Pentatonics part 3 – Arpeggios and Melodic ideas


In this lesson I am going to take another approach to using pentatonic scales so that we can get some other sounds than what you might already use from it. I am going to do that by analyzing some of the different structures that are contained in it and later demonstrating how that can be used in a solo.

The Scale and some arpeggios

For the theory part of this lesson I’ll use the C minor pentatonic scale as shown here:

Pentatonics part 3 - Arpeggios and Melodic ideas - ex 1

I assume that you are familiar with the notes in the scale : C Eb F G Bb

Let’s have a look at what triads we can pull out of the scale, if you try to build a major or minor triad from each of the notes in the scale you find that these 2 triads are the only possibilities:

Pentatonics part 3 - Arpeggios and Melodic ideas - ex 2

Finding them is quite simple, For each note in the scale you look whether they have f.ex a minor 3rd, so that is only possible for C and G, and for G we can’t make a triad because we don’t have a fifth(D) in the scale.

In last weeks lesson I was talking about: Sus4 Triads as Upper Structures and you can in the same way as I described above find three of those in the scale: Csus4, Fsus4 and Bbsus4.

As I talked about in the lesson on the Sus4 triads they are connected to quartal harmony, and this lesson: Diatonic chords of the Pentatonic Scale Will show you how pentatonic chords and quartal harmony are very closely related.

Pentatonics part 3 - Arpeggios and Melodic ideas - ex 3

So now we have 5 different triads that we can use to make lines with, and don’t remember that you can also use their inversions and use them as Open Triads in your lines so that is in fact a vast amount of structures to play with.

The lines

Our goal is of course to make pentatonic lines that sound less “standard pentatonic” so that we can combine the fact that we are using a scale we know very well with some structures in the scale that we might not very often use.

Pentatonics part 3 - Arpeggios and Melodic ideas - ex 4

The first example is the 1st 4 bars of the song Night and Day. On the Abmaj7 I am using C minor pentatonic and playing a Csus4 triad followed by an Eb major triad. The scale choice for the G7al is Db maor or Bb minor pentatonic. On that I am first playing a Db major triad in a sequence followed by a Bb minor triad before it resolves to the fifth(G) of Cmaj7.

The second example is a II V I in G major. Here I am using Am pentatonic over the Am7 and Fm (or Ab major) pentatonic over the D7alt.

The first part of the line is just an Am triad melody until the 3 of the bar. It is followed by a Dsus4 root position triad. On the D7 it descends down an Ab major triad followed by an ascending Bbsus4 triad that resolves to the fifth(D) of Gmaj7

Pentatonics part 3 - Arpeggios and Melodic ideas - ex 5

The last example is a II V I in D major. On the E minor I am (again) using the pentatonic scale of the root of the chord, and the A7alt is using a C minor (or Eb major)  pentatonic scale. The Em line is the combination of first a G major triad in a pattern and then a descending Asus4 triad. On the A7alt the line is constructed by first an Fsus4 arpeggio followed by a Csus4 arpeggio before it resolves to the 9(E) of Dmaj.

Pentatonics part 3 - Arpeggios and Melodic ideas - ex 6

I hope you can use some of the ideas I covered in this lesson to make up new lines with pentatonic scales. This approach can also serve as a bridge towards using different arpeggios over chords in major or melodic minor situations, so in that way it might be a gateway to more jazz approaches when soloing.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here for later study:

Pentatonics part 3 – Arpeggios and Melodic ideas

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