Pentatonic scales: Blues and Rock

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Tone, Aug 26, 2006.

  1. Tone

    Tone Member

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    Hey guys.
    Can anyone explain to me why the Minor Pentatonic scale works over a 1,4,5, blues progression? If the scale is minor, why does it sound/work so well over major chords? What are some other things you can use over the 1,4,5?

    Also, what do you guys play when a blues/blues rock progression is in a minor key? Does the Minor Pentatonic still work for this?

    I just got some blues and rock backing tracks to work on my improvising. I'm trying to figure what to do/use so my soloing does'nt sound like I'm running through scales with no destination. Any tips for the begining improviser?;)

    Thanks!:JAM
     
  2. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

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    Well...basically, it works because it sounds good. ;) It should also be noted that often times the flat 3rd only starts out as a 3rd before getting bent a half-step up.
     
  3. moozak

    moozak Silver Supporting Member

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    i know this might seem a wordy answer for you... but i'm trying to break it down so you can see a fairly decent explanation of the question you asked... why this works over a 1,4,5. so... here we go...

    "penta" means 5... pentatonic is a 5 note scale. the note in the "typical" blues pentatonic that folks consider "the blue note" or "minor" would be the 2nd note (for example, if you're in the A box the C note is the second note). if you compare this to a typical A maj scale (which is an 8 note scale) C# would be the maj 3rd of A... and if you flat that note to a C note, it becomes the min 3rd... which explains why you could see this note as a min in the A blues penta scale.

    so C is the "flatted third" of A... this is why it could work as a minor scale.... but...

    C can also be seen as the "sharp 9 of A... B is the ninth and C would be the sharp 9" if you look at it like that... then the same scale against the A chord would be a major scale that contains the root, #9, 4th (or 11th), 5th and the b7. this is why the same A pent scale works against the 1maj chord (A or A7 or A13 or A#9#5 or whatever)

    so... all of the above takes care of the 1 chord... as for the 4 chord...

    if you play the same A blues pentatonic scale starting on D (D, E, G, A, C) against a the 4 chord, which would be a D chord, then you now have a D penta scale which contains the root D, the 2nd (or 9th), 4th (or 11th), 5th, b7.

    as for the 5 chord... E... if you play the same A penta scale starting on E (E, G, A, C, D)... you now have the same possible minor scenario you did on the 1 chord. it could be viewed as a minor scale... or a scale with a #9 and a #5... this works well against the 5 chord because it flavors the chord as an "altered" chord - (a chord with a sharp or flat 5 and/or a sharp or flat 9)

    since you seem sort of new to those concepts, that might be a lot to bite off... but if you just study the relationship of the notes in the A blues pent. scale to each chord of the 1,4,5... you can see how the scale compliments the chord... which is why it works well for the 1,4,5.

    hope this helps some. there are lots of diff ways of looking at this stuff... but you just have to break it down in a way you can understand.
     
  4. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    Here's a shorter (sorta) answer.

    Meant only to compliment the other great posts here, of course.

    There are two main reasons, one technical, one historical.

    Historical - A part of the blues tradition is to play minor melody over Dominant harmony. Many musical forms use a contrast of "happy" and "sad" elements to express or set an emotionally complex feeling or mood. Much Latin music has minor (sad) melody over a bright happier rhythm. This is just one way of looking at it, but the historical influence of african rhythms, Irish flat 3rd's, "call and response" (which is why repeating the same riff over the I and the IV sounds "right"), and many other elements, all leads to a Blues tradition in which the minor pentatonic repeated over the I-IV-V sounds cool.

    Technical - The blues is not Major harmony, it's Dominant (A7, D9, etc. - "Bingo chords"). Three cool things add up to make it work:
    1) Minor over Dominant (minor pent. over the I) works for the reasons stated above, it's a blues thing.
    2) Minor down a 4th over a Dominant (minor pent over the IV) works because it is like stayong on the ii or a ii-V. It can be broken down a lotta ways, but it's like playing B minor stuff over an E7#9 (the "Hendrix chord") - It's a cool sound.
    3) Minor pent down a 5th over Dominant (minor pent over the V) works because when you go to the V, you're supposed to go outside a little, set up to tension that will be released when you resolve back home to the I (it's all about going on an adventure & going home). Well the minor pent of the root contains important notes of the V7, plus it's flat 5, which is a way cool note to use to go a little outside.

