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HomeLJS PodcastPlay better jazz solosLJS 167: Making Pentatonic Scales Musical Over Just Friends (Analysis and Improv...

LJS 167: Making Pentatonic Scales Musical Over Just Friends (Analysis and Improv Lesson)

Welcome to episode 167 of the LJS Podcast where we continue “Jazz Standards Month.” My subscribers often wonder what scales to play over jazz standards to help them improvise. However, scales are rarely the answer to creating great melodic solos. With that being said, they should not be discarded and in the right hands can be used to create great music. In this episode, we take the pentatonic scale and apply it over the jazz standard Just Friends.

Listen to episode 167

One of the most common questions I get from Learn Jazz Standards subscribers is what scales do I play over this chord? Or what scales do I play over this chord progression? What scales can I use in order to improvise?

And while I understand that that question is coming from a good place of wanting to improve or wanting to become a better jazz improviser, scales are often not the answer for creating great melodic jazz solos.

However, I don’t believe that we should throw scales out altogether. In the right hands used the right way, they can be used creatively and melodically.

So, in today’s lesson, this next lesson of Jazz Standards Month on the LJS Podcast, we are going to be taking a scale that we all know and love, the pentatonic scale, and applying it over the popular jazz standard Just Friends to make it more musical, to help us use this scale effectively.

Here’s the color-coded chords analysis of Just Friends I mention in the episode.

In this episode:

1. The healthy way to think about scales in terms of improvisation

2. Chords analysis of the first 8 bars of Just Friends

3. Pentatonic Note Map over Just Friends

4. Using motivic development using pentatonic scales over Just Friends

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Learn Jazz Standards Podcast. If you aren’t already, make sure you are subscribed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I look forward to having you join me in the next episode!

Important Links

The Jazz Standards Playbook Vol. 2

LJS 121: Understanding Secondary and Backdoor Dominants

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Hi Brent, thanks for this podcast, love all your jazz teachings! Your course – 30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing” has helped me tremendously. You have such a clear way of explaining things.
    Please don’t forget to post that colour coded chord analysis of “Just Friends” from this podcast!!
    Thanks so much, cheers, Shirley (tenor Sax)

  2. Hi Brent,

    Just caught up to LJS podcasts recently.
    Great forum!

    I thought this episode was great.
    Such simple ideas but amazingly powerful. Great presentation.

    Looking forward to the Jazz Blues series!

  3. HI Brent – Really enjoyed hearing the above podcast – can’t seem to locate your show notes for Episode LJS #167 regarding Making Pentatonic Scales Musical. Will you be posting soon? Thanks!

  4. Brent, just found your blog/podcasts/books. Looking forward to exploring it all. Episode LJS 167 mentions that the Pentatonic Note Map would be in the Show Notes. Is that still coming? Thanks!


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