These songs may use the Pentatonic scale for the melody, but use traditional chord progressions for the harmonies. Many early folk songs and hymns were first sung in unison by soloists, small groups and congregations. Later on, instruments were added for harmonic support --- guitar, banjo, pump organ, and Piano.
Many of these songs use just the three main chords of the diatonic Major scale I (Tonic), IV (Sub-dominant) and V (Dominant). Or in the key of C Major the Tonic is the C Major triad, the Sub-Dominant is F Major triad, and the Dominant is G Major often using the leading tone making it a dominant 7th chord. But over the years, arrangers have taken great liberties in creating new settings utilizing much broader ranges of chords in their re-harmonizations.
However, practically everybody knows that the Pentatonic scale is most recognizable in ancient Asian music where even the harmonies were built on the Pentatonic scale. This treatment gave the green light to using such practices as parallel 4ths and 5ths that were strictly taboo in Western Music after the days of the great J.S. Bach.
Yesterday, I needed to write a new song for a Musical I am revising. It is a retelling of an ancient Chinese folk tale "The Empty Pot," or in my expanded version, "A Successor to the Throne." Every time I do a Summer Theater Camp production, I find I want to revamp the script and songs to better suit the young actors who sign up. This time, I have some boys who are good singers and, by rights, deserve their own songs. So I set about creating a new song featuring three older boy characters who in the previous version did not get to sing solos.
So, hot off the press is my new song for the Emperor and his posturing Counselors called "See the Beauty All Around You." The Emperor is determined to allow the flowers to choose his successor and the counselors think he has lost his mind! It is a fun little "partner song" with the Emperor's main theme sung against the Counselor's agitated countermelody.
Pentatonic Scales are fun to play around with. There are literally no wrong notes and if you choose, can be harmonized using just one chord. Here it is with some percussion and color instruments. Enjoy!