The Power of Altered Pentatonics

Pentatonic on the circle of fifths
Pentatonic on the circle of fifths (Photo credit: Ethan Hein)

 "Remember that improvising means thinking outside of he box and expanding your creative abilities."

-- Chaim Burstein
 What is an altered pentatonic? It is any scale with five notes per octave that is not a major or minor pentatonic. Three of the more common altered pentatonic scales includes the b6 pentatonic, the b3 pentatonic and the b2 pentatonic. Each scale is essentially a major pentatonic with the exception of one 'altered' or changed note.

Play a major pentatonic while lowering the appropriate scale degree to achieve the altered altered pentatonic.

Here's some examples:

Major Pentatonic: C, D, E, G, A

b6 Pentatonic: C, D, E, G, Ab

b3 Pentatonic: C, D, Eb, G, A

b2 Pentatonic: C, Db, E, G, A

Due to the fact that pentatonics are not made up entirely of whole or half steps, patterns must be discussed in terms of skips and steps. A step occurs when the next note is an adjacent note while skips occur when the next note is an adjacent note while skips occur when we skip over a note in the scale to play the next available note.

Scalar Pattern with b6 Pentatonic:

C, D, E... D, E, G... E, G, Ab...G, A, C... Ab, C, D... C, D, E... E, D, C... D, C, A... C, Ab, G... Ab, G, E...G, E, D... E, D, C.

Intervallic Pattern with b2 Pentatonic:

C, E, Db, G... E, A, G, C... A, Db, C, E... Db, G, E, A... C, G, A, E... G, Db, E, C...Db, A, C, G... A, E, G, Db.

Try to create a few of your own patterns. They will help create new ideas, assist you with the memorization of the new scales and will acclimate your ear to the new sounds you are making.

You may be interested in this music resource that Hear and Play offers, Jazz 201 (affiliate link).

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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