Improvisation with Major Pentatonic | Hub Guitar

Improvisation with Major Pentatonic

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Hi. This is Hub Guitar.

Let's talk about how to use the major pentatonic scale to improvise.

At the basic level, you can use the major pentatonic scale to improvise over a major key of the same name. So you can use A major pentatonic to improvise in the key of A major.

You can also use the pentatonic major built on the fifth of the major key. So for A major, you can use an E major pentatonic.

You can also use a major pentatonic scale to improvise over a blues of the same name, although this may not sound truly bluesy.

In addition to these, there are more advanced uses of the pentatonic scale that we won't touch on today.

I'm just going to show you for a moment what it looks like to improvise using the C major pentatonic scale over the chords C, Am, Dm, G. Here's the demonstration with our backing track.

As you may have noticed, I like to use techniques like slides, bends, vibrato that kind of thing. Those decorations can give the notes you play a little bit more character, so experiment with throwing those in there as well.


Background of the Pentatonic Major

The major pentatonic scale is based on the most common scale: the Major scale.

Penta means “five”, and tonic means “notes”, so a pentatonic scale is a scale with just five notes.

This scale can be made by removing two notes from the Major Scale.

Major Scale

This scale has two pairs of notes that are immediately adjacent to each other. If they ring together, their vibrations will step into each other and produce a harsh sound called dissonance.

The E and the F can be dissonant if they both ring together. The B and the C can also cause some dissonance. The notes F and B can both be removed from this scale to produce a scale that is more consonantA note that is consonant with another will seem to agree and fit well when played together with the first. : the Pentatonic Major scale.

Pentatonic Major Scale

Now we have a system where no note will clash with another note. We can use this system to improvise music by ourselves, with other musicians, or with a backing trackA pre-recorded instrumental track, most often used for practicing improvisation. Similar to a karaoke track.. You may have played the scale before, but take a moment to refresh your memory.

Pentatonic Major on Guitar

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d natural
a natural
e natural
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c natural
g natural
c natural
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e natural
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d natural
a natural
c natural
g natural
d natural
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Backing Track: Major Pentatonic

This track has drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. Use the pentatonic scale to improvise a solo over the chord progression:

CAminDminG

Key Exercises

  1. Play the pentatonic scale ascending over the track.
  2. Play the pentatonic scale descending over the track.
  3. Play the scale ascending and descending.
  4. Play a pattern using every other note of the scale (C, E, D, G, E, A, G, C).
  5. Try to write a short melody for the track.

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