Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Getting More out of Pentatonic Scales

The Pentatonic Scale is generally the first scale every guitar student learns. It is pivotal for learning to improvise, and it can be found in most any solo. Sometimes, it’s easy to get bored with the pentatonic scale. I am going to offer up a few suggestions for bringing new life into the pentatonic scale.

Major and Minor Pentatonic
One of the basic principles of blues is mixing major and minor pentatonic scales over a blues progression. The general rule is that in a minor progression you can use minor pentatonic, and in a major progression you can use either. The minor across the major creates a “bluesy” sound, that we are all to familiar with. However, the real fun comes in when you start mixing the major and minor pentatonic scales together. For example, in a 12 bar blues, it is very common to solo over major pentatonic on the one chord, and switch to minor pentatonic on the four chord. You should also try writing licks that weave in and out of major and minor pentatonic scales. There are so many great possibilities. Check out the solos from “Bold As Love” as done by John Mayer, or “You Shook Me All Night Long”. These both go back and forth from major to minor pentatonic.

Pentatonic with CAGED
If you don’t understand CAGED very well, you may get lost here a bit. It is simply a system that helps one learn the 5 basic inversion of chords up the guitar neck. It is called CAGED because those forms are based off of open C, A, G, E, and D. The forms also ascend up the neck in the order of the letters in the word CAGED. For more on that, come take some lessons at Freeway Music! šŸ™‚ Anyways, there is are also 5 pentatonic forms that fit with each CAGED form. This allows you to chase chords using pentatonic scales. A great example of this again is “Bold as Love”…Hendrix, Mayer…take your pick.

Pentatonic Chord Scales
You can create a chord pattern of the pentatonic scale, and harmonize up each pattern of the pentatonic scale. Once you are familiar with these patterns, you can begin to use them to solo or comp for another player. This is a great way to start learning how to chord solo.

Using Pentatonic Scales For Outside Tones
Most everyone uses the pentatonic scale in major or minor, but it’s seldom that people use them any other way. For example, if you play D major pentatonic over the key of G, it creates a 3, 5, 6(13) maj7, 9. So, you can solo with more outside notes. If you play A major Pentatonic over G, it creates maj7, 9, 3, #11, 6(13), which is even more outside and colorful. One can do this with various chord types, in various combinations, for some very interesting sounds.

There you go, These are some great ways to take that boring old pentatonic scale, and make it more awesome! If you don’t understand everything in this blog, that’s okay…that is what lessons are for. Find a great teacher, and study privately. Nothing can beat that!

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