Musicians of any kind, and notably guitar players, know the significant role the pentatonic scale plays in many genres. We use it EVERYWHERE in blues, country, and rock. But, it can be easy to forget that pentatonics can be a useful tool in jazz improvisation as well.
In his course, Pentatonic Palettes for Jazz Guitar, Sean McGowan shows you actionable ways to incorporate this versatile scale in your jazz playing.
Here are 9 free pentatonic jazz guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Sean McGowan’s Pentatonic Palettes for Jazz Guitar on TrueFire!
Combining Inversions & Sidestepping
Now we can use our pentatonic substitutions in all the regions of the fretboard by combining different scales and forms. This allows us to emphasize various color tones in each region. Another way to create interesting colors is by employing chromatic side-stepping.
Minor 6 Kumoi Scale
This extremely versatile pentatonic scale will sound great in minor seventh, sixth, and minor-major settings. It offers a useful alternative to the more common Dorian and Melodic Minor scales. It also sounds awesome over Jazz Blues and traditional ii-V-I(i) progressions.
Exploring Hirajoshi & More
There are many different pentatonic scales available to use in improvisation. Another colorful pentatonic that, in root position, implies a natural minor (Aeolian) sound is the Hirajoshi. It is a fantastic alternative to the Kumoi, and also can be easily applied to more common harmonic settings such as Major7/Lydian#11 chords, m7(b5)/Locrian chords, etc. You’ll be surprised at how much your phrasing is affected by thinking of and employing these pentatonic regions and substitutions, as opposed to modes.
Two Five One Etude: 3e
This étude explores a ii-V-I-VI turnaround. You might also notice some Kumoi substitutions for different colors over the V7 and VI7(V7/ii) chords. To keep things simple, we’ll use the “chromatic neighborhoods” concept from the previous étude.
Fall Foliage: Overview
Our first performance étude is based on the classic jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves”. This étude will feature several substitution devices we explored using the Minor Pentatonic, Kumoi, and Dominant scales and regions.
Fall Foliage: Performance
Here, I’ll perform this étude up to speed so you can hear how it sounds at tempo. Then, I’ll break it down slowly so you can follow along.
Fall Foliage: Breakdown
Let’s break this one down!
This next étude explores a medium-up tempo modal song. It moves between D and Eb Dorian tonal centers, and is based on the changes to “So What” and “Impressions”. The solo features colorful minor pentatonic substitutions and chromatic side-stepping. These techniques help create some ‘outside’ sounds.
Here’s my performance of this piece. For the full tab and notation, hit the link above!
Digging these free pentatonic jazz guitar lessons from Sean McGowan? Check out his full course, Pentatonic Palettes for Jazz Guitar.