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Pentatonic Songs & Pentatonic Melodies as a route to key changes

Roar by Katy Perry is a perfect example of an entirely pentatonic song. Pentatonic songs (using the scale notes 1-2-3-5-8) allow you to improvise much more readily if you transpose melodies so that they lie entirely on the black keys. With pentatonic song improvisation you almost can’t go wrong because any note tends to ‘sound good’ so it’s a great place to start!

Transposition and Modulation using Pentatonic Songs

The other advantage of using the pentatonic scale is that it is very easy to transpose the melody into another key. The term for changing key is “modulation”. I start my cover version in Bb and then take the second chorus up to C, or “modulate to C”.

Here’s my lesson demonstrating key change with pentatonic song improvisation:

Pentatonic Songs & Structure

Thirdly, it’s then very easy to use elements of a pentatonic melodies and not stick exactly to the original structure. The result is a much more free pentatonic improvisation or extemporisation.

Pentatonic Songs and Stylistic Development

Fourthly, because the melody is pentatonic, it’s also a great opportunity to change the style. When I reach the chorus in this piano cover version, I move to a slight RnB style bass.

Pentatonic Song Reharmonisation

Finally, pentatonic songs allow re-harmonisation. I add the dominant chord (once I am in the key of C, that’s the chord of G), some blues notes, and an augmented 5th chord to create much more harmonic grit. The result is a more individual and personal take on this wonderful song. The original song also only uses 4 chords. In the original key they are: Bb, Cm, Gm, Eb.

The Pentatonic Song Piano Cover

Finally, put it all together and here’s my piano cover version of Roar by Katy Perry!


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