#1
This is probably a question I should figure out for myself, but I'd like to get some insight from other, more knowledgable musicians.

My question is, I heard somewhere that when soloing along with a song, you should switch the pentatonic scale you're using for the fourth degree chord. Specifically switch from the minor to the major pentonic for the IV chord. For example, when playing "Heard it in a Love Song", which has a progression of D, F#m, G, G, D, to make it sound good I need to switch from pentatonic position 4 to position 2 (over the same set of frets). It's probably no coincidence that the G is the IV chord in the D scale. Does this have to do with the fact that the root note for the IV isn't contained in the pentatonic for the I? I'd just like to understand this a little better, for the purpose of knowing where to go on a solo when playing over the IV chord. Thanks in advance for any advice!
#2
I'm gonna suggest playing the 3rd of D major, (F#), over top of G major, results in a maj7th interval.

While playing the root of G major (G obviously), over top of D major results in a Dsus4 interval.

Both nice chords, but they do sort of pull you out of the progression you're trying to stay with. So, pretty much were you to hit and hold either of those notes, you'd sort of "break something".


I've pretty much been judged as insane and inept regarding music theory. Accordingly, it would be prudent to wait for a 2nd opinion.
#3
What scale you should use depends on context.

I really don't understand the advice. So if you are in the key of D (I would assume they are talking about blues because of the mixture of minor and major pentatonic that sounds like blues to me), and use D minor pentatonic over D chord, you should change to D major pentatonic over the G chord? I wouldn't do that. Why? Because in blues every chord is a dominant 7th chord. D major pentatonic has an F#, G7 has an F. You don't want to play a major 7th over a minor 7th. But if they were talking about switching to the G major pentatonic, then that does make sense. You can play the major pentatonic of the chord root over all major chords and you can play the minor pentatonic of the chord root over all minor chords, and that will always fit. (Why? Because major pentatonic = chord tones (root, 3rd, 5th) + major 6th and major 2nd/9th - both are a whole step/1½ steps away from chord tones, and only half steps actually clash with the chord. Same thing with minor pentatonic. Minor pentatonic = chord tones (root, 3rd, 5th) + minor 7th and perfect 4th/11th. Again, both minor 7th and perfect 4th/11th are a whole step/1½ steps away from chord tones and that's why they don't clash with the chord. So all of the notes in minor and major pentatonic scales will be safe choices over minor and major chords. This doesn't mean that the other 7 notes will sound bad. It just means that you need to know how to use them - they won't work automatically.)

Whether the root of the IV is contained in the pentatonic for the I depends on whether we are talking about major or minor pentatonic. Let's stay in the key of D. D minor pentatonic is D F G A C. D major pentatonic is D E F# A B. As you can see, G is contained in Dm pentatonic but not in D major pentatonic. But that doesn't mean D major pentatonic won't work over a G major chord. It still contains the third and fifth of G major.


If you are playing over a diatonic progression in the key of D (meaning that it only uses notes from the D major scale), like D-F#m-G-D, you can just use the D major scale over every chord because all of the chords are diatonic to the key of D major (i.e., all of the chords use notes that are in the D major scale). So you don't need to change the scale over the G major chord because it's still diatonic to the key of D major.

Also, when changing the scale, don't think in positions. When you treat scales as positions, it makes it difficult to actually understand the theory behind it. You should avoid thinking just in scale shapes - scales are more than just positions on the fretboard. I would first learn more about keys and chords before worrying about changing scales.

Also, remember that there is no one "correct scale" to play over a chord. You play what sounds good to you. Any of the 12 notes can be used over any chords. It's more about how you use those notes. When thinking about what scale to use over which chords, well, first analyze the progression. Are all of the chords in one key? If yes, just use the key scale and don't worry about changing scales (just know where the chord tones are). But if there are some "outside" chords, again, use the key scale, but alter it over the "outside" chords. For example if we are in the key of D major but there is a F# major chord, you can still use D major scale, but just change the A to A# because F# major = F# A# C# (and A# is the only note that is not in D major). That's really the simplest way. And if you can't figure out the key, you could just use major pentatonic over major chords and minor pentatonic over minor chords (for example if the chord progression is D-F#m-G-D, you could just use D major pentatonic over D major, F#m pentatonic over F#m and G major pentatonic over G major). Sometimes that gets a bit complex, though, because you need to think about changing scales all the time, and if you do that, it may restrict your ability to play melodically over the chords because you need to focus on changing scales.


