Positions? Try Pentascales!


Positions? Try Pentascales!

What are Pentascales, why learn Pentascales and when do I start Pentascales? In Prep 1 Rudiments, students are introduced to Pentascales. That one concept may change your approach to teaching beginner students.

Pentascales - whiteboardHas a student ever asked you:

  • "What position is this piece in?"
  • "Where do I put my hands?"
  • "What note does this start on?"

Students can get so fixated on where their hands are supposed to be on the keyboard that they forget to look at the Staff. Here are 3 reasons to support successful learning by using Pentascales.

Pentascales #1 - Connecting the Staff to the Keyboard

“Penta” means five and “scale” means degrees. A Pentascale is 5 notes (degrees) in alphabetical order with a specific pattern. (Major Pentascale - Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step.)

G Pentascale on WhiteboardThe 5 note pattern on the Staff steps from one note to the next. The 5 note pattern on the Keyboard steps from one key to the next.

Students who struggle to find their Position on the piano will benefit from being asked to first discover what Pentascale the piece of music is written in.

If the piece of music uses the notes of the G Pentascale, G – A – B – C – D, students will be able to see the patterns in the notes on the staff and find the correct placement of their hands on the keyboard.

Using the Whiteboard, students can write the Major Pentascale on the Staff and draw lines to connect the Pentascale notes to the keys on the keyboard.

Pentascales #2 - Connecting the Visual, Aural and Tactile

When we teach the Major Pentascale Pattern of the notes on the staff, (Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step), students are able to connect by seeing it, hearing it and feeling it.

PentascalesVisual - they SEE the Pentascale Pattern ascending and descending on the staff and on the keyboard.

Aural (Auditory) - they HEAR the Pentascale Pattern ascending and descending pitch when they play the Pentascale.

Tactile (Kinesthetic) - they FEEL the Pentascale Pattern moving up and down the keyboard with their fingers.

By seeing, hearing and feeling the intervals of the Pentascale, students "get" how to play in a Pentascale. They develop a stronger foundation in note-reading, which makes Sight Reading easy.

Pentascales #3 - Pre-Teaching Transposition

Once the student has identified the Pentascale and has played their piece, ask them to simply move their hands to a different Pentascale on the Keyboard and play the piece again.

Pentascales - TransposingThis is pre-teaching Transposing! It is also developing intervallic reading skills that will make any student a stronger Sight Reader.

As your students learn about C Major Pentascale, G Major Pentascale and F Major Pentascale in their Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook, have them practice their pieces in the different Pentascales.

You may even want to take the word “Positions” out of your teaching vocabulary and use the word “Pentascales” instead. “C Position” becomes “C Pentascale”, “G Position” is “G Pentascale”, etc.

As one student told me, “A Pentascale is a musical pattern; a Position is where my butt is on the bench.”

Pentascales Bonus - Pre-Teaching the Circle of Fifths

Pentascales are introduced in Prep 1 Rudiments. By teaching Pentascales beginning at this level, we are also pre-teaching the Circle of Fifths.

Pentascales - Prep 1 Ultimate Music TheoryStudents can start in the Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook along with their first method books. The Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook can be used with every method series. By completing one or two pages of theory a week, students will build a solid foundation in piano and theory.

The Ultimate Music Theory Whiteboard is an important part of my Teaching Studio. Click here to buy yours today!

Once you start using it, you will wonder how you ever taught without it.

P.S. - Join the Conversation. This week, use your Whiteboard to show your beginner students how Positions are really Pentascales. Have them explore playing their pieces in different Pentascales. Share your experiences with us!


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Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren


3 thoughts on “Positions? Try Pentascales!”

  • Melvina says:

    Looking over the UMT curriculum, it sounds very promising, although I haven’t started it yet with my students. I have a few students who can’t correlate the staff with the keyboard. Hopefully this will work! Thank you!

  • Melvina says:

    It’s a good curriculum to start with student’s who are having a hard time understanding Theory. Correlation of staff notes to keyboard placement are very well demonstrated in the UMT Method. I bought the complete curriculum

    • Thanks Melvina. I’m so glad you are using this with your students. I’d love to hear how they are doing. We are here to support your teaching. Let us know if you have any questions. Cheers, Glory

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