LAST MONTH, WE STARTED EXPLORING some new ways to employ the
tried-andtrue pentatonic scale. For these examples, we’ll still use the
G minor pentatonic scale, superimposing it over other chords. The
function of each scale degree changes depending on the chord
underneath, and you’ll want to record (or have a friend strum) the
underlying chords as you play over them to really hear what’s going on.
Ex. 1: G minor pentatonic scale over an Abmaj7 chord
Here, think of playing a minor pentatonic a minor second (a half step: one fret) below the root of a major 7th chord. This creates an interesting uneasiness over a major 7th chord, since you only touch two of the chord tones (the rest are tensions). Using the minor pentatonic in this way may not be appropriate in all situations, since the sound is a little “outside,” but in many cases, it can add an unusual and effective new color.
Ex. 2: G minor pentatonic scale over an Ebmaj7 chord
Think of this as playing a minor pentatonic that is built a major third up from the root of a major 7th chord. This is a more “inside” sound than the previous example.
Ex. 3: G minor pentatonic scale over Bb7 This is a common way to use the minor pentatonic scale. Start a minor pentatonic down a minor 3rd from a dominant chord’s root.
Ex. 4: G minor pentatonic scale over E7#9 Think of playing a relative minor pentatonic up a minor third from the root of an altered dominant 7th chord. This is a very colorful sound.
Ex. 5: Over C7
Think of this as playing a perfect fifth above the root of a dominant 7th chord. Playing in this way sounds relatively inside.
In Ex. 6, we mix and match all of these ideas for a hip sound that should still feel totally familiar. Record the chords, get the notes under your fingers, and pay attention to how the scale shifts up or down in relation to the root of the chord. Some are inside, some are more outside, but it adds up to a creative usage of the good old pentatonic scale. Enjoy!