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pentatonic question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by wolffire99, Mar 21, 2014.

  1. wolffire99


    Feb 19, 2013
    St. Louis
    I've been learning and incorporating pentatonic scales into my playing and have found them great for runs and fills (rock/pop/folk). However, there's something I can't quite figure out...

    When do you use the pentatonic scale of the key vs. the pentatonic scale of the root/chord???

    For example. Say you've got a simple I-IV-V progression in C with a fill between the IV going to the V. Would I use the C, F, or G pentatonic moving from the F chord to the G chord???

    I hope this makes sense. Sometimes one way seems to work and other times it doesn't.
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    I think we all have asked that question. The answer lies within what sounds best and how much room do you have before a new chord becomes active. Yes the tonic pentatonic will work over the whole progression, but, is that what will sound best?.

    As 90% of what I play is in 4/4 time I prefer to use chord tones, or phrased better, notes of the chord. Four notes instead of the 5 note pentatonic (R-3-5-7 instead of R-2-3-5-6) but, that is just me. I do use the tonic pentatonic, but, chord tones and diatonic or chromatic runs seem to do what I need.

    {edit} What I said above deals with playing accompaniment. Pentatonic scales do work well if we are looking for melody notes. But, keep in mind, play them in scale order and it does not sound like a melody it sounds like a pentatonic scale exercise...

    You ask a question I think we all have had to work through. Your question about moving from the F to the G chord; you can do as you outline and I have. However, I normally rely upon diatonic or chromatic runs to get me there. On F going to G . Back up one fret and grab the E, F, F# and then land on G for the chord change. That implies movement a little better than your pentatonic scale would.

    Point I'm trying to make is I needed three notes for that fill not 5. Get pentatonic scales into your bag of tricks, there are places where they work well, and then other places something else fits better. Get comfortable with pentatonic scales, they are some of the tools we need to learn how to use.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yep, this is very much a judgment call and can't be answered with a stock answer.
  4. lilcrate

    lilcrate Tortdaddy

    Sep 9, 2013
    St. Louis
    I am VERY new to theory. But the way my instructor has been teaching me is this (we have mainly been focusing on the major and minor daitonic scale):

    In C Major using I-IV-V

    On the C chord I would play C Major Mode I (Ionian)
    On the F chord I would play F Major Mode IV (Lydian)
    On the G chord I would play G Major Mode V (Mixolydian)

    *These all contain the same notes, but my instructor says to think of it this way to really emphasize the root of the chord*

    With that being said, I don't know much about pentatonics and their modes yet, but just quickly thinking of the notes in the scale I would play C Major Pentatonic Mode I, F Major Pentatonic Mode I, and G Major Pentatonic Mode I.

    I don't know why the notes work out that way in the pentatonics and I could be way off here as I'm still learning. I also don't think following theory to a tee is necessary.

    I also tend to do what Malcolm does thinking more of chord tones, or diatonics. I use a lot of passing notes and chromatics which they work well for. The only time I've found myself using pentatonics creatively is with a few blues grooves I came up with. With that being said, I love the bassist of Sublime and he uses some really cool simple grooves that are within the pentatonic.
  5. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    If you use a pentatonic from the root of the chord, you can simply think of yourself as playing the notes in each triad plus a passing tone between the root and the third and "neighbor tone" above the fifth of the chord.

    The advantage to this is that it doesn't muddy the waters harmonically speaking, and keeps things simple. You can also add the sevenths by throwing in a note a half-step above the second-to-last note of each pentatonic scale. That will work with dominant chords on a standard blues, and is the most common approach.

    I would recommend working out pentatonics on one string, too, as a way to practice hammer-ons. This can be a lot of fun, and it shows you how the scale is constructed. You can also try this approach: http://www.activebass.com/l1525--Embellishing-Pentatonic-Scales
  6. wolffire99


    Feb 19, 2013
    St. Louis
  7. You don't have to think that hard. It's just a blues. Play C major pentatonic over the whole progression if you want that happy, BB King kinda sound. Use the C minor pentatonic over the whole thing if you want the gritty Stevie Ray Vaughn sound.
  8. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Very Interesting...