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Playing the exact same scale over different chords creates a whole new sonicpalette without stepping too much outsidefunk or R&B and into jazz. Read on and get more information.

Clayton State University
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Expanded Harmony with Pentatonics

In Ex. 1, we play a minor pentatonic scaleover a minor 7th chord, both with the sameroot: a G minor pentatonic scale over a Gm7chord. This works because the scale veryclosely resembles the arpeggio of a minor7th chord.

Ex. 2 deals with Bbmaj7, the relativemajor, which is three frets or a minor third above. One way to think of this is, if yousee a major 7th chord, play a minor pentatonicscale based on a root a minor thirdbelow the written chord’s root. Same scale,different setting.

Now let’s look at some less common,yet simple and creative ways to use thisscale, five positions of which are shown inFig. 1. Playing the exact same scale over differen tchords creates a whole new sonicpalette without stepping too much outsidefunk or R&B and into jazz. The simplicity of the minor pentatonic scale ensures anaccessibility to the listener, even when it isused to create varied altered tensions. Allof the following examples use the G minor pentatonic scale, superimposing it over other chords. Notice how the function ofeach scale degree changes depending onthe chord underneath. To truly appreciatethese new colors and flavors, you’ll wantto record or have a friend strum the underlying chords as you play over them.

Ex. 3: G minor pentatonic scale over aCm7 chord

The easiest way to think of this techniqueis to play a minor pentatonic up aperfect fifth (or seven frets) from the root of a minor 7th chord.

Ex. 4: G minor pentatonic scale over anFm7 chord

Think of this one as a minor pentatonicstarting a major second (two frets) up fromthe root of a minor 7th chord. Used in thisway, the sound created works well overDorian harmonic content, because eventhough there is no 3, we do get the Dorianapproved6th degree.

Next month we’ll explore even morecolorful ways to employ our old five-notefriend. Stay tuned!

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