The Pentatonic Scale for Dorian and Lydian You Forgot to Check out

The Hirajoshi is a Japanese Pentatonic scale. As you will see in this lesson it is a great modal pentatonic scale choice for getting sounds like Lydian and Dorian across. 

I will not only try to give you some licks and exercises that are a good way to explore the sound of this scale. This lesson is also a good demonstration of how I work with a scale to become more familiar with it and some of the things I do to find Melodic ideas, arpeggios and patterns.

The Hirajoshi Scale

There seems to be some discussion on which note is the root of the scale according to Wikipedia.

For what I am using it for, namely a set of notes that I can superimpose over a chord, that is not so important.

For this lesson we will consider E to be the root, and the The Hirajoshi scale consists of these notes:

E F# G B C

How to play this scale on the guitar

There are a few ways that we can choose to play the scale on the guitar. The “normal” way to play pentatonic scales is to play them 2 notes per string. It is not immediately obvious that it makes sense to do this for this scale, but since we already have patterns and are very used to working like pentatonic scales like this it is useful to do so.

You can of course do this in 5 positions. One of which is written out here below:

Another way that you can play these 5 notes is as a condensed Cmaj7(#11) arpeggio. We can then fit the 5 notes into a fairly close area, and move that fingering up in octaves as shown in example 3.

Looking for the Hirojoshi chords.

By just looking at which notes are contained in the scale we can construct a few chords:

C major triad, E minor triad, Bsus4 triad, F#dim(sus4)

As shown here below.

In fact we have a complete Cmaj7 arpeggio, and this is the main reason it works so well for C Lydian and A Dorian

I don’t use this on E minor chords because it does not have a 7th.

Exploring the different Pentatonic Chords

One way to look at what chords you can find is to take a voicing that is in there and moved it through the scale. In the example below I made the observation that the scale contains a Gmaj7 shell voicing (G, B and F#) and then I move that through the scale along the neck on the middle string set.

Another way of playing Diatonic chords in the pentatonic scales is to use the 2 note per string fingerings. When you stack “thirds” (In a pentatonic scale they are mostly not 3rds) you get all the notes under each other on different strings.

This is shown below.

The voicings gives us a rootless D7(13) or Am6/9 type quartal voicing. Followed by a 1st inversion C major triad. The next voicing is an F# quartal voicing followed by a C lydian triad and finally an E minor in 2nd inversion.

It can also be very useful to take this voicings up the neck on a string set as shown here below.

Melodic Scale Patterns

2 note per string patterns are really good for creating some systematic patterns that you can take through the scale, 

Here below is an example of such a pattern which is in fact a 5 note figure repeated down through sets of two strings.

A similar pattern that is also relying on the 2 note per string fingering is shown in example 9.

The A Dorian lick examples

The first example is using the Quartal arpeggio from C (C, F# and B). I slide into the first note from the B below.  The next part of the line is using two string sets of the 2nd pattern in example 9.

The final part of the phrase is a small scale melody ending on the F# that if we use it on an Am7 is an Am13 sound.

The video has an Am13 vamp as a backing track for the Dorian Pentatonic lick, but you could just as easily have used a Cmaj7(#11) chord.

The 2nd Dorian lick starts with an Em(add9) arpeggio for two octaves. From there it continues with a melody coming out of a Cmaj7(b5) arpeggio (which is of couse also contained in the scale)

The phrase ends with a scale run down to B that is the resolution of the lick.

C Lydian Pentatonic licks

Even though you can switch the licks around I have grouped them in the Dorian and Lydian examples. This is actually coming from the backing that I use on the video, so on the first two I have an Am13 vamp, and on the last two there is a Cmaj7(#11) vamp behind the lick.

In the first Cmaj7(#11) example the line is using a few more structures. The first is an Em triad in 1st inversion with a leading note. This is followed by a Bsus4 triad. The second bar is a Cmaj7 arpeggio and the line ends, as it begun, with a 1st inversion E minor triad.

The 2nd Lydian example is making more use of the scale itself as a melody, so the first bar is basically a descending scale run. The 2nd bar is combining two shell voicings that I use  as arpeggios. First a Gmaj7 followed by a Cmaj7. The phrase ends with G and E encircling the final note: F#.

Modal Pentatonic scales

Since modes are defined by more notes than 5 it does not really make too much sense to consider a pentatonic scale a complete picture of a mode. That said this mode contains the material to really emphasize both the Lydian and the Dorian sounds. I think those are clearly expressed by the C, F# and G against either a C or an A bass note.

I hope you can use the ideas and examples that I went over to start using this scale and also that you can take this as a method to explore other scales and find out what patterns or arpeggios they contain that you might like.

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