Pentatonic Exercise

Strength of the Pentatonic Scale

Pentatonic scales are used extensively in many different musical styles and their use has been extended in Jazz. Pentatonic scales have a strong independent sound and “it is very easy to perceive them as bitonal elements of top of the harmony” (van de Geyn, 2011, p.8) QT Geyn2011a.

In a instruction video form the 80ties John Scofield1 talks about his approach to pentatonic scales. The following table summarizes the available inside sounding options2 according to chord type:

Chord Type HVG HVG HVG Scofield
CMaj7 A- E- B- C, A-, D, Ddom penta, B-
C-7 G- C- C-, G-, D-,
C-Maj7 D-
C7(9 13) A- C, Cdom , Ddom, G-
C7alt Eb- Eb-
C7ΓΈ7 F- Eb- Ab dom

Single pentatonic major scale of a changing chords

The following is an exercise I designed for students on an intermediate level that helps them perform pentatonic major (and their relative minor) scales all over the neck on all 4 strings in different positions. It’s build around the chords of Sunny3 a tune from with a melody based only on minor pentatonic notes but with changing chords.

In the following version in E minor adhering strictly to the E minor/G major pentatonic scale will create tension on certain chords but overall strong melodic motion will. In the “The Serious Jazz Book II” B. Finnerty4 lists similar exercises with arpeggios4 or different cells.

Here is the exercise with piano and bass:

The exercise I uploaded to the Musescore website with advanced midi playback (but no chord playback):


  1. Scofield, J. (1983). John Scofield on improvisation. ↩︎

  2. Scofield also refers to a “dominant pentatonic scale”: C D E G Bb. ↩︎

  3. Sunny by Bobby Hebb (1966) ↩︎

  4. Finnerty, B. (2008). The Serious Jazz Book II. Sher Music. cf. “Part 2 - An Integral Part Of Seven Diatonic Scales And Their Modes”. ↩︎