There are two main approaches to improvising over a set of chord changes:
- Harmonic Specificity:
Playing on the chords in question, paying close attention to resolving on chord tones and tensions of the specific chords you are playing on while employing embellishments such as chromatic approach notes, diatonic approach notes and scalar passing tones.
- Key Area Overview:
Playing over a set of chord changes in relation to the tonic of the key area- this concept lends itself to applying pentatonic and blues scale ideas.
Experienced improvisers will move in and out with these two principles dynamically to enhance the shape and contour of their improvisation.
What most people refer to as the Blues scale is actually called the Minor Blues scale. The Minor Blues scale and the Minor Pentatonic scale are closely related because the Blues scale has the same notes as the Pentatonic with an added chromatic note between the 4th and the 5th.
Another way to look at the Blues scale is from the major perspective. The Major Blues scale is exactly the same as the Major Pentatonic scale with an added chromatic tone between the 2nd and the 3rd. This resembles a double chromatic approach note from below the 3rd.
The pentatonic and the blues scales share the same relative concept that the major scale and its relative minor scale. The C Major Blues/Pentatonic scales has the same notes in it as the A Minor Blues/Pentatonic scales:
The application for applying the blues and pentatonic to the overall key area is straightforward- Major Pentatonic and Blues scales (along with relative minor) for major key areas and Minor Pentatonic and Blues scales (along with relative major) for minor key areas. If you are applying these scales over a song form such as the 12 bar Blues progression (which is based on dominant 7th chords), you can also apply the parallel Minor Pentatonic and Blues scales to outline the overall key area:
Until next time…
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