PICK YOUR PENTATONIC: A REVIEW OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PENTATONIC SCALES:
Here are the most commonly used Pentatonic Scales, all starting from a C Root:
C Minor Pentatonic:
C Eb F G Bb
R m3 P4 P5 m7
Same as Eb Major Pentatonic but starting on C.
Perfect over a Cm7 chord. The Minor Pentatonic scale is one of the first scales guitar players ever learn, and it is actually quite a miracle of a scale, a genuine 1-scale-fits-all when played over the Blues.
If we play Blues in the key of C, we do not need to change scales as we change chords. The same C Minor Pentatonic scale will sound great over the entire form.
over C7 (the I7 chord) we get:
R #9 P4 P5 m7
over F7 (the IV7 chord) we get:
P5 m7 R 9 P4
over G7 (the V7 chord) we get:
P4 #5 m7 R #9
Notice how the scale contains the Root, the P4, the 5th, and the m7 of each chord, yet it does not contain any of the 3rds ? It makes those 3 chords sound like sus7 chords. No 3rd means neither major nor minor ! In any case, those chords are not clearly defined as Dominant 7 chords. That is why we can use a "Minor" Pentatonic scale over a "Major" Blues.
For that matter, that same Minor Pentatonic scale can be used over a Minor Blues too: C Minor Blues scale over Blues in C minor.
C Minor Blues Scale (or simply "the" Blues Scale):
C Eb F (F#) G Bb
R m3 P4 (#4) P5 m7
Same as C Minor Pentatonic, but with a "blue note" (F#) added.
Still perfect over a Cm7 chord-- but now with a chromaticism for a bit of extra tension.
The C Minor Blues scale works over the entire form of a Blues in C.
(Yes, I know: it is not technically a Pentatonic scale because it has 6 notes-- but I still needed to include it here).
C Minor 6 Pentatonic:
C Eb F G A
R m3 P4 P5 M6
Same as C Minor Pentatonic, but with a M6 instead of the m7.
Perfect over a Cm6 chord or even a Cm7 chord with a Dorian sound.
The Minor 6 Pentatonic is also used in Blues, just as we would use the Minor Pentatonic (over the entire form). It is said to convey a more open, uplifting, or optimistic feeling than the commonly used Minor Pentatonic. Apparently, it was a favorite of B.B. King's.
C Major Pentatonic:
C D E G A
R M2 M3 P5 M6
Same as A Minor Pentatonic but starting on C.
It is the relative major of the Minor Pentatonic scale.
It does not contain a 7th, therefore, it will work over a CMaj7 chord, a C6 chord, a C6/9 chord, a C7(9) or a C7(13) chord.
Note how that same Major Pentatonic scale could be used over a ii-V7-I:
ex. in the key of F: Gm7 - C7 - FMaj7
over Gm7 we get:
P4 P5 13 R 9
over C7 we get:
R 9 M3 P5 13
over FMaj7 we get:
P5 13 M7 9 M3
The simple approach is to think of a Major Pentatonic scale from the root of the V chord.
C Major Blues Scale:
C D (D#) E G A
R M2 (#2) M3 P5 M6
Same as C Major Pentatonic, but with its own "blue note" (D#) added.
Still perfect over a CMaj7 chord, a C6 chord, a C6/9 chord, a C7(9) or a C7(13) chord-- but now with a chromaticism for a bit of extra tension.
When used in a Blues context, it is played from the root of each chord-- unlike the Minor Blues Pentatonic Scale which is only played from the Root of the Tonic:
ex. for Blues in C:
C Major Blues scale over the C7 chord (the I7 chord)
F Major Blues scale over the F7 chord (the IV7 chord)
G Major Blues scale over the G7 chord (the V7 chord)
C Dominant Pentatonic:
C D E G Bb
R M2 M3 P5 m7
Same as the C Major Pentatonic, but with a m7 instead of the M6.
It is also the same as the G Minor 6 Pentatonic scale, but starting on C.
Note how that same Pentatonic scale could be used over a ii-V7:
ex. in the key of F: Gm7 to C7
over Gm7: play G Minor 6 Pentatonic
over C7: play C Dominant Pentatonic
If you wish to play that same scale over the FMaj7 resolution, try to stay away from that Bb (the P4).
C Dominant Blues Scale:
C D (D#) E G Bb
R M2 (#2) M3 P5 m7
Same as C Dominant Pentatonic, but with its own "blue note" (D#) added.
The Dominant Blues Pentatonic is used just like the Dominant Pentatonic (see above).
and here are a few more articles I wrote on the subject of Pentatonics:
Improvising With Various Pentatonics
Creating Some Pentatonic Scales
Pentatonics For The Sus7 Chord
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