    Most importantly, there are a zillion OTHER things to do over the blues that you may enjoy checking out. Many of us dig changing when the chords change. But in answer to your question, yeah that works, and there are several reasons why.
     
  5. Tone

    Tone Member

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    Awesome posts! Thanks a lot guys! I'm gonna read them over a couple more times and write back with more questions later. :)

    Tom Gross,
    I keep forgetting that blues 145 is dominant and not major! Thanks for reminding me. For some reason I always keep thinking major chords. I've regular major chord 145 progresions called blues progressions in magazines and other places online. Maybe some typos.

    Regarding this, what are some scale choices that could be played over a 145 progression that is just regular major chords and not dominant? I know probably the Major scale, but does the minor Pent still work pretty well in these situations?

    I know that both the major and minor pent scales are all over rock and blues rock music, but generally when would be a good time to use each? I just read that SRV would sometimes play each corresponding minor pent over the respective chord, like E minor pent over the I, A minor pent over the IV, and B minor pent over the V.

    When you guys were trying to get your improv chops up, what did you go through, and what are some ways you started pulling everything together to tell a good story with your solos and have them move?

    Thanks a lot!:JAM
     
  6. beePee

    beePee Member

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    For the limited space and medium(the internet) the above should help you out one day.I think your best bet before you dive into the theory is to use your ear.That's what the majority of accomplished musicians do way before they learn the theory.

    You seem to have a few theory stumbling stones (playing Major over a Major chord =...not a good sound for blues) that you need to step over .

    My suggestion:

    Do simple takedowns of a blues solo.(whatever catches your fancy..I'd stay away from the SRV for now)...and just get a feel for the notes with no theory attached.Most of them will have a "method" to their madness that will teach you way more than a library of theory books can at this point.

    The scale notes are a very small part of the equation of "emotional" of blues playing.It's more of how you play the "insides" of the notes.

    There are way too many note mashers that know theory(and as many that don't) trying to play the blues that have not a clue about how it feels.

    I'm not trying to be metaphysical ...just IMO what I think works.Feel always trumps head knowledge theory.When the feel is there theory has a very logical expalantion and is very simple...hell ..it ain't rocket surgery!!... but with no practical application to "playing" music it's useless.

    I apologize if this come off preachy however this is one of the biggest traps aspiring musicians fall for.

    Trust your ears.If they need work invest there before filling your head with useless information you can't use.

    BP
     
  7. bobgoblin

    bobgoblin Supporting Member

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    also, just for the record, the Major scale in a 7 note scale (ex: A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#), not an 8 note scale.
     
  8. gaspedals.net

    gaspedals.net Member

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    From my perspective, what really sets apart a good blues player is phrasing. Ive heard many technically proficient players that understand the theory play over 145 and it can get very boring pretty fast if they arent saying anything or feeling it. My advice would be to get a bunch of great blues records and start listening and playing what you hear. After a while you'll just start to see what works where. Then you can try to take it in your own direction.

    As good as robin ford is at throwing in some unexpected notes, his playing wouldnt be much to listen to without the melodic dialogue hes got going on. And a solo as simple as a BB king can be really beautiful because of what he is saying with the guitar. Just my .2 :)
     
  9. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

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    BB King is your best place to start

    Robben dug Mike Bloomfield alot

    Mike was able to really play the blues, but throw in the "other stuff" without it sounding "cut and paste"
    For jazzy stuff I would listen to tons of Charlie Christian and try to cop thaT
     
  10. moozak

    moozak Silver Supporting Member

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    there seem to be multiple definitions of this, but the one i grew up with is: a scale with 8 notes and an octave; all but two are separated with whole tones
     
  11. Aaron Mayo

    Aaron Mayo Member

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    To the original question "Can anyone explain to me why the Minor Pentatonic scale works over a 1,4,5, blues progression?"

    Playing the minor pentatonic scale doesn't usually sound good to me over a I-IV-V. I don't see someone like Albert King really playing the minor pentatonic scale (although I used to hear it that way). He plays the changes using chord tones connected by notes that usually are found in the pentatonic minor scale. The difference is huge, in my opinion.
     
