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Improvising with Pentatonic Scales

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Guitar Lesson Overview

I was getting many questions about this, after I wrote about this type approach. Figure it would be easier to show on a video, so here it is.

It's a cool "trick" you can use when improvising over a static chord, in this case A7 (or just the first 4 bars of a blues, if it's not using the QuickChange). By using the B Minor Pentatonic in addition to the more obvious choice, the A Minor Pentatonic, you can come up with some cool ideas. Try it out! Remember to focus on those chord notes, when creating licks, phrases or motifs. Use the other notes as passing notes, or lead-in notes.

TAB and Guitar Pro Files

You can download the notation here for this lesson in both PDF, Guitar Pro 5 and Guitar Pro 6.

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Comments on this video lesson:

David said...

Thanks for the useful lesson (Improvising with Pentatonic Scales) Robert but it's a bit hard to follow as your tuning seems to be about 1/4 tone on the sharp side.

Comment added on June 22, 2013
Larry Smith said...

Don`t have credit card.
If you will provide me with a address i will try my best to send you a donation.
You have been a "BIG" help to me.
Thanks for your great strang-n.

Comment added on August 31, 2012
jay said...

HEY HEY ROBERT well you got my att. how is that tuned i play it it its off but can't figure it out tell whatsup thank THE JSTER

Comment added on June 29, 2012
Benee said...

Hi Robert. Thanks for the lesson. Personally I didn't find using the Bm Pentatonic over the A very interesting sonically. It didn't really sound.....with it.

Comment added on February 25, 2012
Robert Renman said...

The tuning is standard. Perhaps it's tuned up/down in pitch slightly.

Comment added on October 31, 2011
kev said...

is this a different tuning??

Comment added on October 31, 2011
Robert said...

Francesco, Bmin is a chord.

B Minor Scale (Aeolian) played in the context of A Major creates the B Dorian Mode.

Comment added on August 21, 2011
francesco said...

Correct me if i'm wrong but isn't Bmin the equivalent of the A mixolydian , not dorian.

Comment added on August 19, 2011
Guitar Zero said...

Hi there, thanks for the free lessons! Perhaps it would be better not to hide your hands with the superimposed tab. If it has to take up half the screen, it would be more useful to see what your hands are doing at the same time as the tab, rather than watching you talk... Otherwise, thanks and keep up the great work!

Comment added on January 23, 2011
Daniel said...

mate,that's cool. I'm a poor man so i cant afford to donate to your site or buy your stuff. On the up side, being poor sure helps with playin the blues i reckon. :-) I can only say from my heart, thankyou for sharing so much. Your an inspiration and a great teacher. I hope life is treating you well.

Comment added on December 01, 2010
Robert said...

Hi Sandy, if it safe to say? Hmmm. Jazz players might use such an approach more than straight ahead blues players, I imagine. It has hard for me to say. It all really comes down to what sounds good. You can use all sorts of tricks, methods, secrets, etc - as long as it sounds good. Another way to look at it - there are many ways to (skin a cat) carry out a task. If the end result is good, then it doesn't matter how you got there.

Comment added on August 30, 2010
Sandy Erickson said...

Very instructive. I seem to hear this sort of thing going on in some of the jazz I've heard in the past. Would it be safe to say that this sort of scale-overlay is commonly used by more advanced Blues & Jazz musicians alike..?

Comment added on August 29, 2010
Robert said...

Gromek, you are absolutely correct! The Dorian mode works great over this. Try bending that minor third up a half-step to the major third sometimes. It gives it a nice bluesy feel with that major third in there. I often play both the minor and the major third back and forth - try picking, hammer-ons and pull-offs, slide-ins, trills, etc for that minor/major third. It's all good!

Comment added on August 29, 2010
gromek said...

Hi Robert,

as I see it, you just add the maj 9 and the maj 6 to the A minor pentatonic scale thus making it the A dorian scale, which is a complete diatonic scale with 7 different notes in it. Interestingly enough the notes added here are quite compatible with an A7 chord and although you do have to be careful with notes you hold out or end phrases on the one note you really should avoid to stress in an A7 context is the D (fourth to A) which in fact already is in the a pentatonic scale we've been starting from... as a matter of fact, I find you can also use E pentatonic over A7 once you are careful with that D note...


Comment added on August 29, 2010

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Free Guitar Lessons
New Course - Comping with Triads -

Learn 6 common chord progressions.

NEW - T-Bone Walker Lesson

"You are simply the best teacher on the internet. Always cool, explain things well, and relevant stuff for beginners to advanced players. Even my kids are into your lessons now!"

I was chosen as the 2013 Next Top Guitar Instructor at Truefire!