BY BRIAN DAVIDSON
IF YOU’RE BORED WITH YOUR
pentatonic-based playing, try removing, altering,
or adding any note to any pentatonic
scale. Through this relatively quick and painless
process, new shapes fall under your
fingers, new sounds seep into your ears, and
new ideas eventually emerge in your playing.
Here are a few simple examples.
Fig. 1 is the old familiar A minor pentatonic
scale. Fig. 2 removes the first note (A),
generating a Cadd2 arpeggio (C-D-E-G).
The classical-sounding two-part harmony
line in Ex. 1, which consists of alternating
C major and G5 diads, is created by pairing
notes—first and third, second and
fourth, third and fifth, etc.—and playing
them harmonically (i.e. simultaneously).
How Mussorgsky is that?
Fig. 3 alters the A minor pentatonic’s
fourth note, E, by raising it a whole-step
to F#, resulting in a somewhat East-Indian
flavored D7add4 arpeggio (D-F#-G-A-C)
reminiscent of ’70s-era Jeff Beck or Mahavishnu
melodies as in Ex. 2.
Adding B to the A minor pentatonic scale
gives us the cool-sounding, extremely useful
six-note group (A, B, C, D, E, G) in Fig.
4. Call it an A Dorian mode minus the 6th
degree, or an Am7add2add4 arpeggio, or just
ignore theory and simply assimilate it. Since
the first, third, and fifth notes spell an Am
triad (A-C-E) and the second, fourth, and
sixth notes spell a first-inversion G triad
(B-D-G), this series of notes works over an
Am (Ex. 3) or G chord (Ex. 3a).
Once you dig into this modded pentatonic
concept you’ll see that it’s one of the
easiest and coolest ways to generate new
sounds with fairly familiar shapes and patterns.
What a bargain!