  12. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    Great advice

    Another (related) great post
     
  13. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    First off, folks often use the term "Major Blues" to refer to Dominant Blues (which is technically incorrect, but it's OK). Often, for true major chords in a I IV V progression, treat them like Dominant chords. Use Major pentatonic or mixolydian stuff.



    A good place to go I would suggest is trying (example in E):

    E MAJ pentatonic over the I (E7)
    E Minor pentatonic over the IV (A7)
    Either over the V (B7)

    Then find the 3rd of both scales and watch what happens with it. Bend it 1/4, 1/2 step. See how that area is where a lot of the magic happens. Listen to blues you like & see if you can pick up on this movement of the 3rd.

    I would combine the advice from all of the posters - Listen to what you dig, learn some (slower) solos note-for-note, begin to learn theory (but try to apply it), check out the phrasing, dig and apply some emotion.

    Another way of thinking of it is finding cool notes. There's only 12. So play over a real real slow blues progression, and over each chord, try all the "other" notes. Some sound cool, some sound horrible, some sound "interesting". Try em over different points in the progression, not just over a chord, cause some things only make sense in a particular context.
    Then combine this with your studied listening. If BB or Albert or Bloomfield does something real subtle but way cool, maybe you can figure out what's going on, and add it to your vocabulary.
     
  14. Tomo

    Tomo Member

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    Tone,

    Do you have B.B. King's "Blues is king"
    Albert Collins's "Tracking with Albert Colllins"?

    I woild pick 3 blues records and listen them to death!

    That's what I did.

    "Live at the Regal"
    "1934-1976"
    "Cold in hell" Great slow blues...

    B.B, Freddie, Otis Rush.

    Tomo
     
  15. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

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    Hey Tom.

    I'm a rock player and I don't consider myself a blues player, simply because I never feel "authentic" while playing blues. Don't know why BUt I just feel kinda corny doin' it!

    Anyhow I'm trying to wrap my head around a few things you've said here I'd like to start with this one:


    Isn't that the same as playing E Major (Ionian) over the E7?
     
  16. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    ++1000

    When I was young I used to put "Live at Cook County Jail" on real low at night and listen while I slept - subliminal Blues class!
     
  17. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

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    Tom scratch my last one....(just picked up my git)...It's the same as playing E Dorian over the E7#9 right?
     
  18. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    First off - the Blues is for everybody. If you can hear it and enjoy it, you can get to where you can play it and enjoy it. Don't worry about the haters.
    The healing power of the blues is there for all of us.

    It's more like B Dorian (or A Ionian - sort of) over E7.

    Think more just in terms of pentatonics - Major & Minor pentatonics.

    On a rock or funk tune, if you were playing over just a D9 or D7 groove, you could play A Minor pentatonic based stuff and sound good.
    The reason - or one explanation, I shoud say - is that it treats the D9 like the V in a ii-V7-I progression in the key of G Major (which would be Am-D7-G).

    So in a Blues tune, let's say Blues in A, you could play over the A7 some A major pentatonic stuff. This is related to A Mixolydian which uses the notes from D major (notice I did NOT say "which is the same as D Ionian - they are NOT THE SAME THING, even though they use the same notes!!!).

    Then over the D7, use A minor pentatonic. This is related to A Dorian, which uses the notes from the G major scale (but is not G Ionian)
     
  19. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

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    Wait I think something just snapped inside my head..(Intermittent Light Bulb !!!) Re 2-5-1.......

    Their is a P4/P5 cycling thing going on their correct?

    .......and how jazzers keep the modulations happening is they sub a dominant in at the "1" which they then treat as a V or IV chord and move to the next ii of whatever key center (I) they're moving to next?

    (one) Example:

    Am7-D7-G7-Em7-A7-D7-Bm7-E7-A7-F#m7-B7-E7..etc...

    Is it that simple?
     
  20. Swain

    Swain Member

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    Yes. That's a lot of it.
    You can consider the V chords that sub for the I chords as "borrowed" Dominants. Once you're in that "borrowed" key, it will lead you through some "Rhythm Changes", or other complimentary chords, for that new key of the moment.
    This can help you change keys smoothly. Many times, a tune will change keys, by moving counter clockwise through the circle of 5ths.
     

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