Help!! I'm stuck in pentatonic mode.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by slappa da beeus, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. slappa da beeus

    slappa da beeus Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Joplin, MO
    I have been playing for several years and find myself frustrated when I play with jazzy musicians because I'm stuck in this pentatonic mode. My muscle memory is stuck. Are there any resources for transitioning from this "rut" to understanding what I'm supposed to be playing while not sounding like a novice?
  2. fearceol

    fearceol Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2006
    IMO you need to focus on chords and chord tones. Start learning walking bass lines. I dont know your standard of theory but hopefully these links will be of some help :

    Here is a set of basic lessons on walking bass. Apart from jazz, walking bass lines are a great way to learn chords that can be used in any type of music.

  3. Mennolineum


    Nov 12, 2013
    Scott Devine is the best! I've been stuck in the pentatonic scale aswell, some of his videos got me out
  4. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Chord tones are always a good start, if you're talking about how to solo, transcribing is your friend. Get familiar with horns and how they phrase (which will also get you out of the endless-stream-of-notes habit some players develop)

    Pentatonic isn't all that bad though. The Scott Devine video about Gary Willis is a good example of how to mix it up, there's another video that talks about pentatonics derived from the different scale degrees and how they each sound different, but I can't find it right now... argh!
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  6. slappa da beeus

    slappa da beeus Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Joplin, MO
    I subscribe to Scott's channel and have played along with some of his vids but he moves pretty swift and tends to speak over my head sometimes. I was a music major in college and have an Associate of Arts degree in music but that was 15 yrs ago and I've forgotten much of what I learned. I've played in a blues band regularly for the last 17 years so maybe this is why my muscle memory is so used to walking around in pentatonic mode.
    I'll comb these vids you posted until It makes sense. Thanks for your input.
    I will gladly accept any additional thoughts.

  7. Stuck in a "custom" pentatonic scale myself. I'll check those videos out asap.
  8. Icculus

    Icculus Supporting Member

    This one with Janek Gwizdala?
  9. Icculus

    Icculus Supporting Member

    IMHO, pentatonics are often a scapegoat in situations like this. You nailed it when you mentioned "muscle memory".

    For example, I once told my guitar teacher once that I was trying to expand more and get out of just playing pentatonics… then he played some stuff with only pentatonics and it sounded waaaayyy more "jazzy" than mine did. The notes themselves are not often the issue. It's the muscle memory that we all get stuck in playing the same licks in the same patterns.

    The notes themselves are a lot less limiting than we think. David Gilmour is a prime example of a musician who can play mostly pentatonics and have his solos drip with soul.
  10. bass geetarist

    bass geetarist

    Jul 29, 2013
    Similar questions come up on TB often enough, and I've provided the same answer each time (cut and pasted below this paragraph). This exercise really helped me learn how to move around the fretboard through chord changes, and gets your hands familiar with the shapes of the different modes.

    If you want to learn how to move around your fretboard and construct bass lines over chord changes, learn your modes. I have a warm up that I play almost daily, where I play all the modes of C major (aka C ionian) in sequence, starting from C major on the third fret of the A string, D dorian on the 5th fret of the A string, then move to E phrygian on the open E and work your way back to C major. I won't write them all out here, but these are the names in order (you can easily find tabs/notation for the scales online).

    C major, D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, A aeolian, B locrian
  11. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    you tube-scott Henderson pentatonics
  12. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    If you read, Rufus Reid's The Evolving Bassist is a great book for learning how to walk through chord changes.
  13. What? No phrygian black keys? :D
  14. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Love your username btw. I get it, and I'll bet many don't!
  15. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    All good advice. Especially regarding chord tones and modes.

    I would add that transcribing horn solos opened my playing up a lot.

    Miles Davis' solo on So What is a good place to start. Just learning to play them from the sheet music helped. Here is the So What solo in treble clef (pdf), but I have seen bass clef versions around. There are any number of there horn solos you could work on - just pick one and go for it.

    What I found was that horns move in very different ways to bass/guitar players. I suspect it's because they are not playing to fingerboard patterns like we often do. They are often playing licks made up of intervals (up and down) that feel quite foreign under the fingers at first.

    As bass players, we often have a tendency to think from the root/tonic upwards, so our solos are very 'anchored' in the harmonic structure of a piece. Once you get into some horn solos, you seen how they move across and over the top of the harmonies.

    Aside from learning to solo like a horn player, you can always start to play 'above' the harmony by, as Gary Willis says, taking the fifth. So, say you've got a Cmaj7 chord. To sound less 'anchored', you think of it as the 5th instead - a Gmaj7. You might still be using the same old fingerboard patterns, but you will sound like you're playing over the harmony, even in lower registers. Little things like treating a ii-V as V and, for example, playing a two-bar melody over the V rather than two 'separate' melodies on the ii and then the V, can help liven things up also.
    mag1guru likes this.