Shaun Baxter continues this series with some fine licks using the Dominant Pentatonic scale.
What’s the best Pentatonic scale to use over a straightforward Dominant chord? If you’re not sure, try a few options over each of the chords in the following progression.
(1-b3-4-5-b7) The Minor Pentatonic scale will work as a bluesy effect in an extended static one-chord vamp but, because of the Minor 3rd, it will sound strange if you try this scale from the root of each chord in the progression shown above. Major Pentatonic (1-2-3-5-6) works better, but its 6th note doesn’t really fit each chord. Try it! It’s a scale that works well in country music but, often the 6th degree is also included within the chord (so, the above progression would be G6-F6-A6-F#6). However, when it comes to playing over static Dominant chords in different keys, there’s only one safe choice: the Dominant Pentatonic scale. Dominant Pentatonic 1-2-3-5-b7 It works well because it contains all the essential chord tones for a Dominant chord. In fact, it’s got the same notes as a 9th arpeggio. We can also think of the Dominant Pentatonic as being like the Major Pentatonic with a flattened 7th degree, instead of a 6th: A Major Pentatonic: A-B-C#-E-F# 1-2-3-5-6 A Dominant Pentatonic: A-B-C#-E-G 1-2-3-5-b7 By taking the traditional two-notes-per-string shapes of A Major Pentatonic, and raising each 6th (F#) a semi-tone higher (keeping it on the same string), so that it becomes a flattened 7th (G), we get the five shapes shown in Diagram 1. Note that each one is based around a basic G7 chord shape and fits perfectly within the CAGED system.
The musical examples for this lesson are based around various CAGED shapes of the A Dominant Pentatonic scale, and are medium in pace. As mentioned previously, most rock players have far fewer mid-paced ideas than they do very fast or slow ones, so this will be a good opportunity to start building your mid-paced Dominant line vocabulary. For every principle studied, try to come up with your own variations, and make sure that you can also play equivalent sequences in all of five CAGED shapes of the Dominant Pentatonic scale.
Finally, if you are interested in jazz and fusion, note that the Dominant Pentatonic can also be used over other chord types:
m7b5 • From the of a chord • From the 4th of m7 chord • From the and of a 7alt chord • From the 2nd of a 9#11 and a maj7#11 chord
Listening back to the audio that accompanies this lesson, and you might agree with me that some of the lines evoke the late Alan Murphy. Alan, an English rock-fusion guitarist, who died in 1989 aged only 36, was active as a session musician in the 1980s – at a time when there was still a session scene in London. I remember seeing him play regularly with his jamming band SFX (who were also Fender’s demo band) at The Cricketers, Kennington, in the early to mid 80s (there is a link to a live gig recorded in 1981 at www.alanmurphylive.com/audio/ audio.html). SFX acted as an effective calling card for Alan and from it, word got around, helping him to end up as a sideman to acts such as Nick Heyward, Go West, Mike & The Mechanics (listen to his solo from Silent Running), Kate Bush and Level 42.
G7 / / /, / / / / A7 / / /, / / / / F7 / / /, / / / / F#7 / / /, / / / /
For this series, I have gone back to a more basic bluesy sound, whereby the amp is clean and all the distortion comes from a pedal: in this case, a Wampler TUMNUS with the gain set at 2pm, the level at 2:30pm and the treble at 11pm. Licks like the ones in this lesson tend to sound better without too much gain, so opt for a similar sound using your own set-up.