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Playing Modal with Pentatonic Scales (Guitar Lesson)


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David Wallimann

Playing Modal with Pentatonic Scales

David Wallimann demonstrates how minor pentatonic scales can be used when improvising over the minor modes.

Taught by David Wallimann in Theory and Improvisation with David Wallimann seriesLength: 22:03Difficulty: 3.0 of 5

Playing modal can be scary at first. Guitar players usually come from a blues or rock background and are most familiar with the pentatonic scales. Using modes doesn't have to be difficult. A closer look at the commonly used modes shows that they hide a pentatonic scale (minor pentatonic scale in minor modes, major pentatonic scale in major modes) within them.

Let’s take a look at the three commonly used minor modes: Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian. They all hide a minor pentatonic.

Dorian Formula
Root 2nd min3rd 4th 5th Maj6th min7th

Phrygian Formula
Root min2nd min3rd 4th 5th min6th min7th

Aeolian Formula
Root 2nd min3rd 4th 5th min6th min7th
Minor Pentatonic Formula
Root min3rd 4th 5th min7th

Minor Modes Relationship

Now that we know that we can replace any of the minor modes with a minor pentatonic scale, let’s see how each of these modes relate to each other in terms of position:

Ionian - Dorian - Phrygian - Lydian - Mixolydian - Aeolian - Locrian

Application

By combining the three minor pentatonic scales corresponding to the three minor modes and their relative positions, we can phrase using three minor pentatonic scales over a modal backing track.

Dorian
Dorian - Phrygian - Lydian - Mixolydian - Aeolian - Locrian - Ionian

Phrygian
Phrygian - Lydian - Mixolydian - Aeolian - Locrian - Ionian - Dorian

Aeolian
Aeolian - Locrian - Ionian - Dorian - Phrygian - Lydian - Mixolydian

Going Further

Working with the following three backing tracks, use the corresponding minor pentatonic scales to create a modal sounding lead.

A Dorian
A minor pentatonic (Dorian)
B minor pentatonic (Phrygian)
E minor pentatonic (Aeolian)

A Phrygian
A minor pentatonic (Phrygian)
D minor pentatonic (Aeolian)
G minor pentatonic (Dorian)

A Aeolian
A minor pentatonic (Aeolian)
D minor pentatonic (Dorian)
E minor pentatonic (Phrygian)


Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


soolan14soolan14 replied on February 25th, 2017

After the 2nd time viewing and reviewing, I'm 99% sure I've got it.

rarebird0rarebird0 replied on August 30th, 2016

Oh to have animated graphics and a professional voice-over instead of a talking head trying to convey this. I have printed all illustrations of what he's talking about and can arrange the illustrations as he talks. It gets simpler when you can see it but this went over my head when I was new to JP in 2013. It's 2016 and I'm back. David's stuff is comprehensive. It's just a bit tough to juggle this as speech alone. My two cents, fwiw.

rob_senarob_sena replied on November 28th, 2015

u made no sense

jasonh1903jasonh1903 replied on June 29th, 2015

GREAT lesson brother. There are so many useless takes on modes but your presentation is intelligent and most of all practical. Good job!

rckmsnrckmsn replied on January 13th, 2014

are you using the 1st. pos. aminor penta for all three?

wolfe1ltwolfe1lt replied on November 3rd, 2013

locating all three minor pentatonic scales from A Aeolian, all notes are the same, but in the 4th position, there is a B in the Phrygian mode. I thought all the notes were supposed to be the same?

rudym13rudym13 replied on October 4th, 2012

someone cut their hair! great lesson

krazyfngazkrazyfngaz replied on May 23rd, 2011

Would you recommend committing this to memory or just understanding which key tone to inject into a pentatonic in order to give it the tonal quality of that mode?

nkopan69nkopan69 replied on April 12th, 2011

Can you play a pentatonic blues scale over these tracks?

gjdbgjdb replied on March 16th, 2011

you can also play the maj penta patterns over thsese backing tracks, right? ie play the Cmaj penta scale over the A dorian backing track?

jboothjbooth replied on March 17th, 2011

He talks about that in the next lesson, check it out :)

nash24nash24 replied on March 16th, 2011

Thanks for great lessons!!! Love your teaching style.

gabe dgabe d replied on March 15th, 2011

The lessons before this was like opening a door for me.. into a room full of other doors. THIS lesson was like opening all those new doors at once!!

clarke1966clarke1966 replied on March 15th, 2011

Terrific lesson as usual David. Keep up the good work!

axel2sexaxel2sex replied on March 15th, 2011

This is a very usefull lesson! Well done!

