Autumn Leaves – When You Only Use Pentatonic Scales

The Pentatonic Scale is one of the first things we learn on the guitar, and it makes a lot of sense to use this when working on how to play  an Autumn Leaves Guitar solo.

The way I am demonstrating the pentatonic scale on Autumn Leaves in this lesson is as a 5 note scale that we can use to get the sound of the chord across. Most of the choices are using the standard minor pentatonic scale and I am also using a m6 pentatonic scale.

Finding Pentatonic scales for each of the chords

I am going to use the first 8 bars of Autumn Leaves since that covers all the chords in the song except 2 and it has the main cadences in the key so a cadence to a major tonic and one to a minor tonic.

The Progression is:

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7

Aø D7 Gm6

For the Cm7 I am using the Cm pentatonic scale:

The F7 is played as an F7alt chord. F7 alt is the same as a B7(#11), so a Lydian dominant, and we can use a B major or Abm pentatonic scale:

For the Bbmaj7: Bbmaj7 consists of the notes Bb D F A and what you see here is that the upper part (D F A) is a D minor triad. For this chord I use Dm pentatonic. 

Over a maj7 chord using the minor pentatonic scale from the 3rd is a good rule to remember!

And that rule gives us Gm pentatonic on the Ebmaj7 chord

The Minor II V I – m6 Pentatonics

A m6 pentatonic is a minor pentatonic scale where the b7 is replaced with a 6th. So for Cm pentatonic we have: C Eb F G Bb and the Cm6 pentatonic will be C Eb F G A.

For Aø: A C Eb G it is worth noticing that this is an inversion of a Cm6 chord: C Eb G A. That means that the Cm6 pentatonic sale is a great option for this chord.

As a result the rule is: ø chord -> m6 pentatonic from the 3rd of the chord 

Over the altered dominant we can use the m6 pentatonic associated with the Melodic minor scale that is also the altered scale. 

In this case D7alt that is Eb melodic minor and the Ebm is a perfect scale choice:

Eb Gb Ab Bb C spelling out b9,3,b5,b13 and b7.

And of course the tonic minor chord Gm6 is easily taken care of with a G m6 pentatonic scale

Practicing Pentatonic Scale Patterns

One of the ways we use pentatonic scales is by exploring scale patterns. A pentatonic scale doesn’t work like a “normal” scale and the patterns. Therefore patterns can produce interesting groups of notes and interval structures. 

In many ways this is what probably makes it such a common device in modern jazz. It is a source of new interesting melodies to work with.

On guitar you should try to work on some common patterns. In the three examples I am also using that it is easy to play pentatonic scales as 2 notes per string patterns.

Pentatonic Pattern 1 – Diatonic “3rds”

This pattern goes through a pattern in the pentatonic scale that is equal to playing a major scale in 3rds. The scale is played descending and the direction of the “3rds” are changing so first up the down etc.

Pentatonic Pattern 2 – Switching direction

This pattern is again using the 2 notes per string aspect. Here it is used with the scale played ascending but the order of the notes per string switches creating some nice 4th intervals through the scale.

Pentatonic Pattern 3 – A sus4 triad

One of the structures in a Cm pentatonic scale is an Fsus4: F Bb C.

In the example below this structure is moved through string sets in the scale, generating some sus4 triads but also a Cm and an Eb major triad.

Solo using only Pentatonic Scales

The solo hereunder is using the Pentatonic scales I went over on an A part of Autumn Leaves.

Autumn Leaves Lessons

I have a few WebStore Lessons based on Autumn Leaves. Here’s one on soloing over the form and demonstrating a few approaches to creating lines:

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