Shaun Baxter continues this series with more great licks using Dominant Pentatonic scale.
The Dominant Pentatonic represents five notes that can be extracted from the Mixolydian scale that will allow you to adopt a guitar-friendly, two-notes per-string approach with a sound that is closer to the underlying Dominant 7th chord than the more common Major or Minor Pentatonic: Basically, it’s like a dominant 7th arpeggio with an added 2nd note, making it more akin to a 9th arpeggio. A - C# - E- G - B A9 b7 1 - 3 - 5- -9 By taking the traditional two-notes-per-string shapes of A Major Pentatonic scale, and raising each 6th (F#) a semitone higher (keeping it on the same string), so that it becomes a minor 7th (G), we get the five shapes shown in Diagram 1. Note that each one is based around a basic A7 chord shape and fits perfectly within the CAGED system.
All the musical examples in this lesson feature fast sequences using the Dominant Pentatonic scale. Once you have studied each example, it’s important to establish an equivalent approach in each of the other CAGED shapes of the scale. Also, try transferring the same principles to other Pentatonic scales that you know.
To play sequences up to a fast tempo, we will be using a variety of approaches: two, three and four-notes-per-string; legato, fretting-hand tapping; picking-hand-tapping etc. When learning to master such techniques in each shape of a scale, it’s important that you work on various entry and exit points so that you can flow from one idea into another. If working on vocabulary for a particular CAGED shape for A Dominant Pentatonic, start by looking at how you can combine it with your existing Mixolydian and Blues scale vocabulary in that same area.
Generally, your aim should be to build up an arsenal of shapes, licks and lines in each CAGED shape so that you have some flexible friends to draw upon when improvising. This can only be achieved if you work at going beyond just playing each line verbatim. The line merely represents a useful contour or chain of events for you to interpret in a multitude of different ways depending on the musical setting. This means you can practise limiting your approach to just one line, to see how much variation you can extract from it to make it work at any given moment: start it differently; break off half-way through; change the ending; change the rhythm or timing; you could even try playing it backwards.
When improvising, it’s far better to have 10 lines that you can interpret in a variety of different ways to suit any musical moment, than to be at the mercy of 500 that are cast in stone. The latter approach reduces you to mentally scrolling through the entire list, frantically hoping to pull one off the shelf that will provide you with the perfect musical answer – hardly the grounds for fluid spontaneity – whereas the former can produce very different-sounding results even though they stemmed from the same reference point.