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Thread: Pentatonic question

  1. #1
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    Default Pentatonic question

    Hi,
    So I知 still trying to understand what notes I can play in each key to try and not play wrong notes. So I知 learning pentatonic scales. What my newbie brain is confused about is this.... if I play a G Major pentatonic scale over a song in the key of G... can I play that scale over the whole song or do I need to change to a C and D pentatonic scale when the chords change to C and D?

    Thanks for dealing with my newbie question!

  2. #2
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    G major pentatonic scale: G A B D E

    G major chord: G B D
    C major chord: C E G
    D major chord: D F# A

    The penta scale has at least two notes in common with each chord, so if you structure your solo to land on the chord tones, you can play G maj. penta for the whole song. Generally if you switch to D major (or minor, for that matter) pentatonic over the D , it will sound great. As a rule, never play the Minor pentatonic of the IV chord, IMO. The blue notes will clash most of the time.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

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  4. #3
    Professional Cat Herder Phil Vinyard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Fastest way for you to pick it up would be to get Nate Lee's DVD or download https://thenatelee.weebly.com/. I picked it up at Kaufman Kamp and it will definitely get you going on pentatonics.

    And supports a really cool dude! Enjoyed hanging with you at Kamp, Nate! Looking forward to next year, even if you did defect to the fiddle section.
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  6. #4
    Plays Well With Others Nate Lee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Vinyard View Post

    And supports a really cool dude! Enjoyed hanging with you at Kamp, Nate! Looking forward to next year, even if you did defect to the fiddle section.
    It was fun hanging with you too! I can't wait for Kamp 2019! I'll have my mando along even though I'm officially on the devil's instrument that week.
    Nate Lee
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  8. #5
    Registered User mandomurph's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    You can play just the notes in the G pentatonic scale through the whole song. You may not match the melody of the tune note for note but you won't hit any notes that will sound "wrong". In essence, you are playing just the notes common in all three scales and leaving out the notes that are unique to each scale.
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  10. #6
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    As you get better, you値l hear the notes that workbest against the chords you play And you値l start to incorporate other scales. But at this stage just stick to the root scale (in this case G over G) and have fun.
    Last edited by David Lewis; Jul-10-2018 at 6:00am. Reason: Clarification
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  12. #7

    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    I get the attractiveness of the concept "here is a group of notes that I can play and none of them will sound wrong". I mean, you get to play along, and not worry about being "wrong".

    But there is a down-side to this, too, at least in my mind. Not being wrong, is not the same as being right.

    In any given musical context, limiting oneself to only 5 tones -- and only those tones that "cant sound wrong"--- pretty much eliminates any musical tension, dissonance, blue notes, build-and-resolve, etc.

    So it seems to me that the attractiveness of the concept can lead pretty quickly to a musical homogeneity -- musical Wonderbread, if you will-- if one isn't careful.

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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Sticking to G pentatonic will work as mentioned above and is a good way to begin to improvise. Later, change the scales as the chords change and you are now working with another level of improvisation. Then, perhaps you can add the "musical tension, dissonance, blue notes, build-and-resolve, etc." mentioned by Jshane above to reach even another level of improvisation.

    Start where you can and continue to explore and grow...there are many levels and approaches that will work that you will discover as you enjoy your journey.
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  16. #9
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Yes the G penta will work but you will get better results , more melodic results switching from scale to scale with the chord changes....... as the fingering pattern remains the same you just know the location of the first tone in each penta scale. You don't have to start your musical phrase on that first tone but it is your point anchor. Enjoy the journey… R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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  18. #10
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Quote Originally Posted by jshane View Post
    ... lead pretty quickly to a musical homogeneity -- musical Wonderbread, if you will ...
    Yeah but, keeping this in context, at some point in each of our developments, making bread at all is a big step up from making inedible/inaudible glop.

    Besides, lots of amazing music has been written on penta scales, like the theme from Victory At Sea (yeah, givin' my age away!).
    - Ed

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  20. #11
    Registered User mandomurph's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Quote Originally Posted by jshane View Post
    I get the attractiveness of the concept "here is a group of notes that I can play and none of them will sound wrong". I mean, you get to play along, and not worry about being "wrong".

    But there is a down-side to this, too, at least in my mind. Not being wrong, is not the same as being right.

    In any given musical context, limiting oneself to only 5 tones -- and only those tones that "cant sound wrong"--- pretty much eliminates any musical tension, dissonance, blue notes, build-and-resolve, etc.

