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Altered Pentatonic Scales & Where To Use Them

Basic Pentatonic Scales

The formula for making ANY major pentatonic scale is this: R- 2- 3-5-6 and 8. So in the key of C it would be: C-DE-G-A-C (this being the octave of course). I wont include the octave in all of these examples, as that should be understood. The formula for making ANY minor pentatonic scale is this: R- b3- 4- 5- b7 So in the key of C it would be: C-Eb-FG-Bb. Thats easy enough right? Right. In my previous columns I showed you some of the most common places where these basic major and minor pentatonics can be used. I wont cover that material again here but will instead refer you to my web site where those columns are posted so you can brush up. Now here comes the interesting part. Lets start by altering just one note of the plain old major pentatonic scale and see how it opens up the possible chords you can play it over.

Altered Pentatonic Scales

There are seven ways to alter a basic major pentatonic scale. By altering one or more notes we arent changing the fact that these are five note scales. They remain five note scales albeit altered in some way. I then give some of the possible chords that this new scale will work over. This part is the most open. The chords I list are the ones Ive tested out myself and know sound good, at least to me they do. Of course there are always more possibilities and these are by no means the only possible chords to try these on. Here goes. Cmaj pent with b2 = C-Db-E-G-A - This scale will fit over these chords: C7 (b9), Eb7 (b9), F#7 (b9), A7 (#9) Cmaj pent with b3 = C-D-Eb-G-A This scale fits over these chords: Cmin6/9, Amin7(b5), Ebmaj7, F7, B7(alt) Cmaj pent with b2 & b5 = C-Db-E-Gb-A This scale fits these chords: C7 (b9), Eb7 (b9), Gb7 (b9), A7 (#9) Cmaj pent with b5 = C-D-E-Gb-A - This scale fits these chords: Cmaj7(#11), C7(#11), F#min7(b5), Amin7, D7 Cmaj pent with b6 = C-D-E-G-Ab. -This scale fits these chords: C7(#5), Dmin7(b5), E7(#9), Fmin(maj7) Cmaj pent with b3 &b6 = C-D-Eb-G-Ab This scale fits these chords: Cmin7, Dmin7(b5), Ebmaj7, Fmin7, Ab/G, Abmaj7(#11), B7(alt) Cmaj pent with b2 &b6 = C-Db-E-G-Ab This scale fits these chords: C7(alt), Dbmin7(b5), E7(alt) I hope this adds to your vocabulary of different scales and shows you some ways you havent thought of to use pentatonic scales. I really encourage you to find your own way of thinking about harmony, scales, and music theory in general. Build your own concepts and ideas about bass playing and improvisation. These personalized concepts will lead you that elusive Holy Grail among all musicians, your own style. I think tenor saxophone legend Dexter Gordon said it best when he said A style isnt something you pick off of tree, it grows inside you. Right on Dex. Enjoy.