Watch the Major Pentatonic Applications online guitar lesson by Kenny Wessel from Shades of Jazz
In this section we're going to look at the major pentatonic scale and explore what happens when we alter the scale. We've been talking about the minor pentatonic scale thus far (1, b3, 4, 5, b7). As you may know, the major pentatonic is a mode of the minor pentatonic scale. By that, I mean it contains the same 5 notes, but targets different pitches or scale degrees. In other words, an A minor pentatonic scale (A, C, D, E, G) is the same as a C major pentatonic scale (C, D, E, G, A), but it just starts on (and targets) a different note. The major pentatonic scale contains the scale degrees: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. All the same fingerings, folks, just different target notes!
Now that the introduction is out of the way, what we're going to get into in this section is altering the major pentatonic scale. By altering the scale, I mean changing the notes. I think its instructive and helpful to do this gradually and systematically, so lets start with altering one note at a time. And by altering, lets just change the pitch by a half step, either up or down.
For instance - we can take a G major pentatonic (1, 2, 3, 5, 6 or G, A, B, D, E) and flat the 6th degree of the scale. In this case, the 6th degree is the E, so lets change that to an Eb. Our new scale is now G, A, B, D, Eb. We can call that a G major b6 pentatonic. Or we can take a G major pentatonic and flat the 3rd degree of the scale. The 3rd is a B, so lets make it a Bb. Our new scale is now, G, A, Bb, D, E. We can call that a G major b3 pentatonic. You can do this on any note in the scale, alter 2 or 3 notes at once, and create lots of new scales and sounds - I encourage you to explore this and find some personal stuff here. For now we'll look at a couple of these choices and check out the applications.