

The Indian Pentatonic

Now, to get the Indian/mixolydian/dominant pentatonic we change only one note- the 3rd. We take away the “flat”, and make it a major third. So now our scale looks like this:

1 3 4 5 b7

Here’s the D Indian Scale in tab (compare to the tab above):

I’ve put all the 3rds in brackets.

We now have a scale that has a major third, and a flat seven- just like the mixolydian scale, or a dominant 7 chord! Try playing around with this new scale and see what you can come up with…

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