Global Bass Online March 2001
Altered Pentatonic Scales & Where To Use Them
By: Lucas Pickford
Of or using only five tones,
especially the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth tones of a diatonic scale.
is Webster’s Dictionary definition of a pentatonic scale and a very good one
at that. Pentatonic scales are five note scales that can be used in so many
different ways. They can be used as improvisational materials over any chord
type and in any musical situation. Their versatility is what makes them so great
and they appeal to rockers and jazzers alike. There are innumerable patterns and
variations that can be created from any of the pentatonic scales and there is
really no end to the possibilities of how to use them. In this column I want to
present the basic major and minor pentatonic scales and then I want to show you
some more advanced things you can do just by altering or changing one or more
notes in those scales. Just by changing one note in these scales, you increase
the different chords that they can fit over. The “R” in these
examples refers to the Root and the numbers refer to scale degrees.
Basic Pentatonic Scales
formula for making ANY major pentatonic
scale is this: R-
2- 3-5-6 and 8.
in the key of C it would be: C-D-E-G-A-C
(this being the octave of course).
won’t include the octave in all of these examples, as that should be
formula for making ANY minor pentatonic
scale is this: R-
b3- 4- 5- b7
in the key of C it would be: C-Eb-F-
easy enough right? Right.
my previous columns I showed you some of the most common places where these
basic major and minor pentatonics can be used. I won’t cover that material
again here but will instead refer you to my web site www.lucaspickford.com
where those columns are posted so you can brush up. Now here comes the
interesting part. Let’s 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
are seven ways
to alter a basic major pentatonic scale. By altering one or more notes we
aren’t 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 I’ve 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.
pentatonic with b2 = C-Db-E-G-A -
This scale will fit over these
chords: C7 (b9), Eb7 (b9), F#7 (b9), A7 (#9)
pentatonic with b3 = C-D-Eb-G-A – This
scale fits over these chords: Cmin6/9, Amin7(b5), Ebmaj7, F7,
pentatonic with b2 & b5 =
C-Db-E-Gb-A – This scale
fits these chords: C7 (b9), Eb7 (b9), Gb7 (b9), A7 (#9)
pentatonic with b5
- This scale fits these chords: Cmaj7(#11), C7(#11), F#min7(b5), Amin7, D7
pentatonic with b6 = C-D-E-G-Ab. -This
scale fits these chords: C7(#5), Dmin7(b5), E7(#9), Fmin(maj7)
pentatonic with b3 &b6 = C-D-Eb-G-Ab –
This scale fits these chords: Cmin7, Dmin7(b5), Ebmaj7,
Fmin7, Ab/G, Abmaj7(#11), B7(alt)
pentatonic with b2 &b6 = C-Db-E-G-Ab –
This scale fits these chords: C7(alt), Dbmin7(b5), E7(alt)
hope this adds to your vocabulary of different scales and shows you some ways
you haven’t 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.
think tenor saxophone legend Dexter Gordon said it best when he said “A
style isn’t something you pick off of a tree, it grows inside you.”
Right on Dex. Enjoy.
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