Creative Minor Pentatonic Scale Chord Progressions.
Guitar players love the pentatonic scale.
Many rhythm guitar players, in jam sessions with another guitar player who primarily uses the minor pentatonic scale, tend to only play the chords of that minor scale.
As an example:
The soloing guitarist is improvising with the A minor pentatonic scale: meanwhile, the accompanying rhythm guitarist strums chords from the A minor scale. (Making up chord progressions with the chords: Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em, F, G).
However: as a rhythm guitarist backing up a pentatonic-based improviser, there is much more you can do harmonically than just playing the chords of an A minor/C major scale.
First off: the A minor scale has the same notes as a C major scale. We call these “relative scales”.
“Relative scales” are different scales that consist of the same 7 notes.
- The C major scale = the notes C D E F G A B C.
This scale sounds like a C major scale when it is played over a C chord or over a chord progression in the key of C.
- The A minor scale = the notes A B C D E F G A.
This scale sounds like an A minor scale when it is played over an Am chord or over a chord progression in the key of A minor.
When you take the notes F and B out of the C major scale or the A minor scale, you get a C major pentatonic and an A minor pentatonic scale.
The notes in the A minor pentatonic scale are:
A C D E G
“Pentatonic substitution” is where you play different pentatonic scales over a given chord.
For example, most guitar players tend to solo only using an A minor (C major) pentatonic scale when they see a C chord.
However you can also solo over a C chord with:
- D minor pentatonic scale: the notes are D F G A C
- E minor pentatonic scale: the notes are E G A B D
- B minor pentatonic scale: the notes are B D E F# A . This creates a C Lydian sound over the C chord, with the F# note.
Try it out.
It’s tons of fun to solo with these different minor pentatonic scales over a C chord groove.
Hit up anytime if you would like me to email you a 1-chord C groove backing track.
When you look at the notes in the D and E minor pentatonic scales, these are different 5-note versions of the C major scale.
You could think of them as partial C major scales.
Leaving the B minor pentatonic scale out (which creates a C Lydian scale sound over a C chord): following minor pentatonic scales give different 5-note combinations of notes in the C major scale:
- A minor pentatonic scale = A C D E G
- D minor pentatonic scale = D F G A C
- E minor pentatonic scale = E G A B D
As you can tell: these 3 minor pentatonic scales all consist of white keys only. So in essence, they’re all 5-note C major scale versions.
So now, let’s add in the remaining 2 missing notes in these 3 minor pentatonic scales.
First off: let’s switch to their relative major scales.
The relative major scale, which you now know is the major scale that has the same notes as that minor scale, is up 3 frets from the minor scale root.
- A minor scale, up 3 frets from A, is C major scale. (C major scale and A minor scale have the same notes)
- D minor scale, up 3 frets from D, is an F major scale. (F major scale and D minor scale have the same notes)
- E minor scale, up 3 frets from E, is a G major scale. (G major scale and E minor scale have the same notes)
Writing out all 7 notes of these 3 scales:
The notes in a C major scale are: C D E F G A B C
The notes in an F major scale are: F G A Bb C D E F
The notes in a G major scale are: G A B C D E F# G
Notice how the key of C, the key of F, and the key of G, have the notes of an A minor pentatonic scale in them: A C D E G
The chords in these 3 scales are:.
The chords in a C major scale are: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C
The chords in an F major scale are: F Gm Am Bb C Dm Edim F
The chords in a G major scale are: G Am Bm C D Em F#dim G
Since, as shown above, these 3 major scales, all have the notes of an A minor pentatonic scale in them, that means that you can play an A minor pentatonic scale, over any chord combination of chords that are in these 3 scales.
You are now, as a rhythm player, no longer confined to just the 7 chords of a C major scale.
You could play any of the following chords:
C, Dm, D, Em, Edim, F, F#dim, G, Gm, Am, Bb, Bdim, Bm
You get even more options when you play their 4-note versions, called “7th chords”:
The 7th chords in a C major scale are: Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bm7b5
The 7th chords in an F major scale are: Fmaj7 Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7 Dm7 Em7b5
The 7th chords in a G major scale are: Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 F#m7b5
Putting these chords in alphabetical order starting from C:
Cmaj7, C7, Dm7, D7, Em7, Em7b5, Fmaj7, F#m7b5, Gmaj7, G7, Gm7, Am7, Bbmaj7, Bm7b5, Bm7
Adding in the triads:
C, Cmaj7, C7, D, Dm, Dm7, D7, Em, Em7, Edm, Em7b5, F, Fmaj7, F#dim, F#m7b5, G, Gm, Gmaj7, G7, Gm7, Am, Am7, Bb, Bbmaj7, Bdim, Bm7b5, Bm, Bm7
Chords Taken From Blues
It doesn’t end there: there are more chords.
In major blues, the preferred scale of choice for improvisation is the A minor pentatonic scale.
The chords in a blues in A are A7, D7, and E7.
Blues guys predominantly use the A minor pentatonic scale to solo over these chords.
When we now update the list of chords, we get:
C, Cmaj7, C7, D, Dm, Dm7, D7, Em, Em7, Edm, Em7b5, E, E7, F, Fmaj7, F#dim, F#m7b5, G, Gm, Gmaj7, G7, Gm7, Am, Am7, A, A7, Bb, Bbmaj7, Bdim, Bm7b5, Bm, Bm7
That is 32 chords.
This is a huge step forward from the 14 (7 triads and seven 7th) chords of the C major/A minor scale most guitar players only play when jamming with a pentatonic-based soloist.
Cool Chord Progressions for the A Minor Pentatonic Scale
You can literally combine any of the above 32 chords any way you want, but here are some cool chord progressions for you to have fun with next time you’re jamming with someone who’s playing pentatonic-oriented guitar solos.
G | F | C | Bb D
A7 | G7 | C7 | D7 |
Blues in A: chords are A7, D7 and E7
>Blues in G: chords are G7, C7 and D7
You could combine these 2 blues keys into 1 longer chord progression.
G7 | D7 | C7 | A7 | D7 | E7
G7 A7 C7 D7 E7
Gm Bb D7
Cmaj7 Bbmaj7 Gmaj7 Fmaj7
Bb 1 chord groove (Lydian)
Bb | A | C | Dm |
F G A7 Bb
F G A Bb C D
F Gm A
F Gm A Bb C D Em
Be creative with this. Come up with your own chord progressions combining any of those 32 chords.
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