Tag Archives: hirajoshi scale

5 Pentatonic Scales That Are Great On A Maj7

Pentatonic scales are a great resource to get some solid melodies and colorful extensions to shine on a maj7 chord. In this video, I am going to go over 5 options for pentatonic scales that are really great on a maj7 chord. Some of them you know already, but I will also show you how to get them to sound a little more interesting. A few others you probably don’t know and I actually had a hard time finding the right name for them.

I am going to go over the 5 scales but also give you some tips or hacks on how to make more interesting melodies with pentatonic scales because that is something that is very underestimated.

#1 Am Pentatonic (or C major)

The first one is sort of obvious: Am pentatonic is C major pentatonic so that works on this Cmaj7 chord. If you first try this then it probably sounds dull and lacks any interesting color, but that is a matter of the types of melodies you can make with a pentatonic scale as you will see in the example and  exercises If you look at the scale against a C then is sort of giving you the sound of an A C6/9 chord:

A C D E G 6 1  9 3 5

As you will see in this video I use the name of the pentatonic scales from the minor root because that is how most people first learned them. In the end it doesn’t matter too much what name it is as long as it is the same group of notes. In the line, I am using two open triads that are found in the scale, a 1st inversion Am and a root position C major. Using melodies like that can really change the sound a lot so that it does not have to sound like a Country solo when you use this scale. Another great exercise to check out on pentatonic scales is an exercise which is a bit like playing diatonic chords through the scale. An example of a line using this type of melody sounds like this: The scale I use here is another position which is this: and the exercise I use is coming from this pattern through the scale. ex 5

#2 Em Pentatonic

I have mentioned this one quite a few times before and it is a great sound on Maj7 chords: The minor pentatonic scale from the 3rd of the chord. This time I am also going to go over a little hack that I really like to get a different sound out of this scale. The scale could be played like this: Against the Cmaj7 it gives you these colors:

E G  A B D 3 5 13 7 9

and a lick using it sounds like this: Notice how I am again using the quartal arpeggios in the line to get a different sound.

The Blues Hack

A variation on this sound is to use the E blues scale on a Cmaj7. So this is the same scale but with an added Bb or A#. The added note does not fit with the Cmaj7 chord but does work well as a leading note for either the A or the B Using that could sound like this:

#3 Bm Pentatonic – Lydian sound

The final”normal” Pentatonic scale is using the minor pentatonic scale from the 7th of the chord. For Cmaj7 that is B minor pentatonic EX 10

With this scale we have:

B D E   F#  A 7 9 3 #11  13

So a lot of colors and especially the #11 that can be extra colorful if it is in a place that we expect to hear a tonic major chord. A line using the Bm pentatonic scale sounds like this:

#4 Hirajoshi Scale

This scale is actually a Cmaj7 chord with an added #11. From E it is E F# G B C but you could see it as Cmaj7:

C E G B plus F# 1 3 5 7        #11

The scale has a tritone which interval from C to F# and that really makes the melodies sound very different. You can play the scale like this: I am playing these scales with two notes per string because that means that I can easily translate my patterns from other pentatonic scales on to this, this means a few stretches but also makes it really easy to get a lot of vocabulary fast when you start using the scale. and if you use it in a line it sounds like this:

#5 Locrian Pentatonic

This scale I couldn’t find a name for, but I ended up calling it Locrian Pentatonic: F# A B C E. You could look at it as a F#minor pentatonic with a b5. if you have a better suggestion for a name  then feel free to let me know in the comments. This is also a scale giving you a #11 or Lydian sound on a maj7 chord. The scale I am using on the Cmaj7 is the F# Locrian Pentatonic: Against C that is

F#   A   B C E #11 13 7 1 3

You can play it like this: This scale also has the tritone between C and F# which I am using for some nice quartal arpeggios in the example like this: A great little exercise to get used to the sound of this scale is a variation of the chords exercise I went over in the beginning:

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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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