Finding good ideas for using The altered scale can be difficult and often we end up just running the scale and not really making any interesting melodies.
In this video I will go over 3 pentatonic scales you can use when improvising over an altered dominant which is a great way to get some strong and interesting melodic ideas. Pentatonic scales are a great and easy to use resource on the guitar and as you will see you can do a lot with them.
The Sound of Pentatonic Scale in Modern Jazz
I really like to use pentatonic scales in my playing to get some more modern sounding ideas, which is also where the pentatonic scale is mostly used, but it is overall a very effective tool.
Connecting to the basic G Altered Scale
G7 altered is the same as Ab melodic minor:
Ab Bb B Db Eb F G Ab
We have one straight minor pentatonic scale:
Bbm – Bb Db Eb F Ab Bb
That’s what I am using here in this next example.
In example 2 I am first playing the scale as a 2nd position minor pentatonic. I also use another way which is to play it in a 3-1 pattern. This has 3 notes on one string , 1 note on the next etc. That is written in the 2nd 2 bars of example 2 here below.
Next lick another type of pentatonic scale that works really well for melodic minor sounds and especially the Altered scale. I will also go over some useful exercises to combine legato and picking for playing fast in the pentatonic scale.
The altered lick using Bbm pentatonic
Here below is the lick using the Bbm pentatonic scale. The first part is just runing up the basic scale position. in the 2nd bar I use 2 different 3 note per string patterns and then resolve to the G on Cmaj7. The line is closed with a small fragment from an Em pentatonic.
Abm6 pentatonic is a very good choice for a pentatonic scale in the altered scale. In fact it is great fro most chords you come across in melodic minor.
Abm6 pentatonic: Ab B Db Eb F Ab
You can play that like this:
Connecting it to the tritone substitute
You can also look at it the scale as a Db7(9): Db F Ab B Eb which is how I am using it here.
Ab B Db Eb F re-ordered is Db F Ab B Eb
which is a Db7(9) arpeggio.
The example here below starts with a Db7 arpeggio and ending on the 9th in the 2nd bar two octaves higher. From here it resolves to the 9th on Cmaj7 and ends with a short lick on the Cmaj7.
Mixing legato and picking
This lick relies on mixing legato and picking. I find that those two are really cornerstones in my playing and it makes sense to have exercises where you mix them so that you can solve problems for your right hand with legato.
Here below I included an example of an exercise like this using the Abm6 pentatonic.
Let’s have a look at a more exotic but also effective pentatonic scale for altered dominants, some economy picking and how an E7sus4 chord works great on a Cmaj7.
The Eb major b6 pentatonic
This is the Eb major (b6) pentatonic scale: Eb F G Bb B Eb
It is a great scale to spell out the sound of melodic minor because it has the augmented triad from B included.
Constructing the scale
Since we are using the scale over a G7 altered it makes sense to connect it to a Cm pentatonic scale. You can construct the scale by taking a Cm pentatonic replace the C with a B. That makes it easier to find fingerings:
Major b6 pentatonic scale example with economy picking
The example using this scale is making use of an economy picking pattern in the first bar. I am using the economy picking to play the 3 note patterns in bar one branching into bar 2. From there it starts with a small scale pattern resolving to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.
The arpeggio on the Cmaj7 is an E7sus4 which works great for that sound. It is also a part of the Em pentatonic scale I am using on that chrord.
Using pentatonic scales in Jazz
The way I work with pentatonics is mostly to get a different sound than the standard blues phrasing, they work great for some open sounds and different melodies. How do you work with pentatonics? Leave a comment and be sure to also check out the ideas that are discussed in the comments because often there is a lot of interesting information being shared.
Get the PDF!
You can also download the PDF of my examples here:
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.