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Combining Minor and Major Pentatonic Scales


Combining Minor and Major Pentatonic Scales

... Klaus Crow/Guitar Habits:

The minor pentatonic is the most important scale in blues and rock music. It’s an awesome scale and sounds great, no doubt about it. There are a million ways to express your emotions through the minor pentatonic and use it for your soloing.

However it always has that same dark classic minor pentatonic sound. It doesn’t take you anywhere else. Combining the minor pentatonic and the major pentatonic will take you to different places.

Suddenly you have the ability to produce the same kind of sounds and licks you hear in the solos of Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Combining the notes will give you a wide selection of flavors to choose from and to play around with. You will keep attracting the listeners attention with all these extra lovely notes that will make your soloing a lot more interesting.

So how do you approach this? Let’s take a closer look.

First, if you aren’t familiar with the minor pentatonic scale yet, I suggest you first learn that scale inside out and practice soloing with that scale. Check out the archive where you’ll find loads of minor pentatonic lessons.

The scale formula for the minor pentatonic = 1 b3 4 5 b7. In this example we use the A minor pentatonic scale which consists of the notes: A C D E G

The pentatonic scale can be played in different positions. For this example we take the most commonly used position for the minor pentatonic scale.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale
A minor pentatonic scale

For the major pentatonic scale we choose the position that lies in the same area on the neck as the minor pentatonic scale. This way we can easily combine the notes of both scales.

The scale formula for the major pentatonic scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6.
A major pentatonic scale consists of the notes: A B C# D E F#

A Major Pentatonic Scale
A major pentatonic scale

Learn each scale thoroughly. Visualize and memorize the patterns on the neck for each scale while practicing.

– Practice and memorize the minor pentatonic scale ascending and descending.
– Practice the memorize the major pentatonic scale ascending and descending.
– Switch practicing between the minor pentatonic and the major pentatonic scale for 5 minutes.

– Practice the minor pentatonic scale ascending and the major pentatonic descending for 5 min.
A-minor-ascending-major-descending– Practice the major pentatonic scale ascending and the minor pentatonic descending for 5 min.

Now let’s combine the notes of the minor pentatonic and major pentatonic scale and create some soloing ideas.

The two licks below use notes of both minor and major pentatonic scales. You could play these licks over a I-IV-V blues progression where A7 is the I chord, D7 = IV chord and E7 = V chord.

12 Bar blues progression: / A7 / A7 / A7 / A7 / D7 / D7 / A7 / A7 / E7 / D7 / A7 / E7 /

Lick #1 (played over the I chord)

We’re going to play lick #2 over the IV chord (D7). Try to add some chord tones to your soloing.

Chord tones for D7 are: D-F#-A-C (1-3-5-b7)

In the example below the 4th fret on the D-string is an F# note, the major third of D7 chord, which sounds really good to the ear. Why? Because the note is part of the D7 chord.

The 5th fret on the G-string is a C note which is the flatted seventh of the D7 chord.

Lick #2 (played over the IV chord)

Tip: Listen to guitar players like Eric Clapton and B.B. King. You can learn a lot from transcribing their solos.

Now it’s your time! Experiment, create and make it up on the spot over a blues backing track. It’s important to use your ears at all times. With practice you will learn what sounds good and you will come up with some great combinations.


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