What Is The Best Scale For Your Solo, Major or Minor?

The pentatonic minor and major scales are really a thing a beauty. They work incredibly well as a lead-playing device, in many different circumstances. This video demonstrates several different chord progressions, keys, and tonalites, and compares the effects of pentatonic major versus minor in them. The result might be unexpected depending on your understanding of theory. Hopefully by the end of this video, you will have a better idea of when you can and can't (or should and shouldn't) be rocking out in one of these scales. 


Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

The pentatonic major and minor scales are both incredibly versatile and useful scales. But for me personally, it took a really long time to get a good grasp on. When should I be choosing one of these scales versus the other? So what I've done in this video is I've arranged seven different musical scenarios that we can go through one by one and test what pentatonic major sounds and feels like versus pentatonic minor you see in certain scenarios, you're going to be able to get away with playing one of these scales and it's going to sound fantastic, but you might Be able to get away with playing the other one without sounding really gross in other instances. It's going to be up to you and your judgment taste and preference to pick between either of these scales because they will both work in the same context and then there's other instances where you want to think about using both of these scales at the same time switching back and forth between them to create a really unique effect. Now if you're interested in playing along on your own with these tracks, I have posted extended versions of them on my patreon, there's links and information below in the description. Well, let's get started with our first musical scenario, which is Is going to be just an E. Major chord, that's it. Our arrangement though is going to be strummed guitars with some drums bass guitar and an organ program then.

Now that's really simple if you think about all the notes were hearing. It's just EG sharpen be and if we look at the notes of our e pentatonic major scale, you'll see it includes the notes EG sharpen be so it would be a very safe assumption to think that e pentatonic major would work really well on top of just an E major chord and if I play that as a guitar player it's going to be really easy to get like a Jerry Garcia Allman Brothers kind of vibe going.

Now e pentatonic major is the obvious choice for just an E major.

However, we can get away with playing e pentatonic minor here as well. And it's a totally different effect to me. It's like a bull in the china shop effect. You've got this Happy pristine little major chord, and we're just throwing dirt. All over it by playing pentatonic minor Instead This creates a lot of dissonance. It creates a lot of clashing between the minor third G in the in the pentatonic minor scale and the major third G sharp, which is in the underlying cord and we actually like this dissonance. This is the foundation of Blues Harmony Blues Harmony is not the seven diatonic notes. It's not modal.

It's bluesy and just by playing a pentatonic minor scale over just e-major. You're going to hear how bluesy that can sound.

Now the important thing to note here is that both of those choices are totally valid.

When should you pick one over the other? Well that all depends on the context of your song. Let's say this is a song with really sweet vocal lines on top and harmonized vocal leads, you know and something softer. Well, I think pentatonic major would probably be the better bet.

But you know, if you've got like raspy vocals and a lot more yelling than I feel like pentatonic minor would probably be the more judicious Choice there. Let's take a look at a different example instead of e major. Let's take that same Arrangement, but just play it with an E minor instead. So just fast drumming on an E minor.

So now all we have ringing out are the notes EG and B. Those are the notes of an E minor chord. So playing e pentatonic minor on top of this that includes those three notes and it would be a very safe bet it should work just fine.

Now that sounds great. But if we try to play the pentatonic major scale on top of this cord things are really not going to work out too. Well.

I'm hesitant to say that music can be wrong. But that's just wrong. That sounds really bad to my ears. And I'm sure it probably does too yours too. And what's going on here is that that whole Blues Harmony thing we talked about really only works. If you have an intact major chord that you're discoloring with higher, you know minor things like a minor thirds and minor sevenths, but if you try to reverse it, it just doesn't work. If you have this semi-stable Minor triad and you start adding in major thirds above it. It just becomes confusing to the ear and it really doesn't A bluesy sound or really any consonant sounds at all. So generally my advice is don't try to use pentatonic major on top of a minor tonic. Let's expand Beyond one chord. Now what if we had an E major chord going to an a major chord and our Arrangement here will be on an acoustic guitar while also adding some synthesizers some bass guitar and some World beat drums.

Now if I add up all the notes that we're hearing here, they all come from the e major scale and really this is screaming out to me e pentatonic major because it seems kind of built for E pentatonic major, so it shouldn't be a surprise to us. That's that scale will work great here.

But due to the nature of pentatonic minor and this whole Blues Harmony thing we're talking about we can still get away with playing pentatonic minor here. It doesn't work as well in my opinion as playing over just an e-book. It's still not disagreeable.

However, I just have to warn you. I feel it's very easy to get like bad guitar solo territory by rocking out. Not like minor over something that's clearly calling for major. So just be aware if that's really the right choice for the right time to choose.

Here's an example of some improv that I did that I thought was kind of annoying and not that inspired.

But then later on I came across this cool little Groove. That's all in pentatonic minor and I wouldn't have done this normally because I would have normally thought of pentatonic major here. So just by making myself go into pentatonic minor Able to come across this really nice little grew section that I really wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

Now let's expand into something a lot more harmonically rich and let's leave behind this e major stuff. Let's go into the key of D major instead in the key of D. I've got this chord progression of put together. It's a dese us to and then an a major. That's the 5 chord and then a 3 that is the D minor and then I'm going to go to the 4 and the 5 G and a and then back to DC us, too.

