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Are pentatonic scales applicable?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bdh2991, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    I'm used to only sticking to major and minor arpeggios when adding a little flavor to my bass lines, but I've yet to venture into pentatonic scales to fill in songs... Where can you apply them in creating a bass line?
  2. CnB77


    Jan 7, 2011
    The easiest way to do it and make it sound good is to play your chord tones on the strong beats and when you pull in something from the pentatonic (or wherever) play it on the off beat. That's not set in stone, and feel free to experiment with not doing it that way.
  3. dvlmusic


    Jul 24, 2010
    Alameda, CA
    Oh man - you can apply them everywhere!

    Pentatonic scales are a blessing and a curse. Since the Blues is the root of all popular American music, the sound of a minor pentatonic or Blues scale (only one note difference between the two - Blues scale has the addition of a #4/b5. For all intents and purposes these can be used interchangeably) is so common in popular music that this scale can be played over almost any chord and still work. Because of this fact it can be an incredibly useful tool since you can always return here any never have to worry about playing an incorrect note.

    However the reverse is also true: it can be incredibly limiting as well. If this is the only tool you use, then everything you play will sound the same as you're limited to only 5 (or 6) notes at a time.

    This gets trickier in Jazz with the use of extended chords (7ths, 9ths, 13ths etc. as well as Augmented, Diminished, Half-Diminished, etc.) however I have found this to be mostly true here as well. Think about it this way: the Minor Pentatonic scale consists of the Root, flat Third, Fourth, Fifth, and flat Seven . Four out of these five notes can be played over a major or minor chord without clashing. Playing a minor 3rd over a major chord is such a common sound in popular music that even though it may look wrong on paper, it doesn't always sound wrong to your ear. This means that a Minor Pentatonic/Blues scale can work over almost ANY chord.

    I'm sure there will be others who agree and those who disagree, but I can only speak from my experience. I hope that my rambling has at least given you food for thought.
  4. Rasbassras


    Sep 23, 2012
    The cash is in the bank. Took it to northland anz as soon as they left. They were open till 2 pm on saturday
  5. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    The pentatonic adds 2 notes to the chord's triad - the 2nd (more commonly referred to as the 9th) and the 6th in the major, and the 4th and 7th in the minor. Under a C major, a common line is C G A C (with rhythmic variation.) This adds the 6th of the C chord (A) to the bass line. Under a C minor, it's very common to use a Bb (the 7th) C G Bb C is a common line there.
  6. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    With three chord tones and two safe passing notes it becomes almost fail safe.
  7. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    Sorry but this confused me a little... The pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 9th of the major scale, for example if I was playing in G major it would add b flat and a?
  8. bdh2991


    Nov 27, 2013
    G# not b flat sorry
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Nope. To make it easier, forget the 9th and concentrate on the 2nd, so in G, the 2nd would be an A. And the 6th is an E, so a G major pentatonic is G-A-B-D-E.
  10. rogerb


    Aug 31, 2010
    There are two pentatonic scales, some guys are talking about major and some minor which is a little confusing. It is all in there but you've got to read carefully.

    G major pentatonic - G A B D E
    G B D is the major triad A is the 9th (or 2nd) and E is the 6th

    G minor pentatonic - G Bb C D F
    G Bb D is the minor triad and C is the 4th, F is the 7th

    You may need to know the theory, but memorize the patterns and experiment. Minor pentatonic first. I know the theory and the patterns, just making it sound to my liking is the hard part!

    Later knowledge bonus, the two pentatonic scales are related, if you've learned the patterns for minor they are reusable for the major pentatonic.

    Like this a E minor pentatonic.
    E minor pentatonic - E G A B D - Whoa! same notes as G major pentatonic above but starting on E
  11. Perhaps just try getting a little creative with Pentatonics and make some riffs up using them, away from any other bassline. Also try some runs and fills. It'll all give you a feel for the flavor of the scale then you'll instinctively know where you want to incorporate them into other basslines.

    I know it's been covered above but the construction of the Major and Minor Pentatonics are:
    Major Pentatonic: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 (Tonic, Maj 2nd, Maj 3rd, Perfect 5th, Maj 6th)
    Minor Pentatonic: 1, b3, 4, 5, b7 (Tonic, Min 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, Min 7th)

    From C tonic we have:
    C Major Pentatonic; C, D, E, G, A
    C Minor Pentatonic: C, Eb, F, G, Bb

    So you can see they both have a basic triad arpeggio as a skeleton with the 2nd and 6th fleshing out the Major Pentatonic and the 4th and minor 7th fleshing out the Minor Pentatonic.

    It's a bit of a naff way of looking them, but a lot of bass players like pentatonics because you can play really fast runs. They fall under the fingers in a 2 note per string config that allows you to get the Stanley Clarke/Jaco style shred lines going.

    I did a video lesson on Minor Pentatonic scales and how to use them for fills/solo lines all over the fingerboard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVShzes4ENo
    Don't know if that might be a bit too complicated for what the op wants but there are some ideas anyway.
  12. HCEarwicker


    Aug 30, 2013
    London UK
    Phil Lesh is, to my mind, a master of major pentatonic invention. Particularly fond of the Tamla-derived (?) '8(that is the 1 above the 5 and 6)-5-6-8' pattern is Phil. Deadhead or not, check out:

    for a fine example of a rockin penatonic line with some very pretty variations*

    *variations from 2.40 on, and during Mr Garcia's solo from 3.31.
  13. HCEarwicker


    Aug 30, 2013
    London UK
    ...Classic Motown is chock-full of great major pentatonic lines, usually J Jamerson's work of course.

    Like the opening of

    [Edit - So to answer your question, bdh2991: You play pentatonic scales, or lines derived from them, when and where they sound good :)]
  14. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    The more common name for the minor pentatonic is the blues scale, so be aware that when you hear folks talking about the blues scale, that's what they're talking about.
  15. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Listen to jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. He uses pentatonic scale ideas really well.
  16. dvh

    dvh Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2006
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Doesn't the blues scale typically include the #4/b5? (the minor pentatonic does not)?
  17. BobaFret


    Jan 22, 2008

    I thought the blues scale had an extra passing note between the 4 and 5.
  18. dvh

    dvh Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2006
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Here's a quick rundown from this lesson: http://somuchsound.blogspot.ca/2009/11/pentatonic-fluidity.html

    Over a minor7 chord, play the Pentatonic with the same root. So, over Aminor7, play A minor Pentatonic.

    Over a dominant7 chord, play the Pentatonic a major 6th up/minor 3rd down from the root. So, over D7 play B minor Pentatonic.

    Over a major7 chord, play the Pentatonic a major 3rd up/minor 6th down from the root. So, over Gmajor7 play B minor Pentatonic.
  19. BobaFret


    Jan 22, 2008
    So that's a yes?
  20. bass geetarist

    bass geetarist

    Jul 29, 2013
    A lot of good advice above and obviously learning pentatonics has worked well for a lot of bass players. I'll just offer my experience as an alternate point of view, as I actually never studied pentatonics, and instead focused on learning the modes of the diatonic scale as well as some variations. I didn't find this too terribly difficult, and I now find that I'm flexible enough to adapt to any key that is required, even if I'm playing in a key I've never played in before (after minimal practice).