Theory and Improvisation with David Wallimann

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

David Wallimann will cover all of the topics necessary master the art of improvisation. He will cover theory, including intervals, scales and modes as well as techniques to improve ones improvisation.



Lesson 1

Understanding Intervals

Before one can truly understand music theory the concept of intervals must be introduced. This lesson covers that topic in great depth.

Length: 27:40 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Lesson 2

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David teaches the minor pentatonic scale. He explains its scale formula, various fretboard positions, and how it can be used.

Length: 20:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Major Pentatonic Scale

David Wallimann moves on to cover the the major pentatonic scale. He teaches its scale formula, all five patterns, and gives advice on how the scale can be used.

Length: 9:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

The Blues Scale

In this lesson, David covers both the minor and major blues scales. He explains the formulas and patterns for each scale. In addition, David has included a backing track for you to play along with.

Length: 9:08 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Minor Modes

David Wallimann introduces three minor modes. In this lesson he covers Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian modes.

Length: 11:37 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Major Modes

David Wallimann covers three major modes in this lesson. He covers the Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes.

Length: 8:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

The Locrian Mode

David Wallimann introduces the Locrian mode. He explains its formula in terms of scale degrees as well as its five fretboard patterns. A few fun arpeggio-based ideas are also demonstrated.

Length: 20:37 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

The Magic Formula

David Wallimann teaches a magic formula that will allow you to play each of the modes up and down the entire fretboard. He also teaches some exercises to help cement this knowledge.

Length: 11:49 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Classifying Modes

David Wallimann talks about how modes can be classified and thus used in a musical context. This is a valuable wrap-up lesson to the mini-series on modes.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Creating Chord Progressions

David Wallimann explains how to write diatonic chord progressions. This lesson features excellent practical music theory.

Length: 12:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Easy Outside Tricks

David Wallimann teaches a valuable fusion guitar technique that he calls "Easy Outside Tricks."

Length: 8:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Playing Modal with Pentatonic Scales

David Wallimann demonstrates how minor pentatonic scales can be used when improvising over the minor modes.

Length: 22:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Playing Modal with Major Pentatonic Scales

David Wallimann shows how the major pentatonic scale can be used in modal playing.

Length: 11:13 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About David Wallimann View Full Biography David was born in Aix-en-Provence, South France in 1977. At the age of 15, he picked up the guitar and started developing a true love for instrumental music and composition.

In 1999 he was recognized by Ibanez for his promising musical achievements and received an artist endorsement. That early recognition in David's musical career encouraged him to consecrate more time on crafting his musical art and apply to the school of modern music Artist' in Cavaillon, France. He received a full scholarship there where he graduated with honors.

In 2001, David won first place for the Tal Farlow French national jazz contest which gave him a full paid scholarship to the CMA school of modern music in Valenciennes, France. He graduated specializing in advance guitar with honors.

Following his school years, David spent the next 5 years working with several bands recording, writing and playing shows in France and Belgium. It's during that time that Wallimann was exposed to the world of progressive rock which opened new doors to his musical creativity.

Deep inside the Mind is his first release as a solo artist in which he exposes his Christian faith. The album was well received in the specialized press and was compared several times to some of Frank Zappa's approach to music adding an element of humor to deep subjects.

In 2005 he joined the internationally renown progressive band Glass Hammer based in Chattanooga, TN. He released several studio albums and live DVDs with the band.

David is today working on his next upcoming solo release and is also spending quite a bit of time teaching guitar in his studio and online at JamPlay.

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