The pentatonic scale is a very powerful tool on guitar. In this lesson I am going to demonstrate how you can make a variation on the trusted minor pentatonic scale that has a lot of advantages when dealing with tonic minor, half diminished chords and altered dominants.
The Scale and how it’s constructed
The minor pentatonic is probably the scale that a great part of all guitarists learn as a first scale. I have already done several lessons on how to apply the minor pentatonic scale in jazz. One of the things that the minor pentatonic scale does not do that well is minor 6th, half diminished and dominant chords. The missing characteristic is that the minor pentatonic does not include a tritone interval which is essential to these chords.
If we take an ordinary A minor pentatonic: A C D E G and then change the b7(G) to a 6(F#) we get this scale: A C D E F# which I will demonstrate in this lesson can cover a lot of ground when it comes to tonic minor, half diminished and dominant chords with or without alterations.
It is a very good exercise to go through your pentatonic scales, isolate the b7 and change it to learn 5 new pentatonic fingerngs. You can also look up the scale chart that I made here: Min6th Pentatonic scales in positions It is also available as a PDF download.
To find out where we can use the scale it is a good idea to check out what chords we have in the scale.
As you can see in example 2 it contains an Am6: A C E F#, a D7: D F# A C and since we have an Am6 we also have an F#m7b5 (which is an inversion of Am6) F# A C E.
These chords tell us something about what we can use the scale for, not only for these chords but also for chords that have one of these chords as upperstructures or is in another way closely related to them.
Applying the m6 Pentatonic scale
The first example is fairly straight forward where I am using the scale over a tonic Am chord. The line is an Am II V I, starting with an Fmaj7 arpeggio over the Bm7b5, then a D dim triad over the E7b9. Over the Am6 the line is first an Am6 arpeggio and then ascending up the scale and ends on a C.
The 2nd example is applying the scale on an unaltered D7 chord. The D7 is in a G major cadence.
The line on the Am7 is consisting entirely of an inversion of the C maj arpeggio. The D7 line is in the standard V position for Am, and is first a part of the chord, D and F# then a descending Am triad and finaly using D C and A to encircle the 3rd(B) of Gmaj7.
In the 3rd example I am using the Am6 pentatonic scale as a sound for F#m7b5. The progression is a II V I in Em with a B7 altered dominant.
The line starts out with a pattern of the F# dim triad, and then continues to a more visual way of making a melody in a pentatonic scale where I am using the fact that it is always 2 notes per string, and I play each string descending. On the B7alt we first have a n D# augmented triad and then up the B altered scale scale from 7th to the #9 and then resolving to the 5th of Em
The final example is using the Am6 over an Ab7alt chord. As you might already know the Ab7 altered scale is in fact the A minor melodic scale and this scale is of course a subset of Am melodic. It also contains the C and the F# and the rest of the D7 arpeggio, so there is enough links to Ab7 altered there.
The line is a II Valt I in Db major. On the Ebm7 it is a basic Ebm7 arpeggio with an added passing note between the 7th and the root. On the Ab7alt the line is in fact just an ascending run in the scale followed by a small descending bit at the end to encircle the 5th(Ab) of Db. The fact that the scale in it self has a strong sound makes it possible to get away with such a simple melodic concept. It is also a nice example of how the scale really spells out the sound of the chord by hitting a lot of altered extensions.
I think this pentatonic scale is a great way to expand the amount of chords that you have a pentatonic scale for. I like the sound of the pentatonic scales because they have a few larger intervals and on guitar there are some nice things you can pull out of the 2 notes per string concept.
I hope you can use this scale and the examples I went over here as a way to start working with the m6 pentatonic scale. I will in the near future also make some lessons on how you can put this to use on a standard and some other progressions.
If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here you can do so here:
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