Now there are a lot of those floating around from the D major scale there. And if I just try to lay the pentatonic minor scale on top of that, you know, we can get away with it. But in my opinion it's starts bordering on being a bad choice. Just take a listen.

They're certainly moments there where it comes across really well, but I think for the most part it's kind of missing the point. We've got so much major richness going on here and we've completely ignored the major tonality.

So instead let's shift TD pentatonic major and take a listen to what that sounds like.

Now that sounds great. But there were moments of the pentatonic minor stuff. I really Joy to so what about trying to combine both of these? Let's stay in pentatonic major for the most part and then maybe near the end of that measure will throw in a little bit of pentatonic minor create a little bit of Soulful interest to kind of change things up a bit.

Now let's take the total opposite of this chord progression instead of being in the diatonic key of D major. Let's go into the diatonic key of D Minor instead and the chord progression I've written is just a D Minor. That's the one chord we're going to go to the 5 chord a minor and then we're going to go to the four chord which is G minor and then the 6 chord B flat to the 7 C and then back to D Minor since all of these notes and all these chords came from the D minor scale and All the notes of pentatonic minor are also from the D minor scale. It should be, you know a safe assumption to think the deep end atonic miners going to sound great over this.

Now just like our second example, if we try to play D pentatonic major on top of this we're all going to have a bad time.

You chose?

One as you can hear pentatonic major just really doesn't work on top of minor based tonics, but let's move on to a classic Blues chord progression a 12 Bar Blues in the key of G would consist of the chords G7 C7 and D7 and if you add up all those notes, it's outside of a key. It is no longer diatonic the whole idea of the Blues as you're not just using seven notes of a major scale or a mode. You're really breaking that rule all together and you're going into a different kind of Harmony, but with that 12 Bar Blues chord progression most lead players are going to see that. And think to play G pentatonic minor and that's a really safe bet it gives us a classic blue sound.

However, you can play pentatonic major over that same 12 Bar Blues and there's going to be a lot of really nice moments over the tonic and over the four quarters as well.

So just like before let's try to go between both of these scales. There's going to be moments where we grab from pentatonic minor to develop that nice gritty bluesy sound and then we can really sweeten things up by introducing bits of pentatonic major.

now our last example is actually multiple examples all under the umbrella of songs that are my nourish and what I mean by my nourish is that they still The minor tonic they were based on a minor chord, but they might not actually be in a minor key. So we're thinking we're talking about modal stuff things that are in harmonic minor but as well, if you've got a chord progression that's in harmonic minor for example, something like C minor to D diminished 7, that's diatomic to see harmonic minor and even though see harmonic minor has a natural seventh in it has a be in there and even though pentatonic minor would have a B-flat that seems like it would create a lot of clashing and problems. But actually pentatonic minor just rocks over a chord progression that's diatonic to harmonic minor. So just by playing those two chords and rock it out Pentatonix on top. Here's what you get.

But since that's a minor tonic you're not going to be able to get away with playing pentatonic major on top of it. Similarly if you're in a Dorian Pentatonic minor works just fine. If you look at all the notes of a Dorian and if you look at all the notes of a pentatonic minor you'll realize that all those notes are in there. So if I'm playing a Dorian progression like a minor 7 to D7, I can play a pentatonic minor on top of that and it's a great lead device.

You could also get away with playing a pentatonic minor if you were in the key of a fridge again, I wouldn't really recommend it though because it's just not going to help develop a phrygian tonality and fridge against one of those hard tonalities to maintain unless you're using that flat 2 and since pentatonic minor doesn't have a flat to it's really not the best choice for a phrygian jam. So let's Briefly summarize our findings. The pentatonic minor scale can be used almost anywhere. You just have to use your good judgment to really figure out if it's an appropriate. Time for it but it's actually available as a lead device in many many different Keys, even if their major base tonics, however, the inverse doesn't work. You really shouldn't be thinking about playing pentatonic major if you have a minor tonic underneath and a few things, I didn't mention in this video because I didn't want to go too far into modes or Advanced scales is that pentatonic minor also works really good as if you're playing in a mixolydian key the same kind of Blues Harmony thing applies, you've got this major tonic and you're kind of thrashing out over the top of it with a minor third works really good gives you like an AC/DC effect and pentatonic minor works really bad. If you're in a phrygian dominant key the whole point of phrygian dominant is to have a flat to which isn't in in pentatonic minor and to have a major three which also isn't in pentatonic minor. So if you're in phrygian dominant playing pentatonic minor is just a good way to ruin that tonality and it wouldn't be recommended unless you're going for something really abstract. So I hope you enjoyed this video. I hope you learned something and I hope you enjoyed my improv playing if you enjoyed this video you have to thank my awesome patreon supporters for making it possible. They've been sponsoring these videos. I appreciate and I hope you do as well. If you'd like to join them you can there's links Below in the description. If you can't do that though. I would appreciate a like subscribe comment. All that stuff helps me out. So thanks for watching and I will see you next time.


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