Combining Modal & Pentatonic Scales
Welcome to lesson 4 of the minor blues course. In the last lesson, we started out improvisation study by pentatonic scale soloing. We also explored how to start improvising over a minor blues progression with the minor blues scale. In this lesson, we’re going to introduce some more interesting and exotic sounding scales we can use over the form.
What Scales Will We Be Using?
A variety of modal scales can be played over the chords of the minor blues progression. If you are not familiar with modal scales, check out the course on Scales & Modes For Improv
The scales we’ll cover are:
- The Dorian Scale
- The Locrian Scale
- The Melodic Minor Scale
- The Altered Scale
- The Diminished Half-Whole Scale
The Dorian Mode
We start by playing the first 8 bars of the form with the Dorian modes of Cm7 and Fm7. The scale degree formula is R-2-b3-4-5-6-b7 but you can also related the mode to the parent scale. Each Dorian mode contains the same notes as the major scale built a whole step below the root of the Dorian mode.
C Dorian is based off the Bb major scale and contains the exact same notes, just played from C to C,
F Dorian is based off the Eb major scale, containing the exact same notes, but played from F to F
Last 4 Bars: Minor II-V-I Progression In Disguise
In the last four bars of the form, we can think of the Ab7 chord as a tritone substitution of Dm7b5, which would precede the G7 going to Cm7 to create a complete minor 251. We can extend the melodic possibilities by choosing modal scales for D-7b5 and superimposing these over the Ab7.
The Altered G7 Chord – Scale Options
The G7 chord is going to resolve to a C minor chord and so this gives us the opportunity to introduce an altered mode or scale contiaining altered tensions. The G mixolydian mode may not be the most suitable because it is derived from Major Scale Harmony.
Instead, we’re going to use the G altered mode, and the G diminished half whole scale. Both of these scales contain altered tensions which are well suited to playing over the V7alt chord in minor 251 progressions.
A Choice Of Scales For The i Minor Chord
For the final Cm7, we have the option of instead playing a C minor major 7th chord. This is the same as the minor 7th chords except the 7th has been raised up a half step to the major 7th.
This opens up further melodic possibilities. We can play C melodic minor, which has a cool mysterious tone that is a great choice to end the tune.
It’s also worth noting that you can also play this scale over the other Cm7 chords prior in the form to access some more interesting and exotic note choices.
Minor Blues Progression PDF File Type: pdf
Experiment with the different modal scales covered in this tutorial.
Notice that the major 6th is a characteristic flavor tone of Dorian Scale, and differentiates it from the minor blues scale.
The Ab7 can be viewed as an inversion of D-7b5. The D Locrian Mode is then a great choice of scale for melodic improvisation.
The G Altered Mode contains the same notes as the Ab Melodic Minor Scale (alsno known as the jazz minor scale) played from G to G.
The G Altered Mode contains the b9, #9, b5(#11), and the #5. Lot's of great sounding altered tensions!
The G Diminished Half Whole scale is constructed by playing alternating half and whole steps from G to G.
The G Dim. HW Scale contains the b9, #9, #4, 5, and 6. The scale is made up of 8 notes which make it useful for playing in 4/4 time.