When it comes to the question, I would assume they were talking about a blues progression and they were talking about changing from D minor pentatonic to G major pentatonic or something like that. But I would need to see the lesson to really understand what they were trying to say. To me saying "I heard somewhere..." is a sign that you may not even remember exactly what was said and you may have totally misunderstood the advice. If you are not sure about something, don't follow it as a rule (well, never treat anything as a rule that you always need to follow - music doesn't work that way) because most likely you didn't properly understand it. So just ignore the advice that you heard or post a link to the lesson where you heard it.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Aug 22, 2016,
#4
TS you can just use one scale for the whole progression, because the progression is all in one key.

Could you tab out the pentatonic scale shape that you're using as I want to make sure you're using the correct one.
#5
Quote by jackbenimble999
This is probably a question I should figure out for myself, but I'd like to get some insight from other, more knowledgable musicians.

My question is, I heard somewhere that when soloing along with a song, you should switch the pentatonic scale you're using for the fourth degree chord. Specifically switch from the minor to the major pentonic for the IV chord. For example, when playing "Heard it in a Love Song", which has a progression of D, F#m, G, G, D, to make it sound good I need to switch from pentatonic position 4 to position 2 (over the same set of frets). It's probably no coincidence that the G is the IV chord in the D scale. Does this have to do with the fact that the root note for the IV isn't contained in the pentatonic for the I? I'd just like to understand this a little better, for the purpose of knowing where to go on a solo when playing over the IV chord. Thanks in advance for any advice!
I'm probably not much help here, because I don't know what position 4 and position 2 mean for pentatonic scales. (I learned notes not numbers...)

I'm guessing you're talking about major pentatonic, because D major pentatonic doesn't contain a G note (D minor pent does), and because the F#m chord indicates this is not a blues (and Dm pent would sound terrible on F#m).

Short of learning your notes, and learning your fretboard (properly, not as numbered patterns), a good tip is to use the pentatonic of the chord (major or minor accordingly).

D = D major pent
F#m = F# minor pent
G = G major pent

Each of those scales contains the three chord tones, and two good additional notes (passing notes or chord extensions). Moreover, all of them are subsets of the D major scale (the key you're in).

Of course, you don't want to be changing position (i.e., place on the fretboard) for every chord. Hopefully you know enough patterns for those scales to be able to interlock them in any one neck position. (I use the word "position" in its traditional sense, meaning a fret region on the neck. I.e. "5th position" means index finger on 5th fret.)

In fact, there's no reason why D major pent can't be used on the G chord. A pentatonic scale doesn't need to contain the root (a complete 7-note scale does). D major pent over a G will give a rather nice jazzy "Gmaj7" sound, because it contains F# instead of G (that's the only difference from G major pent).
Still, until you understand just how the pents work (how they relate to the chord tones), it's best to stay with the "home" scale before stretching out into jazzier sounds.

BTW, D major pent is not a good scale for F#m. It contains D, which could sound bad against the C# in the chord. F# minor = A major pent is better. (F#m pent will also work over D, giving it a Dmaj7 sound. On the G, it accentuates the "lydian" sound of the chord, but it's trickier to make that work.)

So - in terms of pents anyway - I'd say you have two choices on both the D and G, but only one choice on the F#m.

With all of this kind of advice, you just have to try it out for yourself and listen.
Play D major over the F#m. How does that D note sound? (I hope you know which notes in the patterns are D's...) Listen for the C# in the F#m chord, and how the D sits against it.
Likewise, try D major pent on the G and listen to how the F# sounds against the chord.

In both cases, the issue is that the note in question is a half step away from the chord tone - but with D major pent over G, the F# is a half-step below (or maj7 above) which is generally considered a "good" sound. The D on the F#m chord is a half-step above (the C#), which is considered "bad" (the notorious jazz "avoid note"). It can be used, but really needs resolution down to the chord tone - and that chord tone is not in the pentatonic.

Essentially these are the kind of problems you face if (a) you learn patterns and not notes, and (b) you improvise from scales and not from the chords. You gain no understanding, and are reliant on advice like the above - - which could be good or bad, how would you know? You have to trust your ear in the end, of course, but that's so much easier if you start from the chords.
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 22, 2016,
#6
Guys,

Thanks for your great in-depth responses! I have learned a lot just in the past hour or two reviewing them.

The good news is I think I understand what the problem is. Since the G doesn't fall into the pentatonic scale for D major, I was substituting in the G major pentatonic pattern, because it has the G note which obviously works for that chord. However, if I play the the D major pentatonic - even in the G chord - basically it still works, depending. It should - the only difference between the two pentatonic shapes is the one has F#, the other has G. Both are in the D scale. What was confusing me was that sometimes the G just fits better than the F#. But I think I can just chalk that up to sometimes one note sounds better than another in context, even if they're both in the same scale - especially if the note is in the chord being played.

