Not an LJS Inner Circle Member? LEARN MORE

HomeBlogCool and Unusual Applications of the Minor Pentatonic Scale

Cool and Unusual Applications of the Minor Pentatonic Scale

This is one my favorite jazz education videos on youtube… the perspective of is that of a brilliant guitarist, but any instrumentalist could use these concepts.  I’ve included a summary below of his main point for  reference (or if you aren’t a guitar player and have trouble following what Vic is doing).

Summary for all instrumentalists:

Over a ii-V7alt-I-VIalt progression, such as:

Dm7 G7alt CMaj7 A7alt

you can use: A minor pentatonic, Bb minor pentatonic, B minor pentatonic, and C minor pentatonic, respectively (one pentatonic scale per chord).

BELOW IS A PDF OF THE SCALES FOR EACH CHORD IN ALL 12 KEYS:

Minor Pentatonic ii-V7alt-I-VI7alt

CLICK HERE FOR A ii-V7-I-VI7 PLAY ALONG TO PRACTICE THESE IDEAS

If we further digest this idea:

Over the ii chord, use a minor pentatonic a perfect 4th down from the root of the ii chord (Dm7-A minor pentatonic).

This hits the 5, b7, root, 2, 4, and 5 of the chord.  This pentatonic scale is very “inside” the changes, and contains no altered notes.  It can be thought of as an incomplete Dorian scale, but starting on the 5th of the dorian scale instead of root of the scale..  It leaves out the 6th and b3rd of the Dorian scale.

Over the V7alt chord, use a minor pentatonic up a minor 3rd from the root of the V7alt chord (G7alt, Bb minor pentatonic).

This hits the b3, b5, b6, b7, b9, and b3 of the chord.  In this context, the pentatonic has many altered tones, and sounds “outside.”  It’s a very hip application of the minor pentatonic scale!  This sound can be thought of as an altered sound, from a melodic minor scale a half-step up from the root of the chord V7 chord.  The melodic minor scale a half-step up from the V7alt chord contains the b9, #9, 3, #4, b13, b7, root, and b9 of the V chord.  This pentatonic in context uses 5 of these same notes from melodic minor harmony, but starts on the #9 and leaves out the 3rd and root of the V chord.

Over the I chord, use a minor pentatonic a half step down from the root of the I chord (CMaj7, B minor pentatonic).

This hits the Maj7, 2, 3, #4 (b5), 6, and Maj7.  This pentatonic sounds very “inside” the changes except for  one altered note, the #4 lydian note.  It can be thought of as a lydian sound, but this pentatonic scale leaves out the root and 5th of the lydian scale.  It starts on the 7th note, the major 7th, of the lydian scale (assuming we are playing the lydian mode over the I chord).

Over the VI7alt chord (V of ii in classical theory), use a minor pentatonic up a minor 3rd from the root of the VI7 chord (A7alt, C minor pentatonic).

Theoretically, what is happening here is the same as what is happening for the V7 chord, just up a whole-step.   It’s an altered sound from melodic minor harmony.  You can reread the description from the V7alt chord and just move everything up a whole-step, substituting the VI7alt chord for the V7alt chord.

Keep in mind that this is only one way to approach the ii-V-I-VI7 chord progression.  There are more traditional ways, of course, and other modern ways of approaching the changes.  This is just one way of getting some very cool sounds out of a ii-V7-I-VI7 progression.

Note that the minor pentatonic scales just move up a half-step at a time.

If we take this idea and move it into all 12 keys, we get these changes paired with the following scales (mp stands of minor pentatonic):

Key of C

Dm7     G7alt     CMaj7     A7alt

A mp    Bb mp    B mp        C mp

Key of F

Gm7     C7alt     FMaj7     D7alt

D mp    Eb mp   E mp        F mp

Key of Bb

Cm7     F7alt     BbMaj7     G7alt

G mp   Ab mp    A mp         Bb mp

Key of Eb

Fm7     Bb7alt     EbMaj7     C7alt

C mp    Db mp     D mp         Eb mp

Key of Ab

Bbm7     Eb7alt     AbMaj7     F7alt

F mp     Gb mp     G mp       Ab mp

Key of Db

Ebm7     Ab7alt     DbMaj7     Bb7alt

Bb mp    B mp        C mp       Db m0

Key of Gb

Abm7     Db7alt     GbMaj7     Eb7alt

Eb mp   E mp       F mp      Gb mp

Key of B

C#m7     F#7alt     BMaj7     G#7alt

G# mp     A mp      A# mp     B mp

(Ab mp)             (Bb mp)

Key of E

F#m7     B7alt     EMaj7     C#7alt

C# mp    D mp    Eb mp      E mp

Key of A

Bm7     E7alt     AMaj7     F#7alt

F# mp   G mp   G# mp      A mp

(Ab mp)

Key of D

Em7     A7alt     DMaj7     B7alt

B mp    C mp      C# mp      D mp

(Db mp)

Key of G

Am7     D7alt     GMaj7     E7alt

E mp     F mp      F# mp     G mp

HERE IS A PDF WITH THE SCALES FOR EACH CHORD IN ALL 12 KEYS:

Minor Pentatonic ii-V7alt-I-VI7alt

CLICK HERE FOR A ii-V7-I-VI7 PLAY ALONG TO PRACTICE THIS CONCEPT

Camden Hughes
Camden Hugheshttp://camdenhughes.com/
Camden is a working jazz pianist, multi-instrumentalist, and music educator currently living near Boise, ID. He teaches music at the Idaho Arts Charter School, and is the jazz adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University. Check out his music at www.camdenhughesmusic.com.

Follow Us

Get Our Free Guide

Join the LJS Inner Circle Membership

I want to...