The Great Thing About Pentatonic Scales For Jazz And How To Use Them

You can create fantastic Jazz licks using Pentatonic Scales! This lesson will give you some great examples and exercises for that!

Pentatonic scales can be great because usually, Jazz solos are about arpeggios and chromatic leading notes

But that is not always what you want to sound like, just focusing on spelling out the harmony

And this is where you can use Pentatonic scales, because they can give you a very different sound and you most likely already know how to play them.

So let’s look at how you can use Pentatonic scales to create shifting minor pentatonic tricks, lines for altered dominants and, one of my favourites which is a pentatonic scale for maj7 chords.

  • Shifting Pentatonics
  • Altered Pentatonics
  • Great Maj7 Pentatonic

It is not all Clapton licks with this scale…

Shifting Minor Pentatonic

One thing that works really well with these scales is to take melodies and shift them around on top of the chords.

An example could be to choose 3 pentatonic scales for the progression and then use the shifting nature in the melodies. For example, you can use Dm on Dm7, Fm pentatonic on G7, and Em pentatonic on Cmaj7.

Check out how that sounds, and how it is really just moving the melody around on the progression.

This is all really just using this pentatonic scale


And especially these melodies, but then I am changing things up because it gets a bit boring and predictable if you don’t watch out.

I’ll return to how much I hate later in the video with my least favorite pentatonic trick.

A lot of this is just about playing interesting rhythms:

Bebop Vs Pentatonics – what is the difference

I am sure you can hear how the pentatonic melodies sound different. The main difference is in what notes are used, when you only have 5 notes then you get this really pure sound which is very different from a line similar to what I played at the beginning of the video where I am using all scale notes AND some chromatic notes

Bebop lines are dense very directional melodies that move from one target note to the next are pretty different from pentatonic melodies that are more floating on top.


Another thing that you also want to notice is how the bebop lines rely heavily on arpeggios: Like Dm7, Fmaj7 and B diminished

Exercises to help create Pentatonic Melodies

In a pentatonic scale there are not that many arpeggios and you want to work on playing other structures, so it is really useful to explore exercises like this:

or this

Which will help you create more interesting melodies that really capture the sound and not just run up and down the scale. You want your melodies to have more this type of sound:

Altered Dominant

The next thing to figure out, before we get to the pentatonic hack that I have grown to hate, is how to use a pentatonic scale on a G7alt chord. The Fm pentatonic I used in the previous examples was sort of a hack, but you can do this in a different way:

G7 altered is Ab melodic minor:

Ab Bb B Db Eb F G Ab

And in this scale there is one minor pentatonic scale:

Bbm pentatonic:

Bb Db Eb F Ab

This is a great set of notes for a G7 since you have

Bb Db  Eb  F    Ab

#9 b5 b13 b7  b9

All the good notes!

So now you can use Dm7, Bbm7, and Em7 on the II V I, and this example I am using the basic box 1 Bbm pentatonic:

and you can hear how you get a more modern-sounding melody out of it:

Maj7 and Maj7(#11) pentatonic

And then we get to the hack that everybody is always trying to use and most of the time sound like this:

This is clearly moving up pentatonic scales in the most mechanical and predictable way possible, and it is really easy to avoid creativity with this, but you can do some nice things with it.

The scales are Am pentatonic on Dm7, Bbm on G7 alt and Bm pentatonic on Cmaj7

Bm pentatonic is a great scale for a Lydian sound:

B      D E  F#   A

maj7 9 3 #11 13

So really just all the rich sound notes in the chord.

Am pentatonic works fine but also is a little bland because we don’t have the F in there.


5 b7 1 9 11

Instead of just moving up the same very square melody you could use this in a line like this:

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