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Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:35 am
by MikeWalters
I'm confused on how to play the mayor pentatonic when improvising.
On Wikipedia (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Pentatonic_scale) on the "Major pentatonic scale" sections it says it can be constructed in many ways.
Let's say the root note is C. Then what I found in most pages is that the Mayor Pentatonic is "C - D - E - G - A" , my teacher taught me "C - E - F - G - A#" (which is right too acording to wikipedia)

So, which mayor pentatonic should I use for Blues?

Also, lets say I have a 12 bars Blues backing track ( I(A) - IV (D) - V (E) ), on which notes on the backing track will I use the Mayor Pentatonic?

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:26 pm
by The Breeze
C - D - E - G - A is the major pentatonic, root, second, third, fifth, sixth.
C - D - E - G - B flat (A#) is a major pentatonic but is not diatonic, root, second, third, fifth, flat 7th.

The second is more bluesy.

On the IV you may find:

C, E flat, F, G, B flat, works well which is C minor pentatonic, or the blues scale. But when playing it over the IV chord the F becomes root so you have:

F, G, B flat, C, E flat, which is root, second, fourth, fifth, flat 7th. Confused?? Good!

So, which mayor pentatonic should I use for Blues?


No not really, not for blues. Blues is not diatonic, there is always tension. Just with the pentatonic scales we have covered all the notes in the C major scale plus two others, throw in the flat 5 as well and you have a chromatic run of 6 notes. Hmmm...

The more you play blues the more you move away from scales. Learn some licks, and use your ears.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:13 pm
by Stackabones
MikeWalters wrote:So, which mayor pentatonic should I use for Blues?


Use the minor pentatonic. So in a C blues, use C minor pentatonic: C Eb F G Bb.

You can also use this blues scale, which adds one note to the min pent: C Eb F Gb G Bb. That Gb is the flat five (b5), which is one of the blue notes along with the b3 (Eb) and the b7 (Bb).

MikeWalters wrote:Also, lets say I have a 12 bars Blues backing track ( I(A) - IV (D) - V (E) ), on which notes on the backing track will I use the Mayor Pentatonic?


It's more common to use the A minor pentatonic over that progression for blues. Definitely try out the A major pentatonic for variety. I find that it gives it a different flavor -- I usually use it over country tunes or songs with a strong melodic character. You'll find your own ways of using it and describing. Trust your ears.

You can use one scale over the entire progression. Or you can mix and match. It's up to your ears.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 12:39 am
by MikeWalters
@The Breeze: Sorry but I'm still confuced. Then there are 3 different Mayor Pentatonics:

1. The one I find in most Blues sites: "C - D - E - G - A" or "Root - 2nd - 3erd - 5th - 6th"
2. The one my teacher taught me and it's also on wikipedia: ""C - E - F - G - A#" or "Root - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 7th"
3. The one you say sound more bluesy: "C - D - E - G - B flat (A#) is a major pentatonic but is not diatonic, root, second, third, fifth, flat 7th."

I have a strong feeling there is something wrong somewhere, how's that I find the minor pentatonic exactly the same everywhere, but with the mayor I have so many problems?

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:44 am
by The Breeze
Stackabones wrote:
Use the minor pentatonic. So in a C blues, use C minor pentatonic: C Eb F G Bb.

You can also use this blues scale, which adds one note to the min pent: C Eb F Gb G Bb. That Gb is the flat five (b5), which is one of the blue notes along with the b3 (Eb) and the b7 (Bb).


Yep.

When using a major pentatonic try using the pentatonic of the chord you are on, i.e. for the I chord use C major, (in the key of C still), for the IV use F major, either of the ones you quoted, etc...

Learn the melody of the song...

Rhythm, 9/10ths of music is rhythm. In blues things happen off the beat and are certainly more edgy than nailing the root on beat one...

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:43 pm
by TheDude
Unless your playing a minor blues, most blues is a strong dominant sound. I find I usually mix the major and minor pentatonic together and I get the following scale (kinda like mixolydian plus a few extras):

1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7

It's pretty much all the notes you'll need to blues to swing-style playing. An example in A:

E---------------------------------------------------
B------------5---------------------------------------
G-----5-h6----7-5-h6------------------------------
D---7-------------------7-5-7-p5-s4---4-7--------
A--------------------------------------7------------
E---------------------------------------------------

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:39 pm
by The Breeze
MikeWalters wrote:@The Breeze: Sorry but I'm still confuced. Then there are 3 different Mayor Pentatonics:

1. The one I find in most Blues sites: "C - D - E - G - A" or "Root - 2nd - 3erd - 5th - 6th"
2. The one my teacher taught me and it's also on wikipedia: ""C - E - F - G - A#" or "Root - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 7th"
3. The one you say sound more bluesy: "C - D - E - G - B flat (A#) is a major pentatonic but is not diatonic, root, second, third, fifth, flat 7th."

I have a strong feeling there is something wrong somewhere, how's that I find the minor pentatonic exactly the same everywhere, but with the mayor I have so many problems?


Sorry not read this bit...

1) Music is all about sound, you can't get it by looking at it. You have to listen.

2) Ok... A pentatonic is a five note scale, if it is a major third and five notes it is a major pentatonic.

3) THE major pentatonic is Root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th. You will find that G major pentatonic contains exactly the same notes as E minor pentatonic. I.e: the major pentatonic that fits over your open G chord is EXACTLY the same pattern as the minor pentatonic that fits over the open E minor chord. Because E is the relative minor of G major.

4) The major 6th in THE major pentatonic sounds a bit country.

5) Blues is non diatonic. The mainstay is treating all three chords as dominant, i.e a seventh chord (flattened seventh not maj7). That is to say it relies on the V-I chord progression the strongest pull in music. Play a G7 chord, it sounds like it wants to go somewhere. It wants to go to C. Try it, it resolves. G is the V chord and C is the I chord, C is a FIFTH BELOW G. F is the fourth chord but is a FIFTH BELOW C!!!! Now play 3 bars of C then one of C7, then resolve to the F chord for two bars, hmmm.... So adding a flattened 7th interval in your major pentatonic is turning your root (I) chord into a temporary dominant (V) chord and it then pulls to the chord a fifth below, the IV (or sub dominant). Sounds more bluesy.

6) You will have noticed by now that if you make your F (IV) chord dominant (F7) then the 7th of F is in fact the b3 of C, which is where your minor pentatonic sounds bluesy. Try leaning on that note just before changing to F.

You'll be hearing it by now...

Added:
A dominant chord is a major chord with an added b7, spelt G7 for instance. The only place that occurs in a diatonic scale (using only the notes in the parent scale) is when you build the chord on the fifth note of the scale, (start with the fifth note and stack third intervals on top of each other using only the notes of the parent scale. By thirds I mean start with a note, miss the next, take the next, then miss one, etc.). In the case of the key of C the only place the 7th chord occurs is G7. This is the V7-I progression. Any dominant (V7) chord will want to go to the chord a fifth below (five scale notes or 7 frets down OR, four scale notes or five frets up).
So blues in C... C7, F7 and G7.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:35 pm
by blzdr
Listen to early Fleetwood Mac when they were a blues band, 1967-1970. Peter Green often mixes the pentatonic major and minor scales in his solos. The solo in "Jumpin' At Shadows" from the Live in Boston set is a good example. Also, the superb twin guitar call and response with Danny Kirwan in "Like It That Way" from the same set is another. Let your ears tell you when to mix them.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:28 am
by ricbleu
I've been playing the blues for about 40 years, first of all electric lead and lately acoustic and lap slide and I never knew any of that stuff. Or I should say, I never knew I knew it. And I still don't. I started off, as we all do, learning the licks and solos of our chosen heroes until I had built up my chops to the extent I could leave off the trainer wheels and go it alone. IMHO the best way is to work from ear and feel - copy the masters until you are confident - it all blends in to become your own style. I don't wish to criticise learning the theoretical side, which notes to play and which not, but I don't think it's the right way to tackle the blues. Peace :D
ps I hope I don't get pulverised now.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:53 am
by TheDude
MikeWalters wrote:@The Breeze: Sorry but I'm still confuced. Then there are 3 different Mayor Pentatonics:

