5 Jazzy Pentatonic Scale Patterns

As many guitarists begin playing rock, blues and pop music before exploring jazz, one of the first scales we have under our fingers are the various positions of the major and minor pentatonic scales.

To help you translate these commonly used scales to a jazz context, here are 5 jazz pentatonic scale patterns that you can work on in the woodshed as you bring your pentatonic knowledge into the jazz realm.

While the examples in this lesson are applied to the first position of a minor pentatonic scale, any of these patterns can be applied to any position of any pentatonic scale that you know or are working on in the practice room.

While each pattern in this lesson is written in ascending order only, you can also practice these patterns descending any pentatonic scale that you apply them to in your jazz guitar practice routine.

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 1 – 123

The first pattern consists of a 3-note grouping that you play from each note in the scale. When doing so, you produce a 123, 234, 345, etc. pattern as you ascend the scale with this three-note shape.

As was noted in the intro, make sure to work this, and any, pattern ascending and descending the scale as you expand upon it further in your jazz guitar practice routine.

 

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 1-png

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 2 – Left vs. Right 1

The next scale pattern is based on the left vs. right nature of any pentatonic scale shape. When you play pentatonic scale using two notes per string, you have a left side of the scale (the notes closest to the nut) and a right side of the scale (the notes closest to the pickups).

You can use this construction to your advantage when working on pentatonic scale patterns by playing two notes on the left side of the scale followed by two notes on the right side.

When doing so, you are emphasizing a lot of 4th intervals within the scale, which produces a modern sounding pattern as you ascend and descend the scale in your practicing and jazz guitar soloing ideas.

 

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 2-png

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 3 – Left vs. Right 2

You can also play 3 notes on each side of the scale, as you can see and hear in the next scale pattern.

When playing this pentatonic scale pattern, make sure that you make three-note group connected, yet don’t let them ring so much that they sound like a chord being strummed.

Aim for connected, yet not overlapping, sounds when playing each of these three-note shapes on either side of the pentatonic scale in your practice and soloing ideas based on this pattern.

 

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 3-png

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 4 – Enclosures

This pattern applies a commonly used Bebop concept, the Enclosure, to each of the notes in a pentatonic scale.

There are many variations of the enclosure in jazz, but the one we’ll focus on uses one fret above, one fret below, and then the target note from the scale.

When applying enclosures to the minor pentatonic scale, as you can hear in the example below, there is an outside/tense sound that is created with the two chromatic notes, which are then resolved into each note in the underlying scale.

 

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 4-png

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 5 – Side Stepping

The final pattern comes from a concept commonly used by saxophonist John Coltrane, among others, and it is called “Side Stepping.”

This technique uses two pentatonic scales, your tonic scale and one a fret higher, to build an “inside-outside” or “tension and release” sound in your practicing and soloing ideas.

In this example, you will play 4 notes from the A minor pentatonic scale, followed by 4 notes from the Bb minor pentatonic scale, alternating between these two scales as you ascend all six strings on the fretboard.

This pattern can be a bit dissonant for some players, but give it a try as you might be surprised at how quickly your ears will adjust and this type of slippery, outside sound becomes normal in both your technical and improvisational patterns.

 

 

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 5-png

 

After you have worked on any, or all, of these scale patterns, try putting on a backing track, perhaps starting with Am7, and soloing over that track using one or more of these patterns as the basis for your improvised lines.

Scale patterns are a great way to learn new scales, develop your technique on the guitar, as well as provide you material that you can apply to your jazz guitar solos at the same time.

 

Do you have a question or comment about these 5 pentatonic scale patterns? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 




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  1. jimiestMay 5, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Lo maximo

  2. JazzyBobMay 6, 2014 at 12:11 am

    As a basic jazz guitarist this set of scales is priceless and will be used by me in some way every time I play. Thank you so very much.

  3. AsquaredMay 6, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Great, thanks. Some simple yet effective ways to move from rock/blues to jazz. Just what I was looking for.

