1 Pentatonic Scale over 8 Chords

In this lesson I will take one pentatonic scale and show you how it you can improvise over 8 different chords with it.

The Pentatonic scale

All the examples in this lesson are using the E minor pentatonic scale. Shown here below as a simple box 1 pentatonic:


With the different chords I will show a chord voicing and go over what the notes of the pentatonic scale are in relation to the chord. In that way you get an idea of what is available in the scale when used over the chord.

In some cases I have included a few suggestions on how you phrase when using the scale in that context.

For each of the chords I have also made a recording of a few bars as an example. You can see that in the video above.

1 – The Em7 chord

The obvious place to start is of course to use the E minor pentatonic scale over an Em7 chord. The scale is in fact an Em7 with an added 4 or 11, so everything is pretty much spelling out the chord that we are playing it over.


2 – E7 blues sounds

An equally common use of the scale is over an E7 chord to get the bluesy sound of a minor scale against a major chord. To have a chord that also reflects this I chose an E7(#9) which includes both major and minor 3rds.

When using this scale it is a good idea to think of the type of phrasing often associated with blues, so lots of short phrases, repeated notes and sliding and bending to notes in the scale.


3 – Gmaj7 – The major pentatonic

To use the scale over a major chord you could try a Gmaj7. In essence this is the same as playing G major pentatonic. The scale becomes the G major triad with a 6th and a 9th. All notes you can easily use over this chord type.


4 – G7 – The major blues variation

We can also apply the scale to a G major chord that isn’t a tonic but instead a dominant chord. When using the scale in this context it lends itself to a more bluesy sound. The 6th included in the scale probably wil sound more like a 13th over the chord.

5 – Cmaj7 – Pentatonic from the 3rd

This applicaiton of the scale is very flexible and also very useful. It will in fact work in almost any style over a maj7th chord to use the minor pentatonic from the 3rd. This is also one of the reasons it is a favourite of mine.

Since the arpeggio found on the 3rd of the chord is an Em7 arpeggio it is clear that the scale will work well, adding a 9th and a 6th to the available pitches.


6 – Fmaj7(#11) – Lydian Pentatonic

If we use the scale over an Fmaj7 chord we get the 3rd and the 3th of the chord, but we also have the 6th,9th and #11 included. So this makes the scale very useful to convey a lydian sound.


Altered dominants with a Pentatonic scale

The pentatonic scale is also an excellent help when playing over an altered dominant. The idea is to use the pentatonic scale that is found on the #9 of the altered dominant. The scale then contains almost only alterations over the chord.


In my example of the altered dominant use I decided to use it as a dominant that resolves. Most of the time we use altered dominants to pull towards another chord so it makes more sense to always have this aspect present in the context where you practice it.

Therefore I have use the progression shown here below where the Db7alt resolves to a Gbmaj7 chord.


8 – Pentatonic from the 5th of a dominant chord.

In the final example I am using the Em pentatonic scale from the 5th of an A7. This way of using the scale actually spells out a sort of A7sus4 sound since it contains the 4 and note the 3rd of the chord. But if you don’t lean to heavily on the D then you can get a nice mixolydian like dominant sound out of the scale.


Applying Pentatonics in Solos

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

Get the PDF

If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf. If you enter your e-mail you will automatically be taken to the download link and receive an E-book with 15 II V I licks.

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