Understand Major and Minor Pentatonic scales


SRVFan2000
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Joined: 06/01/21
Posts: 29

This topic has been a little tricky for me to completely get so any help would be much appreciated.

Perspective of MAJOR:

If I am playing the Datonic E MAJOR (do re mi fa sol la ti)...scale starting with my index finger on fret 12, if I slide down 3 frets and play the 1st Penta shape, I believe this is the E MAJOR PENTA and/or the C#/Db MINOR PENTA scale. I realize that C#/Db (minor penta) is the relative minor of EMaj. Penta. As such, they use the exact same notes/shapes. Only the tonal centers are different (emphasize diffferent notes based on the chord(s) I am chasing.) This seems fairly straightforward.

Perspective of MINOR (were I get confused):

If I am playing E MINOR Penta to something like blues (so a minor progression), I start with my index finger on fret 12 (E) and being shape #1 one and it sounds right.

QUESTIONS:

1. Can I ever play the MAJOR Penta over this and have it sound right? For example, by sliding down 3 frets so now my pinky finger is on the (root) E?

2. Would this be still be considered the E MAJOR Pentatonic or C#/Db Minor Penta and WOULD IT WORK? Since I was already in MINOR, the notes and scale patterns don't really seem to match up. e.g., I was playing pattern 1 of E minor Penta starting at 12. To play E Major Penta, I start the same Penta pattern (shape 1) at C#/Db (pinky on 12.)

My guess is maybe I can't do that. I suppose that Eminor Penta has a relative MAJOR of G...so I should just stick to playing the EMinor/GMajor Penta? I am just confused as I have been conditioned to think in terms of sliding down (towards nut) 3 frets to jump into the Major Penta. In writing out this question, a small, dim light bulb has gone off...still not sure I'm right but...

Apologies if my questions don't make complete sense. I am getting there but not fully grasping how this all fits together.

THANKS!


# 1
JeffS65
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Joined: 10/07/08
Posts: 1,588
Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000

This topic has been a little tricky for me to completely get so any help would be much appreciated.

Perspective of MAJOR:

If I am playing the Datonic E MAJOR (do re mi fa sol la ti)...scale starting with my index finger on fret 12, if I slide down 3 frets and play the 1st Penta shape, I believe this is the E MAJOR PENTA and/or the C#/Db MINOR PENTA scale. I realize that C#/Db (minor penta) is the relative minor of EMaj. Penta. As such, they use the exact same notes/shapes. Only the tonal centers are different (emphasize diffferent notes based on the chord(s) I am chasing.) This seems fairly straightforward.

Perspective of MINOR (were I get confused):

If I am playing E MINOR Penta to something like blues (so a minor progression), I start with my index finger on fret 12 (E) and being shape #1 one and it sounds right.

QUESTIONS:

1. Can I ever play the MAJOR Penta over this and have it sound right? For example, by sliding down 3 frets so now my pinky finger is on the (root) E?

2. Would this be still be considered the E MAJOR Pentatonic or C#/Db Minor Penta and WOULD IT WORK? Since I was already in MINOR, the notes and scale patterns don't really seem to match up. e.g., I was playing pattern 1 of E minor Penta starting at 12. To play E Major Penta, I start the same Penta pattern (shape 1) at C#/Db (pinky on 12.)

My guess is maybe I can't do that. I suppose that Eminor Penta has a relative MAJOR of G...so I should just stick to playing the EMinor/GMajor Penta? I am just confused as I have been conditioned to think in terms of sliding down (towards nut) 3 frets to jump into the Major Penta. In writing out this question, a small, dim light bulb has gone off...still not sure I'm right but...

Apologies if my questions don't make complete sense. I am getting there but not fully grasping how this all fits together.

THANKS!

Chris, I think, would give a great explanation that better details theory underneath this but; you can go between minor and major. Angus Young uses this as a common technique in his leads. Here's an overview of that technique in Ultimiate Guitar.

The trick is not so much to just jump between major and minor with abandon but utilize as a means to manage the 'mood' of the lead. It's one type of tool to build tension in a lead that can help give the solo a little drama.


# 2
SRVFan2000
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Joined: 06/01/21
Posts: 29

Thanks Jeff. I just read the article- looks interesting but hard to deciper since it shows various notes he is playing. In terms of just the scale, if you were playing, like in the example you shared, the AMiinor scale (shape #1), where would you go to jump into AMajor Pentatonic (shape #1)?


# 3
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,784
Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000If I am playing E MINOR Penta to something like blues (so a minor progression)[/quote]

I'm guessing this might be part of your confusion. Most blues is actually a major chord progression (major key), but featuring occasional minor ornamental notes.

Most blues uses dominant 7th chords throughout the progression. So, there is a constant clashing or mixing of major 3rd & minor 7th chord tones. That's why both major pentatonic and minor pentatonic can be used, almost interchangably, with most blues. Often many blues players will use major pentatonic over the I chord, then change to minor pentatonic over the IV chord.

For example, in the key of E major:

E7 (I): e-g#-b-d

play E major pentatonic notes emphasizing chord tones: e-f#-g#-b-c#

A7 (IV): a-c#-e-g

play E minor pentatonic notes emphasizing chord tones: e-g-a-b-d

Notice that you can mix either of those scales over each chord because there's a lot of overlap in matching scale notes & chord tones.

To make things even more complicated (!), a lot of blues licks & riffs freely mix notes from major & minor scales together in the same line.

