b5 Blue Note And Other Fun Soloing Tricks.
Students sometimes ask me if there is anything they can do to spice up their minor pentatonic solos.
There sure is, and we’ll discuss some tricks and techniques in today’s blog.
I’ll show you a couple of notes you can add to your pentatonic scale. It’s simple to pull off, yet it will make a huge difference in your soloing.
Let’s pick A minor as key.
The notes in an A minor pentatonic scale are A C D E G
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Here’s a couple of notes you can add to that minor pentatonic scale.
- You could add the F# note on the 7th fret B string.
From tonic A to F# is a major 6th interval. This raised 6th adds a Dorian sound to the pentatonic scale.
Joe Satriani does exactly that in the 5th bar of the “Satch Boogie” solo. This can be heard in the playing of Dokken’s George Lynch, Jeff Watson, and many others.
- You can add the b5 (Eb).
The b5 appears on 2 locations in the A minor pentatonic root fingering: on the G string (8th fret) and on the A string (6th fret)
It’s a really cool, bluesy sound that adds a lot of character to the minor pentatonic scale.
There are 3 ways you can use that added b5
- You can use it as a passing note (D D# E)
- You can use it as a chromatic approach note. In that case it resolves up a half step (D# – E) or down a half step (Eb – D) to the neighboring note of the A minor pentatonic scale.
- Or you can be more creative with it and randomly jump onto the Eb note without resolving it up or down a half step.
Interestingly enough: most guitar players tend to use the b5 as a passing note, but it’s when you don’t use it as a passing note or approach note, that the blue note color of the b5 really shines. That’s when it really sounds like a blue note.
After all: passing notes and approach notes don’t feel like “important notes”. They are merely notes you “pass by” or use as a means to move to, or approach, another targeted note in the scale.
As a result: not using the b5 as a passing note or approach note, emphasizes the unique color of the b5.
You can hear all this in the video down the page.
- b5 Pedal Point
There are of course more things you could do with that b5.
Here’s a really cool thing to do: use the b5 as the pedal note from which you create pedal point lines. In case you need to brush up on what pedal point is: Pedal Point
This creates really nice melody lines and colors in your improvisation.
You’re basically repeating the Eb note, alternating between Eb and a note of the A minor pentatonic scale.
As an example, you could hit the notes: Eb – E – Eb – G – Eb – A – Eb – C – Eb – A – Eb – G etc…
This is merely an example of course: I could have written any sequence of A minor pentatonic scale notes, as long as they keep alternating with an Eb note.
That Eb note is the pedal.
Hear this fun soloing technique in following video:
- You could add D#dim7 arpeggio melodies (D# F# A) in A minor.
This is where all the above comes together.
Guitar students oftentimes make surprised faces when they first learn that D#dim and D#dim7 can be used in A minor pentatonic solos.
D#dim7 seems so far removed from the key of A minor, that it seems inconceivable that a D#dim chord could work within a key that consists of all white keys of the piano.
It more than works: it creates really great new colors.
First off, the reason why this works becomes clear when you look at what the notes are in a D#dim chord.
We already know that adding the major 6th to the minor pentatonic scale sounds really good and works really well.
We already know that the added b5 sounds really good and works really well too.
We also know that in the key of A minor, those 2 added notes are F# and Eb/D#
Well as turns out:
- The notes in a D#dim triad are: D# F# A
- The notes in a D#dim7 chord are: D# F# A C
Analyzing the notes in the D#dim triad in relationship to the A minor scale:
- D# = Eb = the b5 in Am
- F# = the raised 6th in A minor, giving the dorian sound
- A = the root in the A minor scale.
- C = the minor 3rd in the A minor scale.
D#dim7 contains both the dorian note and the b5 blue note within the chord, as well as the tonic and the minor 3rd of the scale.
As you might know: the dim7 chord is a symmetrical chord. Learn more here about symmetrical chords and scales
One of the features of symmetrical harmony is that you can move the exact same chord shape up or down x number of frets, and you keep hitting the exact same chord.
In the case of the diminished chord: you can move your dim chord shape up in 3 fret distances.
When you move your D#dim7 chord shape up 3 frets on the guitar neck, it is a D#dim7 chord again, then another 3 frets up from there and you have the same chord again, and so on.
Knowing this, allows you to create fun arpeggiated D#dim7 lines within the A minor key.
The following video showcases the above ideas.
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