As far as it being easier to start from the chords, that is what I'm shooting for. But there's something re-assuring about having a scale you know you can go to under pressure. For example, in playing the F#m chord, it sounds better playing the flat 7 than the dominant 7th, whereas in G chord it sounds better playing the the dominant 7th then the flat 7, because in both cases you avoid playing F, which isn't in the D major scale. So it may be easier in some ways to work from the chord out, but how do you deal with that case?
Last edited by jackbenimble999 at Aug 22, 2016,
#7
Whether you choose to switch scales is a matter of preference.

the purpose in switching, though, is to accommodate a change in harmony. In most classic progressions, the harmony and melody move away from the sound of the I and go to other parts of the key. More than just changing the chord, it's actually landing on the harmony, like you hear in blues songs when they go to the IV. In that situation, it's appropriate to change scales because the melody is generally expected to accommodate the harmony.
#8
As far as it being easier to start from the chords, that is what I'm shooting for. But there's something re-assuring about having a scale you know you can go to under pressure. For example, in playing the F#m chord, it sounds better playing the flat 7 than the dominant 7th, whereas in G chord it sounds better playing the the dominant 7th then the flat 7, because in both cases you avoid playing F, which isn't in the D major scale. So it may be easier in some ways to work from the chord out, but how do you deal with that case?

By "dominant 7th" I assume you mean "major 7th". (Dominant 7th is a major chord with a minor 7th.)

If the chord doesn't already have a 7th in it, you could decide whether you want to play a major or a minor 7th over it. But the general rule is that over minor chords the 7th is minor. Over major chords the 7th can be either and it depends on the context and the music style we are talking about. In blues every major chord is a dominant 7th and the same can be applied to some rock music too. But if we stay diatonic to the major key, major 7th chords are I and IV and dominant 7th chord is V. When it comes to non-diatonic chords, as I said, the simplest way would be using chord tones + notes in the key scale.

It makes a lot more sense if you learn about chord functions. This makes choosing the scale(s) much easier. You can't really say that "always play scale x over y". It doesn't work that way. It has to do with context. Ear is your guide. Learn to hear the difference between different kind of 7th chords. Also, listen to music and see what other guitarists do and of course just experiment.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#9
Quote by jackbenimble999

The good news is I think I understand what the problem is. Since the G doesn't fall into the pentatonic scale for D major, I was substituting in the G major pentatonic pattern, because it has the G note which obviously works for that chord.
Right. Good plan (for the basic approach).
Quote by jackbenimble999
However, if I play the the D major pentatonic - even in the G chord - basically it still works, depending. It should - the only difference between the two pentatonic shapes is the one has F#, the other has G. Both are in the D scale. What was confusing me was that sometimes the G just fits better than the F#. But I think I can just chalk that up to sometimes one note sounds better than another in context, even if they're both in the same scale - especially if the note is in the chord being played.
Exactly. Sometimes that note works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually you can trace why, which is a lesson in itself.
Quote by jackbenimble999

As far as it being easier to start from the chords, that is what I'm shooting for. But there's something re-assuring about having a scale you know you can go to under pressure. For example, in playing the F#m chord, it sounds better playing the flat 7 than the dominant 7th, whereas in G chord it sounds better playing the the dominant 7th then the flat 7, because in both cases you avoid playing F, which isn't in the D major scale.
Whoah, you stopped making sense. (terminology warning.... )
"Dominant 7th" is a type of chord. I presume you weren't thinking of playing an F#7 chord instead of the F#m? "Dominant" means the 5th step of a scale (of a major or minor key usually), it's not the name for a 7th interval.
"Flat 7", yes (assuming you mean an E note on F#m), although "minor 7th" is the correct term. "Minor" just means "smaller", referring to the fact that it's a half-step lower than the "major" (bigger) 7th. Of course, if we use "minor 7th" for the interval we risk confusion with the chord of that name...

I think you meant "major" 7th, not dominant 7th. That's how your paragraph makes sense.
Quote by jackbenimble999

So it may be easier in some ways to work from the chord out, but how do you deal with that case?
By looking at neighbouring chords.
At least, in this case you can do that with the G. There's an F# note in both the D and F#m chords - so why would you choose F natural when you get to G? That's like a no-brainer, right?
With the F#m, in this case you don't get that hint - there is no E in either of the other chords. But again, E seems a safe bet, rather than E#, yes?
I.e., you add up all the notes in all the chords, and that's your scale. In this case, D F# G A B C#. You're just missing E, and that's an easy guess in between D and F#.
You still begin from the notes in the chord itself. This is just a way to find out what other notes to use in passing.

