Tip: Scales To Use For Soloing Part II

We’re looking at scales to use for soloing. Here’s the progression we’re working with

||: C major, A minor, D minor, G7 :||

Last week we improvised over these chords using the C major pentatonic (see Scales To Use For Soloing for details, including the pentatonic pattern we used).

Is the C major pentatonic the only scale you can use over a progression in C major?

Thankfully, no. We have many choices. Listen carefully to how this next scale plays over the aforementioned changes. This is the G major pentatonic:


The G major pentatonic has none of the notes — F and C — that could cause unacceptable dissonances. Specifically, the F, if present, would clash over a C major and A minor chord, and the C, if present, would clash over a G major and E minor chord.

Let’s generalize this finding so we can play in other keys: if you know a phrase or progression or sub-progression is going to stay within a major key and not stray outside it, instead of playing the major pentatonic from the root of the key center (e.g. C penta within C major), play the major penta from the V of the key center (e.g. G penta). For D major, this means you would use the A major pentatonic pattern, and for G major, you’d use the D major pentatonic pattern.

Next time: improvising with the Blues

Copyright © 2007 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – September 1, 2005 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

Scales and Soloing Series