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.

Here's why:

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
Altered Pentatonics









IF YOU LIKED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A SMALL DONATION :-)

YOU CAN CLICK THE PAYPAL BUTTON BELOW AND ENTER THE DESIRED AMOUNT FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION-- THANK YOU !






I am available for private lessons on SKYPE or FACETIME for more information on this topic, or on anything related to Jazz Guitar, Improvisation or Music Theory.

Click here for details.



See all topics from the Various Thoughts page.

Go to the Home page.

All Content © Bruno Pelletier-Bacquaert 2005 - 2015