Mixing Modes and Pentatonic Scales

This tutorial demonstrates the use of Pentatonic and Blues Scales over different modal harmonic contexts.

Watch the Video Lesson:

    This tutorial is more like a quick tour through different modal harmonic contexts, so that you can hear how the pentatonic scale sounds when used as a substitution for a 7 note scale or mode. For each example I play the Original Mode, then the Parallel Pentatonic Scale and then the Parallel Blues Scale. I am using the exact pentatonic fingering, in the same position, with the same guitar sound, so that you can focus more on how harmonic context affects the sound. Listen to how switching from the original mode to the pentatonic scale changes the character of the music, but also how the sound of the same pentatonic scale is colored each time by each different harmonic context.

MINOR Pentatonic Substitutions:

    Historically, the pentatonic scale was actually developed in many cultures before the appearance of 7 note scales, but in terms of modern harmony, we consider it a subset of a 7 note scale. Take a look at this chart to understand what I mean.

    See how the Minor Pentatonic  is missing degrees 2 and 6? This means that it is compatible with every mode that contains its 5 notes regardless of what kind of 2nd and 6th degree they have. (Btw, if you are not familiar with Phrygian 6, it is the 2nd mode of the Melodic Minor scale and it sounds very cool. It’s one of the modes we study in the SFS Melodic Minor Modes course, but we also use Phrygian 6 backing tracks in the SFS Pentatonics course, using pentatonics and blues scales over it just like I do in the fourth example in the video.

MAJOR Pentatonic Substitutions:

    In the same way, a Major Pentatonic is missing degrees 4 and 7, so it can be used as a substitution for these 4 modes*:

* Lydian Dominant is the 4th mode of Melodic Minor

    You can hear improvisation examples using these backing tracks, either on this website or on my YouTube Channel. Just look for the demos for SFS Pentatonics, SFS Modes and SFS Melodic Minor Modes.

    Keep in mind that these are not the only contexts where pentatonics can be used. Using the process of harmonic simplification, they can be used in blues and minor blues, over most harmonic minor progressions, or for the more harmonically adventurous, as upper structure substitutions over many different harmonies.


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Backing Track Playlist For A MINOR Pentatonic:

Backing Track Playlist For A MAJOR Pentatonic: