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Old 11-10-2012, 08:00 AM   #1
skilly1
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Major scale/minor pentatonic improv?

When I'm improvising over songs, it seems the minor pentatonic fits over almost every song, but the major scale only fits over certain songs,
Is this just because the notes of the chords are in each scale,

Last edited by skilly1 : 11-10-2012 at 08:06 AM.
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Old 11-10-2012, 08:23 AM   #2
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It's because the songs are in a minor key. And those that are in major, you can still play minor pentatonic over them because that gives a bluesy feeling. For example many AC/DC songs are in major but Angus Young uses minor pentatonic scale in almost all of his solos.

But do you know the key of the songs you are improvising over? If the song is in minor, use minor scale. And if the song is in major, use major scale. Of course you can play whatever notes over whatever chords but using a major scale over a major song and minor scale over a minor song is a good starting point.

To determine the key, try to find the key center, ie the chord everything resolves to. You can feel the pull towards the key center. I mean, the chord progression sounds unfinished until you play the "I" chord. It's the chord you would usually end the song with.

If the key center is A minor, you are in A minor.
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Old 11-10-2012, 08:31 AM   #3
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The title of my post may be misleading, I edited it but it only shows in the post title once you're in it. I meant the major scale and the minor pentatonic, not the major pentatonic, if this makes any difference to your response
Thanks

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Old 11-10-2012, 08:39 AM   #4
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For example I was just improvising over fighting man by Gillian, I forget what key it was in because it was on planet rock radio, but I could play both the major scale and minor pentatonic, ( actually i think its the natural minor scale, but does it make a difference?)over it which both sounded good, but other songs, only the minor pentatonic works
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skilly1
The title of my post may be misleading, I edited it but it only shows in the post title once you're in it. I meant the major scale and the minor pentatonic, not the major pentatonic, if this makes any difference to your response
Thanks


Coupe of things:

First of all, the minor pentatonic has fewer notes, which is to say, fewer notes to clash, than a diatonic scale. That gives you some flexibility. For example, if you play Am pentatonic over an Em progression, all of the notes are still diatonic to Em because the note that differentiates Am and Em (F vs F#) is not in the Am pentatonic scale.

Second, you can often play the minor pentatonic over a major chord progression - the tension between the thirds in the scale and the thirds in the chord is the characteristic sound of the blues, and common to a lot of blues-based rock.
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Old 11-10-2012, 04:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skilly1
For example I was just improvising over fighting man by Gillian, I forget what key it was in because it was on planet rock radio, but I could play both the major scale and minor pentatonic, ( actually i think its the natural minor scale, but does it make a difference?)over it which both sounded good, but other songs, only the minor pentatonic works

Yeah... Minor pentatonic works because minor third over a major chord doesn't sound that bad. It sounds pretty bluesy because it's used a lot in blues. Minor pentatonic has two notes that you can't find in major scale (b3 and b7) but as I said earlier, minor thirds give it that kind of bluesy feeling. Also sometimes major songs use minor 7th instead of major 7th. It's very common in rock. I-bVII-IV chord progressions are very typical for rock songs. And playing a major seventh over that doesn't really sound good. And if you avoid playing the minor third over the I chord, all notes fit all the other chords well. So you can use them safely over everything. You just have to avoid using the b3 note over the I chord if you don't want any dissonance.
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Old 11-10-2012, 07:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skilly1
For example I was just improvising over fighting man by Gillian, I forget what key it was in because it was on planet rock radio, but I could play both the major scale and minor pentatonic, ( actually i think its the natural minor scale, but does it make a difference?)over it which both sounded good, but other songs, only the minor pentatonic works

Any genre of popular music can be traced back to the blues one way or another. The real blue notes originated from African folk which, at the time, were considered in tune, however, they were not identical in pitch to the notes you'd find on a piano keyboard.

It's a cultural thing we have to accept, cuz our ears have evolved to hear it as being normal.

That's why theory's kinda a waste of time lol.
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Old 11-10-2012, 08:43 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mdc
That's why theory's kinda a waste of time lol.


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Old 11-12-2012, 01:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by HotspurJr
....First of all, the minor pentatonic has fewer notes, which is to say, fewer notes to clash, than a diatonic scale.....


This, I think. Look up consonance and dissonance.... the closer notes are the more dissonant they are.... and some in the major scale are right next to each other...
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Old 11-12-2012, 05:03 AM   #10
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A minor pentatonic = A C D E G

Those five notes can be found in the following scales...

E minor E F# G A B C D E
G Major G A B C D E F# G
C Major C D E F G A B C
A minor A B C D E F G
F Major F G A Bb C D E F
D minor D E F G A Bb C D

The minor pentatonic is also commonly used over the parallel major scale (as mentioned already in this thread so those notes can work over A major.
A B C# D E F# G# A

So the notes of a single minor pentatonic scale will fit or work with as many as 7 keys

There are 24 keys so any given pentatonic scale will fit with almost a third of the possible 24 keys a song might be in.

The major scale on the other hand has, as previously mentioned, more notes which means more notes to clash with notes from a different key. This means it will not work with as many keys. In fact the notes of the A major scale will pretty much just work with the A major scale and those notes will also fit with the relative minor the F# minor scale.

Two out of 24 possible scales is one twelfth of the possible keys.

So the notes of any given pentatonic scale will fit with almost a third of the possible keys but the notes of any given major scale will fit with one twelfth of the possible keys.

So yes your observation stands to reason. The minor pentatonic scale will fit over more sa much graeter proportion of songs than a major scale.
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