Taking The Lead. Pentatonic Solo

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Taking The Lead. Pentatonic Solo lessonIn this lesson we examine how you can apply the five shapes from lesson Get Connected. Pentatonic Scale Positions in a slightly different context… The backing track accompanying lesson pentatonic excursion was considerate enough to stay in the key of A minor throughout so, whichever pentatonic position you were using, all you had to do to round off a phrase effectively was to find the nearest root note (in that example, A). An identical approach would get you through certain simple chord progressions, for instance, the classic minor blues progression (using the chords Am, Dm and Em) can actually be tackled using Am pentatonic throughout.

For the most musical results, however, you’d probably want to aim for D and E as the relevant target notes, over Dm and Em respectively, but the same basic scale shape works over all three chords. As all the theory nerds among us will know, this holds true because all three chords can be found in the harmonised A natural minor scale, therefore they are closely related:

Pentatonic solo

This lesson’s backing track cycles between four bars of Gm and four bars of Bbm. A chord progression like this is less predictable-sounding-and doesn’t remind us of any harmonised scale, so we have to assign a separate scale for each chord. As you’ve deduced from the title, the scales in question will be G minor pentatonic (over Gm):

G minor pentatonic

and Bb minor pentatonic (over Bm):

Bb minor pentatonic

Pentatonic Solo. Present and correct

You can see from these formulae that Bb and F are ‘common tones’, which is jazzer parlance for “notes present in both scales”. However, a note like D, which sounds great over Gm, would clearly be horrible over Bbm, and would have to be moved up or down one semitone to complement this second chord.

In short, then, some thinking is required! The obvious way to handle the chord change would be to stick with the same box shape and move it up and down in three-fret increments whenever the chord demands it. However, I think you can hear the joins when a player improvises like this (G minor lick, pause, Bb minor lick, pause… and so on) and perhaps a more fluid sound is obtained by keeping your hand in the same part of the fretboard as the chords change, moving between different pentatonic shapes to compensate. Exercise 1 should clarify this.

Coming adrift

From the diagrams, you should be able to see that you could play position 1 of Gm pentatonic and position 5 of Bbm pentatonic without moving your hand from its moorings. Try playing over the backing track using only these two shapes, aiming to visualise where the Bbm-friendly notes are before the chord comes along.

When that feels comfortable, you can move your hand up a little and become familiarised with the transition from position 2 of Gm, and position 1 of Bbm. Proceeding systematically up the neck, you should then get to grips with how positions 3, 4 and 5 of Gm pentatonic flow smoothly into positions 2,3 and 4 of Bbm.

I find that this approach helps you to play through the changes, rather than isolating each chord individually and constructing licks around it. On the audio demo, I also threw in some chromatic passing notes and attempted to anticipate some of the changes by playing over the next chord a beat or two before it actually occurs for that fusion feel. See if you can spot where it happens in Exercise 2, which is a transcription of the solo in the audio. Enjoy!

Sound advice

Pentatonic solo sound advice

Exercise 1. Scale diagrams

Pentatonic Solo Scale Diagrams

Exercise 2. Pentatonic solo

pentatonic solo tab

It’s a part of Taking The Lead. Pentatonic Solo guitar lesson.

Below you can download a full transcription with tabs and notes of

Taking The Lead. Pentatonic Soloing with backing track


20 November 2012 0 comments
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