Adding up every note in every chord in a whole song won't work all the time, of course, because songs can change key, or use various kinds of chromatic chords (borrowed chords, secondary chords). But for any one chord, you can usually add passing notes from the chord before or after.

You can still keep the key scale in mind - you just don't need to assign a different scale to each chord.

I.e., it's a two-pronged strategy:

1: for passing notes between chord tones, use notes from the chords either side. Or from the scale of the key if you know it. Usually that produces the same result, but the chords either side are a more reliable guide (they might not fit the key scale).

2: for chords which have notes outside the key scale, just change key scale notes as necessary; keep the rest. But also check chords either side for passing notes: if they give you different notes from the key scale notes, go with them. The chord after is especially important, if the rogue chord in question is a dom7-type - because it's designed to resolve to that next chord.

99% of the time (outside of blues, but most of the time in jazz too), this strategy works. You need no theoretical knowledge, other than the scale of the key (major or minor) - and even that is not always necessary.

In blues, it's different. You do begin from the scale (blues scale) in that case. You treat the chords as these kind of irritating things that have been added in, and often get in the way - so, OK, you sometimes have to bend the scale to fit the chord . But you can do that half-heartedly, to show you don't really care - because it sounds better that way.
Eg, in a blues in D, you'll be using D minor pent. The D chord has an F# in it. So you bend the F of the minor pent - but not all the way to F#. In between F and F# is the "blue 3rd", and that's the note you really want. Likewise, on the A chord you have a C#, so you bend the C towards the C# but not all the way. Or you just stay with the C - because the theory is that the true "blue 7th" is actually just a little flat of C, not sharp of it - but you'll be following your ear anyway, right, not studying blues theory books....

When you get to jazz (functional, non-modal jazz), you can add a 3rd non-theoretical strategy, which is that all 12 notes are in play at all times. You still start from the notes in each chord, but now your strategy is to build a line to land on the next chord. And jazz loves half-step resolutions, so chromatics of all kinds are fair game. So as well as taking passing notes from chords either side (and/or the local key scale), you can take any chromatic in between them too. Just be aware of where you're heading; the target note concluding your phrase.
Naturally, over time, jazz players have found certain routes through those 12 chromatics that they prefer to other routes (at different times). That's where jazz chord-scale theory comes from. But if you've listened to enough jazz, you'll know the sounds. You'll know, eg, that a half-step below any chord tone is better as an approach note than a half-step above - unless the half-step above is in the previous chord. Upward chromatic approaches are bluesy/jazzy (remember those blues bends). Downward chromatic approaches (from within the chord itself) are exotic/eastern/gypsy/etc. Maybe cool, but not very "American". Jazz is American!
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 23, 2016,
#10
Great ideas, guys. I'm really trying to absorb this material. I'm shooting for being able to play from the chord out so I don't have to worry about scales. But, from the standpoint of someone who has very little experience soloing, and a limited knowledge of the fretboard (at this point), I'm thinking my quickest way to get to effective soloing is to start by identifying the pentatonic scale for whatever song I'm in and use notes from that. Then, by incorporating knowledge of the the chords, start adding in notes from the chord that aren't on the pentatonic if applicable, such as the G note that was causing me issues. Really appreciate the knowledge!
#11
Quote by jackbenimble999
Great ideas, guys. I'm really trying to absorb this material. I'm shooting for being able to play from the chord out so I don't have to worry about scales. But, from the standpoint of someone who has very little experience soloing, and a limited knowledge of the fretboard (at this point), I'm thinking my quickest way to get to effective soloing is to start by identifying the pentatonic scale for whatever song I'm in and use notes from that. Then, by incorporating knowledge of the the chords, start adding in notes from the chord that aren't on the pentatonic if applicable, such as the G note that was causing me issues.
Yes, that's a reasonable starting strategy.
Remember:
1. major pent for major keys, minor pent for minor keys. Except...
2. Blues: minor pent in major keys too.

If you want to stick with the pent of the key chord - if that's easier than thinking about different pents for different chords - that's fine. Use your ear, and listen to how it works with the chords.

In the main though - keep listening to the kind of music you want to improvise on, and try to pick up the language: the rhythms, accents, phrase shapes, embellishments (bends, slides, twiddly bits, etc). It's like learning a foreign language - just knowing the right words isn't enough, you need to get the accent right too. When you hear something you really like, try to work out what it is, any way you can. Look up tab (if it exists), but don't trust it entirely. Use a slowdowner.
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 23, 2016,