Play this over the E7 chord: E major pentatonic with the minor 3rd!

|-------------------------------------------------9-12--|

|-----------------------------------------9-12----------|

|------------------------9---9-11-12------------------|

|----------------9--11----------------------------------|

|-----9-10-11------------------------------------------|

|-12----------------------------------------------------|

How about this? E minor pentatonic with the flat 5th and the major 3rd!

|-12-----------------------------------|

|-----15-12---------------------------|

|--------------15-14-12-13----------|

|-------------------------------14------|

|----------------------------------------|

|----------------------------------------|

Try this over the A7 (IV chord): some E major scale notes, minor scale notes & minor 6th (which works really well because it's the minor 3rd leading to the major 3rd of the A chord).

|------------------12-15---------|

|-----12-13-14------------------|

|-14-----------------------14----|

|-----------------------------------|

|-----------------------------------|

|-----------------------------------|

The point here is that you can use a wide variety of major and, or minor notes as you are following the chord tones and making little melodic phrases.

When you are first learning it's important to learn & play the minor & major pentatonic boxes in order to get your fingers used to those patterns & your ears used to those sounds. But gradually you learn specific licks to play that work over the chord changes and use the boxes more as visual reference guides than patterns to play up & down.

Have a look at this series of tutorials on using major notes in minor pentatonic.

https://www.guitartricks.com/search.php?query=%22major+notes+in+minor+pentatonic%22

Originally Posted by: SRVFan20001. Can I ever play the MAJOR Penta over this and have it sound right?[/quote]

Sure, but you have to integrate it with the chords that are happening & make melodic, satisfying phrases. In other words, it depends on what sound you want at that point in the music. Hopefully you can use my examples above to understand that.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan20002. Would this be still be considered the E MAJOR Pentatonic or C#/Db Minor Penta and WOULD IT WORK?

It depends on the key signature of the song & the chord progression. If you are playing an E major blues then you are using these chords: E7 (I) - A7 (IV) - B7 (V). Key of E major.

[quote=SRVFan2000]I suppose that Eminor Penta has a relative MAJOR of G...so I should just stick to playing the EMinor/GMajor Penta?

Again, it depends on the key signature of the chords you are playing over. If you are in E major, then any notes you play should use E major as the reference point.

If you use notes from the E minor scale, then you refer to them as E minor scale notes but as accidentals in the key of E major (minor 3rd, flat 5th, minor 7th).

[quote=SRVFan2000]I am just confused as I have been conditioned to think in terms of sliding down (towards nut) 3 frets to jump into the Major Penta.

Sure, and that's a great first step while yo uare learning. But that is just to get used to locating the shapes, the boxes, as visual references. The next step is to learn some licks & see how they outline or emphasize chord tones of the chord progression.

Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

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# 4
SRVFan2000
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Joined: 06/01/21
Posts: 29

Thanks for that detailed response Chris. My takeaway is that to my questions you are basically saying "YES- but it depends." That makes sense.

Since you referenced the boxes e.g., if it's a standard 12 bar (E) blues (index at 12 1st box penta) would I ever (would you ever) slide down 3 frets and play the same exact shape (1st penta) box shape starting at the 9th fret (C#/Db)? Until now, for E blues, I start my pattern at fret 12 (or 1st position.) Since I know all 5 shapes well, I can play up and down the neck fwd and backwards. I can link them and also skip around.

I have only been going down 3 frets when it is a MAJOR progression since that almost always sounds right since that wil contain the same notes as the major scale (minus the 4th and 7th degrees.) The notes are not all the same when going from fret 12 E "MINOR" penta, then sliding down to C#. Different notes.

Thanks!


# 5
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,784
Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000

My takeaway is that to my questions you are basically saying "YES- but it depends."[/quote][p]Right: it depends on the chords that are happening at the time that you are playing the scale lines.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000if it's a standard 12 bar (E) blues (index at 12 1st box penta) would I ever (would you ever) slide down 3 frets and play the same exact shape (1st penta) box shape starting at the 9th fret (C#/Db)?[/quote]

Yes, that's exactly what I mean in my earlier reply. You can play that & it works over the I chord because the scale contains some of the notes of the chord.

Alternately, it doesn't sound as integrated when you go to the IV chord because certain notes clash in a way that doesn't sound bluesy.

A7 (IV): a-c#-e-g

E major pentatonic: e-f#-g#-b-c#

The notes "e" and "c#" sound okay but that "g" from the A7 & the "g#" from the scale clash in a way that doesn't sound bluesy. And there is no "a" note.

But you can play it & emphasize the chord tones that are present. Or just add them.

And if you switch the the E minor pentatonic scale it matches more closely to get a bluesy sound.

A7 (IV): a-c#-e-g

play E minor pentatonic notes emphasizing chord tones: e-g-a-b-d

See how many notes are similar? The "c#" and "d" can clash a bit that's why you add the "c#" and emphasize the chord tones.

[quote=SRVFan2000]Since I know all 5 shapes well, I can play up and down the neck fwd and backwards. I can link them and also skip around.

That's great! Now you need to start thinking about targeting chord tones & playing melodic phrases.

[quote=SRVFan2000]The notes are not all the same when going from fret 12 E "MINOR" penta, then sliding down to C#. Different notes.

Right, but that also works sometimes because playing minor scale notes over major chords is a charactertistic sound of the blues.

Make sense?


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 6