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Scale Patterns

5 Must Know Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale

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In todays lesson well be looking at 5 of my favorite jazz guitar pentatonic scale patterns.

Now, I know what youre thinking, The minor pentatonic scale isnt very jazzy.

Well, sometimes its not. But, with the right pattern, a good sense of swing and the right tone,
you can make the minor pentatonic scale come alive in your jazz guitar lines and solos.

Each pattern will provide you with unique sound quality that you can bring into your solos,
and into your practice routine as you work it into the tunes, Jazz Chord Progressions and ear
training exercises that make up your daily time spent in the woodshed.

So, without further ado, here they are, 5 Must Know Pentatonic Scale Patterns.

Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns 1 - 1 Up 1 Down

This pattern is built by playing one ascending interval followed by a descending interval,
creating a three-note pattern.

The first interval is a third in the sense that you play the first note, then skip a note in the
scale and play the note that is three notes higher in the scale.

Then, you descend down one note in the scale to finish the pattern, such as the A-D-C in the
first bar of the written example below.

To run this pattern up the scale, you then just to the second note of the first pattern and start
from there. So, in this case you would play A-D-C, then start the next pattern on D, D-G-E,
then start the next pattern on G and so on.

Because it is a three-note pattern, if you play it in continuous 8th notes as is the case with the
example below, you create a syncopated effect that hides the bar line since you are playing a
three-note pattern over a 2-note rhythm.

Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns 2 - 2 Up 1 Down

The second pattern is a favorite of mine that I took from Lenny Breau, and is played by
stacking two notes on top of your starting note, then falling back down by one note to finish
the lick.

To begin, you play the first note of the scale, then you skip a note and play the note on the
same fret one string higher. You do this one more time to build the ascending section of the
line, A-D-G in the first bar of the example below.

From there, you simply fall down to the closest scale note to complete the four-note pattern,
A-D-G-E in the written example.
To continue this pattern, you start it again on the second note of the first group of four notes.
So, you play A-D-G-E, then D-G-C-A, G-C-E-D and finally C-E-A-G to complete the line as
youve now run out of room in this position.

This four-note pattern sits nicely when you run it up the neck using 8th notes, but if you want
to go for a syncopated feel, try playing it with triplets, so a four-note pattern over a three-note
rhythm. Very hip!

Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns 3 - Up 1 Down the Next

The third pattern is a descending lick that goes up the right side of the scale, G-C in the
written example, then down the left side of the scale, A-E in the example.

This pattern then continues down the scale starting on each note on the right side of the
pentatonic fingering youre using.

To add a bit more modern feel to this pattern, try putting a pull-off between the two notes that
occur on the same string.

So, in the first four-note group you could put a pull-off on the first string between the notes C
and A for example, then continue this idea as you work your way down the scale.
Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns 4 Side Step Down

With this pattern were getting a bit more modern as we introduce an inside-outside lick to
the pentatonic scale.

The crux of this pattern is that you play four notes of the A minor pentatonic scale, then you
play four notes of the Bb minor pentatonic scale.

You continue this back and forth until you reach the top of the scale and run out of room on
the neck.

This technique is called side-stepping and has been used by many great jazzers such as
John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker and others.

It wont fit into every musical situation, so get this lick under your fingers and then let your
ears and musical taste dictate when is the right time to unleash this idea in a jam or gig
Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns 5 Side Step Up

Again, with this lick you are using a side-step technique to ascend the neck, moving between
A minor pentatonic and Bb minor pentatonic as you go.

The difference with this lick is that you are shifting up the neck instead of back to the original
position as you did with the previous pattern.

Because of this, you are covering three different box-patterns as you move up the neck,
which is why this pattern can be very effective. Not only will it bring an inside-outside
sound to your lines, but it will allow you to run up from the 5th to the 12th fret and all six
strings at the same time.

How to Practice Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice these, and any, scale patterns in the woodshed.

Run these patterns with a metronome in the given key from 50 to 250 bpms if

Work each pattern in 12 keys along with the metronome at various tempos.

Practice soloing over a one-chord vamp, using one or more patterns as the basis for
your lines.

Practice soloing over a Jazz Blues Progression, using one or more patterns as the basis
for your lines.
Practice soloing over a Jazz Standard, using one or more patterns as the basis for your

As you work through each of these scale patterns, the goal is to get your chops up, but also be
able to inject these ideas in a natural and musical manner when you take them to a jam
session or gig situation.

So have fun with them and see where these patterns will fit into your technical and
improvisational workout this week.

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4 Responses to "5 Must Know Jazz Guitar Pentatonic Scale Patterns"

1. camper says:


thanks, nice lesson

December 10, 2012 at 1:05 am

2. CD Smith says:


Dr. Warnock,

I find your system for jazz improvisation very interestingI have been studying some
of Robert Conti material.

His approach involves not learning scales and modes but learning by playing jazz.
You copy what he does and that helps you get the rythmic feel to play jazz.

His method is very attractive especially after you have tried to learn jazz by spending
hours memorizing scales and modes and then trying to understand how to use them,

However, with his approach, I really dont understand why what he does works..

Is your approach to jazz improvisation better? Is learning scales and modes necessary
to play jazz?

December 12, 2012 at 6:31 am

1. Matthew Warnock says:


Thanks for checking out my site, glad you are enjoying the articles. I think that
its good to learn some scales and arpeggios, the building blocks of music,
mixed with learning licks and patterns, the language of jazz. So a mixture of
both is what Ive done over the years and its worked well for me.

Hope that helps.

December 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

2. Will Kriski says:


Robert Conti explains how his solos work in his DVD The Jazz Lines. Even if
you just earn licks and phrases you should understand how they work. His is
based mostly on using the IV chord/arpeggio over ii-V progressions ie for
Dm7 to G7 he will use Fmaj7 arpeggio shapes for many of his lines with lots
of added notes, chromatics, etc.

February 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm

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