1. The one I find in most Blues sites: "C - D - E - G - A" or "Root - 2nd - 3erd - 5th - 6th"
2. The one my teacher taught me and it's also on wikipedia: ""C - E - F - G - A#" or "Root - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 7th"
3. The one you say sound more bluesy: "C - D - E - G - B flat (A#) is a major pentatonic but is not diatonic, root, second, third, fifth, flat 7th."

I have a strong feeling there is something wrong somewhere, how's that I find the minor pentatonic exactly the same everywhere, but with the mayor I have so many problems?


Either option 1 or 3 would be fine for blues. I wouldn't use option 2, cuz the major 7th in there isn't right for blues. Just play a B note against a C7 chord and you'll hear it right away.

Having said that, I still reckon you'll need a b3 in there too to have that contrast. Only the major pentatonic isn't gonna make things sound very bluesy. See below example of a turnaround in A, using both b3 and 3.

E----7--5-h7-p5----5-----------------------------------------------------------
B------------------8----7-----5-------------------------------------------------
G--------------------------7-----7-5-h6----------------------------------------
D------------------------------------------7-------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------7~--7~----------------------------
E---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most important thing (as Breeze and Ricbleu also said) is listen. Scales are just theory. If it sounds good, go with it. If there was only one correct answer, music wouldn't be an art; it would be science. Take some time to listen to how each note reacts against the chord you're playing. You'll soon figure out what sounds pleasing to the ear and what doesn't.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:29 pm
by hollywoodmark
ricbleu wrote:I've been playing the blues for about 40 years, first of all electric lead and lately acoustic and lap slide and I never knew any of that stuff. Or I should say, I never knew I knew it. And I still don't. I started off, as we all do, learning the licks and solos of our chosen heroes until I had built up my chops to the extent I could leave off the trainer wheels and go it alone. IMHO the best way is to work from ear and feel - copy the masters until you are confident - it all blends in to become your own style. I don't wish to criticise learning the theoretical side, which notes to play and which not, but I don't think it's the right way to tackle the blues. Peace :D
ps I hope I don't get pulverised now.


Amen, RB. Trial and error is a great way to learn. If you just go by theory, you'll never realize how great those "wrong" notes can sound in the right context. Let your ear be your guide.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:24 pm
by The Breeze
Edit because double posted, sorry.

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:27 pm
by The Breeze
ricbleu wrote:I don't wish to criticise learning the theoretical side, which notes to play and which not, but I don't think it's the right way to tackle the blues. Peace :D
ps I hope I don't get pulverised now.


The Breeze wrote:The more you play blues the more you move away from scales. Learn some licks, and use your ears.


Don't know about you lot but I find the blues rhythm is off the charts. For me it is by far the most difficult bit to master. I have never found any tab of standard notation that catches it. You have to listen to the masters as Rick says.

Something that sounds quite simple like Mississippi John Hurt's Stack-o-lee for example, until you try to sing as well as play...

Re: Notes in Mayor Pentatonic for Blues

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:22 pm
by kiwiblues
I have the same problem with "Born under a bad sign". A very simple riff in open D but when I try to play it and sing like Jack Bruce does I stuff it up big time. Some sort of syncopation or back beat problem I think! :roll:

The Breeze wrote:
ricbleu wrote:I don't wish to criticise learning the theoretical side, which notes to play and which not, but I don't think it's the right way to tackle the blues. Peace :D
ps I hope I don't get pulverised now.


The Breeze wrote:The more you play blues the more you move away from scales. Learn some licks, and use your ears.


Don't know about you lot but I find the blues rhythm is off the charts. For me it is by far the most difficult bit to master. I have never found any tab of standard notation that catches it. You have to listen to the masters as Rick says.

Something that sounds quite simple like Mississippi John Hurt's Stack-o-lee for example, until you try to sing as well as play...