Package 5-1: Creative arts – Powerful pentatonic

In this lesson your child will look at how musicians can use a pentatonic scale to compose music.

Week 6 - Package 1 - Year 5 and 6 Creative arts - Powerful pentatonic

Things your child will need

Have these things available so your child can complete this task.


  • Ipad or Iphone

  • YouTube links (included below)

  • A recording program or app

Back up

  • Smartphone

  • Piano or Keyboard

Before your child starts

Things to think about:

  • How do musicians compose a piece of music?

  • What tools do they use?

  • Has your child ever experimented with compositions or used recording facilities on a device such as a computer or phone?

What your child needs to do

  1. Ask your child to look at the illustration of a pentatonic scale (found below). Why is it called pentatonic? (It is a 5 note scale; pent is the prefix for 5, i.e. pentagon is a five sided shape.)

  2. Talk with your child about this scale. It is a powerful scale because all the notes of the scale harmonise (sounds melodious) with each other. For this reason, you can put any two notes from this 5 note scale together and the results will harmonise.

  3. Ask your child to explore a C pentatonic scale on their chosen instrument. This may be a piano, keyboard or a program such as Garageband on an Iphone/Ipad or Music Studio on a smartphone. The C pentatonic scale is C, D, E, G, A. You may use any of these notes, high or low on your chosen instrument.

  4. Another useful compositional tool is the ostinato. An ostinato is a short repeating pattern in music. Another term for an ostinato is a riff, which many composers use as a basis of their compositions.

What your child can do next

  1. Watch this video by Bobby McFerrin making up a composition with the audience using a pentatonic scale. You will notice that he creates the piece using a series of ostinatos.

  2. Listen to these famous popular rock riffs.

  3. Ask your child to locate the C pentatonic scale on their chosen instrument. It can be high or low notes as long as they use C,D,E,G, A. Play around with the scale, (compose) until they are happy with a couple of riffs that they can use to build their composition. Put these ostinatos (riffs) together to produce a composition.

  4. Name and save your composition.

Options for your child

Activity too hard?

Listen to the 20 iconic riffs and decide which one is your favourite. Why?

Activity too easy?

Extend and build on the composition by adding other instruments and perhaps a rhythm section with drums. Name your recording and play for others, including your teacher.

Extension/additional activity

Compose a complete piece, adding words if appropriate and experiment with adding more colour to your composition by using notes that are outside the C Pentatonic scale.

C Pentatonic Scale

Piano keys - the letters C, D , E, G, A and C written on the corresponding keys.

Return to top of page Back to top