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Digging Deeper: Pentatonic Chords


Ex. 4 offers some angular lines mixed with more typical pentatonic sounds. You’ll see some of the new chord voicings, but notice how each note is played separately, like an arpeggio. This illustrates how chord voicings can inform your single-note lines. I think it’s an exciting way to be “playing a chord” instead of strumming it. Some voicings are played straight up, some straight down, while others will be more random to create a melodic angularity. I try to balance this all out with stepwise lines played straight from the root-position minor pentatonic scale.

Ex. 5 opens up the compositional possibilities of these new harmonies. Here, we’re essentially incorporating some of our new chords into pentatonic-based riffs. When you encounter the voicings, they become the new chord changes (as opposed to being superimposed over a static harmony, as in the previous examples). By chromatically approaching one of the chords, we get to insert some fusion-inspired sounds in this example.

This approach to studying the minor pentatonic scale will extend your knowledge of its sounds and enrich your chord vocabulary. And remember, you can play these voicings as harmony or arpeggiate them to create lines. I encourage you to explore these sounds as a source of new licks, new progressions, and—most importantly—new ideas for developing your own voice. Perhaps this will inspire you to explore other scales in a similar way. You might be surprised with what you find!

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