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Don Mock >> Jazz Connection >>


Don Mock: Hi guys, welcome to today's lesson on pentatonics. Before we get started, check out the short playing demo. I recorded it yesterday and tried to use some of the pentatonic "Licks of the Day" from last week. It's a simple C minor vamp with a jazz/fusion vibe. It demonstrates combining pentatonic scales to get different sounds. I'll send you the track minus the solo later. Let's jump into the pentatonic scale by learning several positions.



Don Mock: The pentatonic scale is best described as a five note scale. In fact , any five notes within an octave could be considered some form of a pentatonic scale. However, by far, the most used pentatonic scale is derived from the major scale. The major pentatonic scale, as it's called, is the root, second, third, fifth and sixth degrees of a major scale. For many guitarists, there's confusion surrounding this major pentatonic and it's relative, the so-called minor pentatonic. This lesson should clear up any confusion and hopefully open the door to creative and confident improvising.

Don Mock: Below is a common fingering for a C major pentatonic with the root on the sixth string, eighth fret. This pattern is two octaves in length. You might find it helpful to relate this pattern to the C major scale pattern in the same position. Just leave out the fourth degree (F) and the seventh (B). Let's start with pattern 1:




Don Mock: This next pattern is also a C major pentatonic, just starting on D, 10th fret. Don't let the fact that the scale starts on D fool you; it's still the notes of C major pentatonic.






Don Mock: Pattern #3 starts on an E note, 12th fret and is also a C major pentatonic.






Bill: Teacher , A guitar teacher told me that you couldn't teach a student how to play by written music because there isn't any written for guitar what do you think of this

Don Mock: Bill.... learning by ear is great, and probably the best... but there is tons of great written music for the guitar LEARN TO READ!

AScriabin: Barrueco? Henze? Scarlatti? Bach? maybe your teacher can't read music himself/herself, so doesn't think it important.

darntootin: Segovia would be shocked to know this

Don Mock: yes he would, the lowest note in pattern #4 is G, either on the 15th fret, or down an octave on the 3rd fret. Some guys like to use the C on the 5th string, 3rd fret, to locate this C major pentatonic.




Don Mock: This final C major pentatonic is familiar to most guitarists, often referred to as a "minor" or "blues' pentatonic in A. More on this later, for now, think of it as a C major pentatonic pattern starting on A.




Don Mock: how many of you know pattern no. 5?

darntootin: oh yeah..like an ol friend

AScriabin: I know it too well - stuck there most of the time!!!

Don Mock: if you know as A Minor Pentatonic, fine! If some of these are new to you, learn no. 1 & 5 for now, you can get a lot of mileage out of these, 5 patterns are all C major pentatonic and/or A minor pentatonics, if we move them up, A min 3rd, or three frets, what major and minor pentatonics do we now have anybody know?

Chris: C and A?

Don Mock: yes Chris, if we move then to A major pentatonic, what minor pentatonics would we have?

MB: F#

Don Mock: GREAT, knowing how to move the patterns to different keys is a HUGE deal. Work on this! How about some sequences using only pattern no 5

darntootin: sure

Don Mock: Now that we've checked out these five common fingerings, for C major pentatonic, be sure you understand their "movability". You should be able to relocate the patterns to any key by simply sliding them up or down the fingerboard. Now let's play the pentatonics in "sequences". This first one is used by everybody. It's a four-note sequence - 1234 2345 3451 4512 etc. Let's play it in pattern #5 starting on A.

Chris: find myself getting caught up in the same box pattern



Don Mock: try this sequence first

MB: Cascading up?

Chris: Ive been working on that exact one for the last 2 weeks

Don Mock: also learn it going down, a lot of great players plays melodies based on this very sequence; McLaughlin, Holdsworth, DiMeola.....

Chris: I try to do it with alternate picking, but for some reason if I try to go faster, i miss an alternate...is it critical to ALWAYS alternate pick?

Don Mock: ok, let's talk about picking, alternate picking is a great technique to develop to start with...... Frank Gambale, the KING of sweep picking started out alternate picking, players like my friends Scott Henderson and Robben Ford.... found they couldn't pick fast enough with their right hand... and evolved a style that includes many hammer ons and pulloffs, in the end you have to make the call, here's sequence 2, It's one of my favorites. It's a five note sequence and lays great in pattern #5.



Don Mock: let's talk about picking pattern which is NOT strict alternate picking

AScriabin: I saw a Joe Pass video ("Jazz Lines") where he said he always alternate picks when he's on the same string, but always picks 'down' when changing strings.

Don Mock: we'll talk about Joe in a sec

Tony: do you alternate pick this pattern too?

Don Mock: down strokes on the first two notes, up, down, up on the next three notes, this gives you a 4 stroke move for the 5 notes

Tony: that seems a lot smoother

Don Mock: now Joe Pass, I was playing rhythm guitar for Joe on that video and spent a lot of time with him, and still MISS HIM, check out "An Evening with Joe Pass"

AScriabin: If you cannot repeat the line you just played, it wasn't music. It wasn't from your head. It doesn't make any sense.

Don Mock: Joe did have an unorthodox picking style, it was not a strict technique where he changed the direction of the picking all the time, when you play guitar for 50 years your own picking style evolves and you may not even know how your picking. Joe started out alternate picking, but I think because he played so much later using his right hand fingers. This last sequence is a combination 5th and #5 intervals creating a quick ascending line.



Don Mock: practice the sequences to this jam track



Steele: this is kinda finger twister eh, teach?

Don Mock: yep, this is really a pentatonic in 5ths,  remember you don't have to play this stuff supper fast to be musical, not only can you play A minor pent. over this jam, try Bm and Em, (Bm is D maj pent and Em is G maj pent)

Don Mock: The subject of key centers is next. Although it's not within the scope of this lesson to cover the entire topic, I'll outline a few of the best key center situations. G7, for example is the V chord in the key of C major. This means that G7 is in the key center of C and the correct scale to play over G7 is C major. Some may refer to this scale as G mixolydian, but either way, the key center is still C. If you can play C major over G7, then you can also play, or superimpose, the three major pentatonics; G, C and D. Here comes more info on the lick, read it and we'll talk





Don Mock: As simple as this concept may seem, complex sounds can be created. Most of world's top players use this technique in one form or another. Jazz musicians from John Coltrane to John McLaughlin discovered long ago that the pentatonic scale can be a powerful tool for creating numerous effects. Here's one such example; a popular altered scale, jazz players often use over dominant 7th chords, is a major pentatonic, a flat fifth interval above. For G7. play Db major pentatonic scale. In fact, here's an easy cool move with pentatonics over a II-V-I progression in C major (Dm7-G7-Cmaj7).

Don Mock: Play a C major pentatonic (A minor) over the Dm7, then move up 1/2 step to Db (Bb minor) pentatonic over the G7, and finally up another 1/2 step, resolving to the Cmaj7, using a D major pentatonic (B minor). Check out these two licks. It is based off of last Monday's "Licks of the Day." I just moved up 1/2 step part way through the basic lick (A minor pent) to create the G7 sound and up another 1/2 step resolving to the Cmaj7, Joe Pass would even like this lick 8-)

Chris: could this also work in a blues type progression Don?

Don Mock: next week the lesson will be on Jazz/Blues and using II-V-I in the blues,  learn all the licks of the day this week

Mark: I still don't understand what you mean by "sweep" and "alternate" picking. Can you do a video clip of each next week?

Don Mock: alternate picking is alternating upstrokes and down strokes, sweeping is one upstroke (downstroke) hitting 2 or more strings, see you next week everybody!

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