Breaking out the Pentatonic, Pt 4

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Lesson 3: The Harmonic Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We draw inspiration from the darker sounding harmonic minor scale and replace the flattened 7th we normally use with the natural seventh. Before we get deep into theory, the scale shape looks like this:

The Theory

To create this scale we firstly worked out the harmonic minor scale, which looks like this

Harmonic Minor 

1st, 2nd, b3rd, 4th, 5th, b6th, 7th

The key difference between this scale and the natural minor scale is the 7th (which is b7th in the natural minor). Therefore, our concept is to take the minor pentatonic and replace the b7th with the 7th to create the ‘harmonic minor pentatonic!’<

Harmonic minor pentatonic 

1st, b3rd, 5th, b6th, 7th

This scale can be used over basic minor progressions, but be careful to use the 7th degree as a tension note, resolving quickly to the root or b6th. You can also use the scale over a harmonic minor backing track, which uses the notes of the harmonic minor scale to harmonise the chords. Basic examples of this would be to use a major chord on the 5 chord, rather than minor. For example, you could play Am to E major and use your A harmonic minor pentatonic perfectly over that. Have some fun experimenting with it!

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