Free guitar lesson: spice it up with your minor pentatonics


If there is one thing that is clear it seems to me that almost all guitar players interested in lead guitar use the minor pentatonic scale. There are others that will point out that they also use the major pentatonic scale but for now I will go from the premise that any major pentatonic scale will have its minor replacement, similar to what happens in modes.

As an example: some people will use the C major pentatonic scale for playing on either a C chord, C maj7  chord or a C7 chord.

When we look at the C major pentatonic scale we see it has the following notes: C D E G A.
When you start on the A note however, it will make A C D E G.

There is a reason however why I choose to approach this from the minor pentatonic perspective throughout, and that is because a.) Many guitar players start with this scale when experimenting with their blues solos and because it is so closely related to the other well used scale: the blues scale.

As beginning guitar players we will all have gone through licks like this:

Now in the following examples I have used different pentatonic scales to play over the chord sequence D min7 – G7 -Cmaj7 which is for those with a but of a theoretical background a II – V – I chord progression. In its most basic form we would be using the following minor pentatonic scales:

D minor 7 —>  D minor pentatonic scale

G7 —> E minor pentatonic scale / G blues scale or G minor pentatonic scale

C maj7 —> A minor pentatonic scale

You will find that when you play these scales over thew chord progression it sounds a bit dull.

Personally what I find attractive about the minor pentatonic scales is that they are useful to create patterns or certain repeatable fragments. If we combine that given with the idea that we may be able to use different minor pentatonic scales on different chords all of a sudden a wide array of possibilities opens up to spice up your solos. By the way I could go into all kinds of theory here but I will just say I usually use the minor pentatonic and blues scales as interchangeable. (the notes in between brackets are the additional note to the pentatonic scale to make it into a blues scale.  I am aware that more options exist but these give you a nice start.

D minor 7 (D F A C)

  • D minor pentatonic: D F G (G#/Ab) A C
  • E minor pentatonic E G A (A#/Bb) B D
    The B in this scale  makes for a nice emphasis of the dorian character of the chord (IIm7 chord) while the blue note  (Bb) provides for a nice natural minor sound.
  • A minor pentatonic A C D (D#/Eb) E G.

G7 (G B D F)

  • E minor pentatonic: E G A (Bb) B D
  • F minor pentatonic: F Ab Bb C (C#/Db) Eb
  • G minor pentatonic: G Bb C (C#/Db) D F
  • Bb minor pentatonic: Bb Db Eb (E) F Ab

C maj7 (C E G B)

  • A minor pentatonic: A C D (D#/Eb) E G
  • B minor pentatonic: B D E (F) F# A this scale produces a lydian airy kind of sound
  • E minor pentatonic: E G A (A#/Bb) B

Some Examples

Example 1

In this example only the A minor pentatonic and Bb minor pentatonic scale were used to create chromatic tension and and at the same time resolution. The A minor pentatonic over the C maj7 chord creates a 6 or 13 sound.

Example 2

I this second example we move up position by position and end up in the lydian sounding b minor pentatonic over the C maj7 chord.
The F# note suggests a Cmaj7 #11 chord.

Example 3

In this third example we have an gone from D minor pentatonic to E and F minor pentatonic so we would at least have the B note in the G7 chord. Try to avoid over emphasis of the C note in the F minor pentatonic as against G that suggest a sus chord, while at the same time chromoatically it sounds nice and we resolve this back to E minor pentatonic goes to B minor pentatonic goes to A minor pentatonic.

Cycling around for practice

I you would like to come up with other ideas and practice it us actually nice if you have a cycle that you can let go on continuously. That can be one by playing ||       Dmin7     |      G7     |      Cmaj7     |       A7 ||

Below I will list the different pentatonic scales you could use in a format that makes it easier to see how you can create nice patterns with them.

I guess you can see for yourself now that there are some good options to connect different minor pentatonic scales and keep on going round and round. Have fun!

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