Jimmy Herring(4)

Last month I showed you a few sly ways to get unusual sounds when improvising with the pentatonic scale by simply shifting its fingering a whole-step or a perfect fifth up the neck without changing keys. Well, the same is true of the major pentatonic scale: If you know where to move the scale while remaining in the same key, you can create refreshing, unpredictable sounds—all without having to learn new fingerings!
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In C major, the major pentatonic scale is the fifth-position fingering in Ex. 1. As shown, it contains the root, C, in three different places and yields familiar sounding lines such as Ex. 2. To create less typical sounds using this fingering, keep the background key the same (i.e., C major), but shift the scale up a perfect fifth to the twelfth position [Ex.3]. This may lead you to play interesting lines like Ex. 4. Or, simply shift our original fingering up just a whole-step to the seventh position [Ex. 5]. Featuring the raised 4, F#, (which is also interpreted as the “sharp 11”), this scale generates intriguing Lydian-sounding riffs [Ex.6]. Neither of these new shifted fingerings contain the key’s root, C, so sometimes I may throw it in, as well as the 5, G, which makes a nice ending note [Ex. 7].