Using Minor and Major Pentatonic Together Effectively
Minor and major pentatonic work great together in major keys and can
"say" a lot more than if you were to just use one scale. This lesson
will help you build licks that move smoothly between the two scales, in
a blues context (but you can use what you learn in any style).
Start by watching the presentation below, and then learn more using the
supplemental content (including backing tracks) further down.
Here's a simple 12 bar blues track with click track in the key of C
(same one used in the audio examples in the video).
As promised in the video, here are some extended major/minor pentatonic
patterns that will give you the freedom to move across more of the
fretboard. Don't get boxed in!
I've greyed out the major
pentatonic tones, so you can see how they
relate to minor - hope it helps...
To test your memorisation of these patterns, use the exercise track
Here's how it works:
you'll hear standard metronome beat at 60 BPM. Play through the scale
pattern, starting on your chosen root (e.g. C)
however you wish (don't worry about playing anything elaborate, just
play from one note to the next, up and down if you want). I'd use
to start with. For example, here's me playing minor
pentatonic over the track - click to hear.
At random moments, you'll hear a BEEP! That means "change from minor to
major" or vice versa. Again, click to hear an example. The
doesn't have to be immediate (go easy on yourself!), just make sure you
and change as soon as you can after the beep. It's supposed
to test your ability to move between the patterns without too much
Once you're comfortable using eighth notes, try sixteenth notes (that's
4 notes/pick strokes per click).
If you're hesitating and taking, say, more than a couple of beats after
the beep to change scale, go back and work further on memorising these
patterns (with guitar in hand of course).
Minor and major pentatonic interchange
In the video, we looked at some ways to blend the two scales in a blues
context, to ensure that we don't hang on dissonance for too long. After
all, when mixing major and minor tonality, as we are with these two
scales, there is going to be some dissonance through the chord changes.
Dissonance itself is not a bad thing - we often just need to resolve
any dissonant tones to more natural tones over the particular chord
we're playing over.
The table below shows you how resolve these more jarring tones found in
minor and major pentatonic over
each chord in a typical major key blues progression...
3 or 2
4 or b3
6 or 1
7 or 6
since the 7
(major 7th) is not part of major or minor pentatonic, you need to add
that tone to the pattern (this was shown in the video). Simply
visualise it one half step (one fret)
down from the 1
of the pattern.
However, I don't want to get too dogmatic over this. There's nothing
"wrong" with holding that b3 over the 1 chord, for example. Sometimes
you'll want that dissonant quality - to challenge the listener! But if
want resolution, the table above is a useful guide.
Example major and minor pentatonic licks
Let's start with a great example of mixing tones from minor and major
pentatonic in a blues context, broken down for you in this video...
Below are tabs of the licks I used in the video at the top of this page. I'm sure you can come up
with something a lot better - I mean it! The
more you jam
the more you'll learn
what works and what doesn't. That's when intuition starts to take over.
when creating your licks, don't forget to add in bends, slides and
legato (hammer ons, pull offs) to embellish and punctuate your phrases.
For example, try bending or sliding into your target notes to make them
Click the tabs to hear.
the 1 chord
Here, I hammer-on from minor 3rd to major 3rd (a common resolution over
the 1 chord in major keys) and then bend (b) through the 6/b7
on the B string and the 2/b3 on the E string. These bends help to
smooth out the transition between minor and major pentatonic.
Try also playing your licks an octave lower/higher to help you further
memorise these patterns. Here's the above lick an octave lower (note
that the /
symbol means slide up, so 6
/ 7 means "slide from the 6th fret to 7th fret)...
A more embellished run this time, using legato (hammer ons and pull offs) and
finishing on that b3 - 3 resolution...
the 4 chord
A chromatic (consecutive semitones) movement resolving to the b3 of
minor pentatonic, which translates to the b7 over the IV chord - a
strong target note...
Another strong target note - the major 3rd of the IV chord - and
another example of mixing tones from minor and major. Here, I use a
series of pull offs to decend the scale on the B string...
An example of using double
stops to combine tones from both scales...
the 5 chord
An example of arpeggiating the V chord as a "lead in" to a phrase...
Finally, a phrase on the turnaround (12th bar) V chord, targeting the 4
of the scale (which becomes the b7 of the V chord), preparing for the
resolution back to the I
I hope you enjoyed this lesson! Keep practicing
merging minor and
major pentatonic in your licks, and it'll soon become a natural way to
add more color to your major key solos. Thanks for your time.