Mixing Major & Minor Pentatonics

This lesson has been very heavily requested but I think we needed to build up to it by exploring the Major Pentatonic first!

The basic idea is as follows:

I Chord (A7) - A Major Pentatonic
IV Chord (D7) - A Minor Pentatonic
V Chord (E7) - Either E Major Pentatonic or stay with A Min Pent for the last 4 bars of the blues!

If you don't understand what the I, IV, V chord thing means, you might wanna check out Practical Music Theory!


So why the A Minor Pentatonic on the D7?

The A Major Pentatonic introduces the note C# over the A7 which is the perfect note to play over that chord - it really shouts "I'M ON THE A7!" and it's really strong - a great note to play.

But the C# sucks over the D7 (as we explored in the previous lessons in the series).

So over the D7 we play A Minor Pentatonic which has the note C which is a great note to play over the D7, Why?

D7 Chord = D F# A C

A Minor Pentatonic = A C D E G

That change to accent the C (which is a very strong chord tone in the D7 chord) sounds awesome and SIGNIFIES THE CHANGE to the D7 and away from the A7.

Over the blues you should explore:

A     A     A     A
A Maj Pent

D     D     A     A
A Min Pent / A Maj Pent

E     D     A     E

Exercise 1

I recommend sticking with the same visual shape to start with - so using Major Pentatonic Lick 1 from this series and then moving to Box 1 Minor Pentatonic for the IV Chord. Just explore it a bit, don't be too self critical and just give it a bit of go.

Try to develop a sense of where the chords are changing, so you're confident you know when to change!

Exercise 2

When you feel cool with that - try having a go using the Major Pentatonic Lick 2 (the last lesson) and mixing it in again with Box 1 Minor Pentatonic for the IV Chord - they're in the same position of the neck so it should feel pretty comfortable!

Make sure you are aware of where the chords are changing!

An Alternate Approach

The above is by far the most common way of mixing the major and minor pentatonic, but you can also flip it and use A Minor Pentatonic over the I Chord (A7) and then switch to D Major Pentatonic for the IV chord.

But why the hell does that work too? Well, I'm glad you asked!

D Major Pentatonic = D E F# A B

The F# note is not in the A Minor Pentatonic but is the other really strong chord tone in the D7 (the 3rd and 7th are the strongest chord tones) and so targeting that note is a strong change and your ears will pick up on it.

The B note is also not in the A Minor Pentatonic but it's not a particularly strong note on either chord so is less relevant in this situation (making the changes) but it's a cool colour to add on the D.

A     A     A     A
A Min Pent 

D     D     A     A 
D Maj Pent / A Min Pent
E     D     A     E 

Exercise 3

Try using the above approach - A Minor Pentatonic on the I and D Major pentatonic on the IV chord. Get it in your ears!

Exercise 4

Freestyle it man!! Use any or all of the ideas we've talked about in this course so far BUT MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE CHORD YOU ARE PLAYING OVER!

Next lesson we're going to get exploring arpeggios which is grown up stuff ;) so take your time on this - make sure you're well comfortable with it before you move on!






Blues Lead 4: Changes