  4. billyMay 6, 2014 at 4:41 am

    Thank you soo much. I am poor and can not afford lesson but it is because of your freely giving that I can learn. God bless you.

  5. sunnyMay 6, 2014 at 5:28 am

    great lesson…, keep’em coming please..!!!

  6. WILHELMMay 6, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Hi Dirk,
    I was moved by “BILLY’S” comment (May 6th).It highlights the fact that your web site is not JUST a great resource for budding Blues/Jazz guitarists:it’s a great example of caring and sharing.Perhaps it’s the yardstick by which others should be measured.
    Billy wrote:
    “I am poor and can not afford lesson but it is because of your freely giving that I can learn. God bless you.”
    Amen, to that.
    Wilhelm

  7. DarrellMay 6, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Thanks so much for the valuable information that is helping me become a better player.

  8. GeorgeKMay 6, 2014 at 8:34 am

    A great site wonderful lessons, tutorials and comments however the sheer scale of content in learning jazz guitar or any other jazz instrument, is overpowering. Not only where does one start but which strand does one follow after starting! Life is certaily NOT boring!

  9. Paul GerardsMay 6, 2014 at 9:17 am

    very nice to play on altered chords: thanx!!

  10. QbaMay 6, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Good lesson for begin.

  11. IlyaMay 6, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Great lesson,The Teacher!

    IMHO also is interesting to know pentatonic’s chords (6 notes on each side of penta-tonik!), beacose :1) it make us remember pentatonic’s 5 shapes 2) it’s ready for cascading harmonics runs.

  12. ConMay 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Hi instead of the “PLAY” button showing on the written music examples, I now have a large grey Soundcloud icon with little line of text saying COOKIE POLICY ?

    • Matt WarnockMay 6, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Hey

      It looks fine now, sometimes Soundcloud will have a momentary issue. Try it again and if it’s still not worked it might be something else and we can help you fix that up. Thanks!

  13. emefemMay 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Great lessons. For the beginners like me it would be better if you could add the proper fingers to be used in the patterns.

  14. Rick WinfieldMay 6, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I believe that John McLaughlin,(back in the day) used the style of exercise #5,mixing them up at light speed!
    Very effective

  15. lil-worksMay 6, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for these patterns.
    Have a look to Jerry Bergonzi patterns. It’s a great approach for pentatonic.
    I write an article about bergonzi pentatonics patterns (for french speakers here)
    http://www.lil-works.com/atelier-pentatoniques-oriente-guitare/

  16. raulzMay 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Great lesson.

    Many thanks Dirk.

  17. JUANPILLOMay 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Super cool stuff and very useful, thanks a bunch.

  18. darioMay 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Great!!! The 5 pattern is great!!!

    Manymanymany thanx

    Cheers

    dario

  19. darioMay 6, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Great!!! The
    pattern #5 is great!!!

    Manymanymany thanx

    Cheers

    dario

  20. DanMay 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Quite a change from using pentatonic scales in Blues and Rock. Thank you for the lesson

  21. TonyMay 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    I cannot make Sound Cloud work at all. Any suggestions?

    • Matt WarnockMay 6, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      What browser are you using? Might just need an update or plugin update.

      • TonyMay 6, 2014 at 7:06 pm

        I am using AOL with Internet Explorer. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

        • Matt WarnockMay 6, 2014 at 7:12 pm

          Ok. It looks like some versions if IE can have trouble with soundcloud. Can you check that you have the latest version, IE11?

          • TonyMay 7, 2014 at 6:58 pm

            Thanks! That was the problem which has been overcome by using Google Chrome instead of IE. Great sound, great lesson!!!

  22. Júlio CVMay 6, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Great Lesson. Thanks so much, man. I could not get access to the sound but I love your explanation.

  23. Andre Watts SantosMay 6, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Great lesson, simple and useful ideas, thank you!