    So it seems to me that the attractiveness of the concept can lead pretty quickly to a musical homogeneity -- musical Wonderbread, if you will-- if one isn't careful.
    You can work in slides and pull offs and even some blues notes as you progress. It's not as limiting as you might think at first.
    mandomurph

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  22. #12

    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Using a single pentatonic is a manageable first step to be able to play over chords in a given key. You could learn to do this in the Keys of G, C and D. Then you could go back to your G tune and use all three of the pentatonics you know to play over each chord. Then learn to play over a tune in F with the F pentatonic. Then go back to your C tune and use the C, F and G pentatonics over each chord. Use slides, drones, double stops, pulloffs, etc. to add interest.

    This is how you start building up to more complex solos.
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  24. #13

    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Yes you can play the key scale over the whole thing but after awhile you will want to do this...

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  26. #14
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Pentatonics are good way to ease into more complex note sets (the particular notes that you can draw from), bridging the gap between major and minor triad arpeggios and the diatonic scale (and modes).

    Major:
    G B D > G A B D E G > G A B D E F#G > chromatic scale

    Minor:
    G Bb D > G Bb C D F G > G A Bb C D Eb F G > chromatic scale

    A progression of increasing complexity:
    • Pentatonic of the Key note over all chords in the key
    • Pentatoncs change with the chords
    • Superimposition of different pentatonics over the chord (roots) (this can include playing minor pentatonics as a substitution instead of major pent over the key or the major chord)


    But once you've got a good grasp on all that, the pentatonic 'playing' can be altered or embellished in other ways. There are a lot of really good players who may play 75% of the time with the blues scale, but they may be bending from one pentatonic note to either a diatonic (or pentatonic) note above it, or releasing from a bent note to the unbent (pentatonic pitch); or they maybe tweaking the intonation of notes by 1/4 tone or to some more pleasing just-temperament pitches (listen to Derek Trucks....he isn't playing the 12 tone tempered scale)

    Then, you may realize that other "pentatonics" can be extracted from ANY scale or mode.

    • Major Pent G A B D E G can become "Dorian pentatonic" by simply flattening the third > G A Bb D E G . This note set will give you a different sound that regular "minor pent.)
    • or...Major Pent G A B D E G can become the "Dominant Pent" scale by changing the 6th to the b7 > G A B D F G
    • Minor Pent - G Bb C D F G - can be turned into (major) Okinawan Pent by raising the 3rd and the 7th > G B C D F# G (so instead of 13457 extracted from a minor scale, you have the same 13457 extracted from the notes in the major scale. Ry Cooder is into Okinawan music and you can hear him occasionally play off this scale.



    The mindset of using these really isn't much different than using the "common" pents. Your fingereing isn't really altered except for playing a note or two a fret lower or a fret higher.

    (In 2004, I added (to The Pentonic Mandolin) appendices for fingerboard charts of major/minor pentatonics and a sampling of some of the modal and ethnic pentatonics.)

    Finally, especially useful for getting more authentic and convincing blues playing, and exploiting playing up and down the neck is Pentatonc Fingering. (Diatonic fingering is, one finger per note of the diatonic scale; chromatic fingering is one finger per fret. Pentatonic fingering is one finger per pentatonic scale note

    ==========================
    ==7=5=2===============(10)==
    ========7=5=2=========(9)===
    ==============7=5=2===(9)===

    the fingering would by Ring - Middle - Index (3 2 1) on each string. No pinky, unless you are playing a note at the 9th or 10th fret. You may want to think of this a "stretch fingering". I'll often see guitar (primarily) players use fingering like this when they pick up a mandolin. If you are doing a lot of multiple pull-off, etc. you won't get the attack and strength if you use the pinky. Go with the stronger fingers. (Higher up the neck, it will also allow you to "crab walk" greater neck distances on one string)

    I bring this stuff up simply to point out that the Pentatonic approaches can go further than what you may assume. And of course, it all starts overlapping with other particular "techniques" such as playing out of the chop shape.

    Hey that Bill Monroe chop shape lick is actually an "Okinawan Pentatonic scale"! (Who knew!)

    Niles H

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  28. #15
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    Default Re: Pentatonic question

    Thanks so much everyone! This is very helpful! I have seen Nate Lee’s new DVD and I highly recommend it!
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