Diatonic chords in the pentatonic scale

This week I am a bit busy with the cd-release but here’s a lesson which might offer a new way to look at the good old minor pentatonic scale, and how you can make some interesting sounding chords with it.

The Pentatonic scale

We probably all know the A minor pentatonic scale in this position:

Diatonic chords in pentatonic scales ex 1

And one of the ways we practiced playing it is probably this exercise:Diatonic chords in pentatonic scales ex 2


But actually this is the same as post playing the scale in diatonic “thirds”. I call them “thirds” because the actual interval is most of the time in fact a 4th, but we are playing on note and skipping on, so we have the “thirds” of the pentatonic” scale. We can use them to construct chords and arpeggios in the same way I have cover in this lesson: Diatonic Arpeggios

If we do that to build three and four note chords we end up with these voicings:Diatonic chords in pentatonic scales ex 3

These voicings are fairly easy to play and they are using the minor pentatonic scale which is something we know really well. The fact that the pentatonic scale is two notes per string makes all the voicings easy to play. You’ll notice that a lot of them are in fact 3 part quartal voicings too.

You may or may not know that you can apply pentatonic scales over several different chords. I will go into that a bit further at a later time, but for now let’s take the example of the Am pentatonic. The scale will work well over Am7, Fmaj7, Cmaj7, D7sus4, and since the scale works well then a lot of the voicings we just made will work really well too giving us a lot of material to play over any of those chords. Of course you need to practice using them in those situations, and the best way to do that is probably a backing track or a looper pedal with a drone of one of the roots.

Taking the concept further

As you probably know already it is important to know your scales in all positions so you can play that scale everywhere on the neck. I am not going to go into the different positions of the scale, but if we were to practice the chords not in a position but  on two sets of strings along the neck you can open up a lot of options to work with the chords.

Diatonic chords in pentatonic scales ex 4

The same two sets of strings with 3 note voicings:

Diatonic chords in pentatonic scales ex 5



I probably should follow up on this lesson with a lesson on how you can alter the chords by exchanging notes with neighbouring notes in the scales. So maybe I will return to the subject with this topic as the main theme.

As always you can download the examples as a pdf here:

Diatonic chords in pentatonic scales

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.