  24. Marlon PereraMay 6, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    I tried it in several ways.. in several keys. also a good exercise. Tks

  25. MichaelMay 7, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Your lessons are always great. It definitely gives you so many things to work on.
    It was also great to see that you don’t have to money to enjoy the wonderful world of music. Thanks Dirk

  26. Jos TuccilloMay 7, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Thanks the pentatonic scale is a wonderful tool. Learning how to better use that tool will make us all better players. Great lesson!

  27. brian cottinghamMay 7, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Yes I too have a problem with Soundcloud, I cannot afford new software 7/6 etc and my XP will only use IE10. It tells me I cannot go to the latest IE11 without upgrade so thats me done.

  28. Tony MangueMay 7, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Hi Dirk
    Thanks the pentatonic scale is a wonderful tool. Yes, as many, or all of musicians i started playing pentatonics without knowing is pentatonics and since i got some scale books, i lernt it. Great lesson!
    Dirk, is it possible to get pentatonic scale patterns from Steve Khan?
    I love the way he play the pentatonic, so i sugest you to put in this forum.
    Thanks Dirk.

  29. Júlio CVMay 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Now I got the access to the sound. Simply fantastic. One question: In which harmonic situation you can apply the 4 and 5 patterns? Do they work well over all the altered chords?

    • Matt WarnockMay 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      You can use them over any instance where a pentatonic scale would fit. So you could play it over m7, 7th, 7alt, maj7 or other similar chords. Try it out, very cool sound!

  30. ConMay 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Found a solution to the Soundcloud problem,it is still greyed out.
    I am using IE v9 and can’t update it because of compatability issues with another program that I use.

    Firefox works fine !

    Thanks for this lesson

  31. RickMay 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Dirk, Thanks again! I like to be able to put in a different sound. Very nice. If the chord progression is a 12 bar RandB, is there anything you can do to change the 4 and 5 chord improv in a similar way? Thanks. Rick

  32. PercyMay 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Excellent patterns but why not in PDF to enable printing for filing ?

  33. Dante55May 8, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    As usual, excellent works perfectly synthetised in this small lesson…
    it honors you for sharing your knowledges that way …Thanks !
    A other teacher from somewhere on earth.
    Kaz1

  34. Pedro P.May 9, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you so much, it’s a great lesson!!

    Greetings!!

  35. BboyprsMay 10, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Thanks for the continued lessons which are motivating and interesting. I have a technical question regarding fingering. When playing the same fret on sequential strings (Bb, Eb, Ab) do you rely on one finger or alternate with others? I’ve heard the former can contribute to carpal tunnel issues.

    Great stuff!

    • Matt WarnockMay 10, 2014 at 7:06 am

      Hey, I use one finger whenever I have more than one note on the same fret but on different strings, 2 or more notes. Cheers

  36. ConMay 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Hi Matt I assume you mean “2 for more notes” ?

    • Matt WarnockMay 10, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Hey, I mean two or more notes. So if you have notes on the 5th fret 6th and 5th strings in a row, I would play both of those notes with one finger, probably my index. If you have 5th fret on the 6th, 5th and 4th strings I would do the same. That’s all.

  37. steve neavesMay 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    This piece of information is real cool and I am enjoying it and much thanks

  38. GeorgeMay 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    The song link for the third part of the lesson (Pentatonic Scale Patterns 3 – Left vs. Right 2) is wrong. It’s the same link as for lesson 1 and doesn’t match the written music.

    • Matt WarnockMay 18, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Hey, it is working fine for me, the right audio with the right music. Might have been a temporary glitch with Soundcloud. Try refreshing, or clearing your cache and trying it again. Thanks.

  39. ALMay 31, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Dang – as i go through your site i keep finding gems.Thank you abunch
    AL

  40. luciJul 12, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Exellent demonstrations! for budding guitarist learning to move clumsy fingers, these exercises are brilliant practice. So generous, thank – you

  41. ThatsEarlBrotherJul 28, 2014 at 2:38 am

    Just now getting back to this lesson.Plain therapeutic fun.It really is stress release.Thanks these lessons just might add years to my life.Thanks Doc. TEB (ThatsEarlBrother)

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