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Improvisation over Fmin7

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by J_TheBassPlayer, Mar 16, 2008.

  1. Hello, I was recently adjudicated at a festival. One of the tune's we played was Birk's Works, an F minor Blues. The judge explained how we could use an Ab pentatonic over the Fmin7, but if we really wanted to go out we could even use A pentatonic. I'm not sure how this works, or if he was referring to a major or minor pentatonic scale. Do any of you have any experience with this?
  2. jweiss


    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
    Relative to the major scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8):

    Pentatonic scales are:
    major - 1 2 3 5 6
    minor - 1 b3 4 5 b7

    If your chord is Fm7, the chord tones are:

    F Ab C Eb
    1st b3rd 5th b7th

    The "Ab" pentatonic scales are:

    major: Ab Bb C Eb F
    minor: Ab Bb Cb Eb Gb

    The Ab major pentatonic scale contains all the chord tones so it will sound completely "in".

    The Ab minor pentatonic has the 3rd and 7th of the Fm7 chord (Ab and Eb) so it would work too. The Cb is a flat 5 of the Fm7 chord, which will add some color. So will the Gb (a flat 2 of the F dorian/natural minor scale).

    The "A" pentatonic scales are:

    major: A B C# E F#
    minor: A C D E G

    I don't see how either of those would sound decent over a Fmin7, but perhaps someone else could offer some insight. Or just give them a try.


  3. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    F minor is the "relative minor" key of Ab Major and Ab Major is the "relative major" of F minor, which just means they share all the same notes. It's pretty nifty to think that inside the boring old major scale you actually have a minor scale (actually there are a couple of them!) Playing Ab pentatonic works great over Fminor, because the notes are "in sounding".
    Fminor11 Chord F--Ab--C--Eb--G--Bb
    Ab Maj Pent Ab--Bb--C--Eb--F (no G in the pentatonic)

    If you look at the notes, they are all the same with the exception of the G, just in a different order and starting from a different note. I would even go so far as to say that Ab Major Pentatonic is like playing Fminor Pentatonic, only starting on the minor 3rd. ya dig?
    So next time you see a minor chord vamp, go up a minor 3rd and play some major pent, and next time ya see a major chord vamp, go down a minor 3rd and play some minor pent. Remember this relationship, it's very important.

    Many books and teachers endorse this method of "see this chord", "go here", "play this", and I think it's a good way to get your feet wet as a novice improviser. If you begin creating a "bag of licks" that you like, and learn them in all keys, then you can see a chord (Fminor7), go here (Ab), play this (major pentatonic lick). It will help ya a lot of the bandstand.

  4. arcellus


    Feb 28, 2004
    Portland, OR
    Also, are you sure he said Ab Minor Pentatonic, not Major? I'd expect Major Pent. to be mentioned.

    The A Major Pent. will sound cool if it's in the context of Ab - try playing an Ab lick, slide it up a half step into A, then back down. This is a really common way of playing outside the changes.

    I also second what Matt said - remember that Ab Major Pent. and F Minor Pent. are the same scales. I always try to think of them this way, as relatives.

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