PENTATONIC POWER Five notes, myriad styles
In this special feature Jacob Quistgaard explores the inexhaustible goldmine that is the minor pentatonic scale, showing how you can use it to great effect in blues, but also in rock, country and jazz too.
Jacob Quistgaard has written the ultimate guide on how to get the most out of the pentatonic scale in a range of musical styles!
The minor pentatonic is the most used, seen and heard scale in the popular music of the Western world. It’s a great starting point for any guitarist, whether they’re on a mission to learn the riffs of rock bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters and Rage Against The Machine; set on journeying into the expansive world of jazz improvisation; or even want to carve a niche in country. The minor pentatonic scale is a common, key component that will unlock a multitude of doors. No matter how far anyone manages to delve into any specific musical territory, they’ll keep coming back to that sacred five-note scale and the many wonders it has to offer.
Whether you are a blues guitarist, jazz musician, fusion player, country nut or metalhead, the minor pentatonic will remain not only extremely useful and accessible, but also a superior melodic tool that has an enviable natural tendency to create strong and memorable melodies and riffs.
In jazz for example, the coveted II-V-I progression (often seen as the heart of jazz composition and improvisation) can be negotiated with only minor pentatonic shapes - and that includes emphasising some really colourful chord tones too.
In essence, you can improvise over many chords and progressions, including fairly extended ones, if you know which pentatonic
No matter how far anyone manages to go into any specific musical territory, they will keep coming back to that sacred five-note scale and the wonders it has to offer.
scale to apply - and how. This of course requires some degree of harmony and theory understanding - now don’t drift off, as over the following pages you are going to gain a lot of extremely useful knowledge that you can put into practice in almost any style you play, on any day of the week.
Of course, it’s not only a question of harmony when it comes to using pentatonics creatively (a common mistake guitarists make is that knowing scales will make them great musicians; sadly there’s more to it than that). Sound, dynamics, rhythm and taste are also important when playing in each of our four styles. Moving through blues, rock, country and jazz, we will finish on an extended example that blends these ideas and harmonic concepts into a fun study.
For extra easy application, we will primarily be looking at things from a minor pentatonic perspective, even though sometimes it’ll technically be the major pentatonic of the relative major key (which contains the very same five notes).