ALTERED PENTATONICS



I first heard of the concept of "Altered Pentatonic scales" when studying Jazz Composition with Ron Miller at the University of Miami in the early '80s.

Ron described an approach to altering a Pentatonic scale: just raise or lower any one note inside a Major Pentatonic scale. We can eventually raise or lower several notes within the scale, and even add an occasional passing tone.


We will explore here the various scales generated with 1 alteration only first within the Major Pentatonic Scale, and then within a few other commonly used Pentatonics: each altered note is moved (right or left) in between the 2 notes surrounding it.


From the C Major Pentatonic:

C D E G A C



C D E G B C

C D E G Bb C

C D E G Ab C


C D E G# A C

C D E Gb A C

C D E F A C


C D F# G A C

C D F G A C

C D Eb G A C


C D# E G A C

C Db E G A C



From the C Minor Pentatonic:

C Eb F G Bb C



C Eb F G B C

C Eb F G A C

C Eb F G Ab C


C Eb F A Bb C

C Eb F G# Bb C

C Eb F Gb Bb C


C Eb F# G Bb C

C Eb E G Bb C


C E F G Bb C

C D F G Bb C

C Db F G Bb C



From the C Dominant Pentatonic:

C D E G Bb C



C D E G B C

C D E G A C

C D E G Ab C


C D E A Bb C

C D E G# Bb C

C D E Gb Bb C

C D E F Bb C


C D F# G Bb C

C D F G Bb C

C D Eb G Bb C


C D# E G Bb C

C Db E G Bb C



From the C Minor 6 Pentatonic:

C Eb F G A C



C Eb F G B C

C Eb F G Bb C

C Eb F G Ab C


C Eb F G# A C

C Eb F Gb A C


C Eb F# G A C

C Eb E G A C


C E F G A C

C D F G A C

C Db F G A C



As you will notice, some of those scales can be arrived to in different ways. For example, if you lower the m7 of a Dominant Pentatonic, you will have a basic Major Pentatonic, and so on.

Why explore those new Pentatonic scales, might you ask?

Some of those scales can be used as source material for new compositions. Several of Wayne Shorter's tunes can be said to be derived from such altered Pentatonics:

"Mahjong"
"Armageddon"
"Oriental Folk song"

Other interesting Pentatonic-based compositions would be by Joe Zawinul:

"Badia"
"Boogie Woogie Waltz"


If you are interested in learning more about Altered Pentatonics and their use in Jazz Composition, I strongly recommend Ron Miller's book: Modal Jazz Composition & Harmony volume 2



and here are a few more articles I wrote on the subject of Pentatonics:

Pick Your Pentatonic: a Review of The Most Important Pentatonic Scales
Improvising With Various Pentatonics
Creating Some Pentatonic Scales
Pentatonics For The Sus7 Chord










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