Tips to Riff as a Singer: Use the Minor Pentatonic Scale to Practice
Today we’re going to be talking about the minor pentatonic scale! Learning this scale makes everything sound better that we do as performers. While we don’t need to know every single scale as singers, when it comes to improving your pitch and your ear, some scales can be super helpful tools. They’re a great way to strengthen your ear and ensure that you’re creating the sound that you want every time you sing. We’ve talked about two other scales (learn about those here & here), but the minor pentatonic scale is one that you’re going to start to hear all around once you know what it sounds like! Understanding what this scale is and what it sounds like will help you become a better singer and musician. Using the minor pentatonic scale will help you create stronger and more beautiful riffs as a singer, too! Let’s get started!
How to Get The Minor Pentatonic Scale
As a quick review, a major scale is the type of scale we learn as beginner musicians. It’s 8 notes and the steps between notes are as follows: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, and half. That tells us how far apart each note is. When you take that scale and make it minor, the spacing changes. Now it becomes: whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole and whole. Essentially, you take notes 3, 6 and 7 and make them flatter than they would be in a major scale. To then make that minor scale a pentatonic scale, we skip over notes 2 and 6! This means your scale goes: 1, flat 3, 4, 5, flat 7 and then 8. (PS. If it’s confusing to read this, make sure you watch the video below – I spend the first two minutes explaining this all!).
How to Use the Pentatonic Scale
First, I want to be clear: we’ll almost never use the pentatonic scale exactly how it’s written. Instead, we’re more likely to use the components of the scale for a riff as singers. You might skip some of the notes, but the movement of the riff basically mimics the scale! In today’s video, I’ll walk you through a few examples of how I might use the minor pentatonic scale when riffing it. As a voice coach, I think it’s important to understand this scale – listen to it, play around with it. I wouldn’t worry about intellectualizing it too much, but just work to get how it feels in your mouth and throat (and your brain!). Once you do, you’ll have another tool in your toolbox to create beautiful riffs, runs, and even be able to improvise better!