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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.
Chord Scale Relationships
Altered pentatonics can be very useful over a variety of different chord types.
b6 Pentatonic 1 2 3 5 b6
Major 7 #5 = 3 #11 #5 7 R
Minor (Maj7) = 5 6 7 9 b3
Minor 6/9 = 5 6 7 9 b3
Dominant = 9 3 #11 6 b7
Half Diminished = b7 R 9 11 b5
Once you've mastered the concept of playing altered pentatonics over a single chord or harmonic situation, it's time to move on to running some changes. Use b6 pentatonics in the context of a minor II-V-I progression. The trick to remember this sequence is that you will be building the b6 Pentatonic off of the roo b3 and 5 of the tonic minor triad.
Over Dm7b5 you will see a C b6 Pentatonic, over G7alt you will find an Eb b6 Pentatonic and over the Cm6 there is a G b 6 Pentatonic.
You might find that limiting yourself to one scale or sound can be liberating. Every note might not fit over every chord, but forcing yourself to find out what does work is often a very enlightening experience. Improvising means thinking outside of the box and expanding your creative abilities. Use your own ears as a guide for what works and what doesn't and you'll never be lead astray.
(An article by Chaim Burstein)
You may be interested in, Musician's Transformation and Music Training Center (affiliate link).
"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King