The Major Pentatonic In Blues

How to use the Major Pentatonic in Blues? Can you combine Major and Minor scales?

View the full lesson at The Major Pentatonic In Blues | JustinGuitar

Just curious, is the example in this lesson of a 12 Bar Blues progression common? Using all Dominant 7 chords like that? It would just be a non diatonic chord progression?

If the chord progression was diatonic, would it still be only the IV chord that clashes with the Major Pentatonic and probably require switching over to the Minor Pentatonic?

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Hey Fncanuk,

Not only is it common, it’s nearly ubiquitous!

Not 100% sure about your 2nd question, but I think that if the chords are all diatonic (say, A, D and E7 in the key of A major), then nothing in the major pentatonic scale will clash with any of the chords. If I am wrong here, I hope somebody more expert will chime in.


Yes, 100%. Dominant 7 chords or their extensions (9ths, 11ths, 13ths if you want to get a bit more towards jazz-blues).
Normally the I and the IV in a diatonic set of chords would become major 7 not dominant 7. Blues breaks that rule and distorts the boundaries.

Sticking with the key of A (A major) and playing extended (7th chords)

I = A major 7 = A, C#, E, G#
IV = D major 7 = D, F#, A, C#
V = E7 = E, G#, B, D

A major scale:
A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#

A major pentatonic scale:
A, B, C#, E, F#

For the I chord neither scale provides a clash. The pentatonic does not contain the major 7th scale degree but that is in the chord so no big deal.
When played as a dominant 7th, the IV chord would contain a C natural note which clashes badly with C# in the scale(s)/ But when played as a diatonic major 7 chord that clash is removed as the chord contains a C# scale tone.
For the V chord there is no clash.

Hope that helps.
Cheers :slight_smile: Richard

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What’s the theory behind playing a minor pentatonic scale over a dominant V chord?

Let’s say we’re playing the A minor pentatonic over a standard 12-bar blues progression containing A7, D7 and E7 chords.

I chord: the clash of the C (minor 3rd scale degree) with the C# (major 3rd scale degree) is typically referred to as ‘the sound of the Blues’.

A7 chord = A C# E G
A minor pentatonic = A C D E G

IV chord: all the notes of the A minor pentatonic can be found in either D7 / D9 / D11. All good here.

D7 chord = D F# A C
A minor pentatonic = A C D E G

V chord: we have another clash here, this time of the G (minor 7th scale degree) with the G# (major 7th scale degree). Would this also be referred to as ‘the sound of the Blues’, just as we would with the clash of the flat 3rd and the 3rd?

E7 chord = E G# B D
A minor pentatonic = A C D E G

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I know it’s not relevant to blues but F# is not part of A minor pentatonic, nor A natural minor, therefore not all the notes are to be found in D7 (or D9 / D11) :slight_smile:

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You’re correct but the important notes that define the Chord are the root D, the 5th A, and the 7th C


You are absolutely right @adi_mrok . What I actually meant to say was: ‘All notes of the A minor pentatonic can be found in either D7 / D9 / D11’. I’ll amend my previous post. :wink:

Basically, rephrasing my initial question, it is clear to me that:

  • Playing the A minor pentatonic over an A7 is ok, even when the note C clashes with the note C#. That’s ‘the sound of the blues’.

  • Playing the A minor pentatonic over an E7 is ok, even when the note G clashes with the note G#. Why?

I always associated the blues sound with the 3rd scale degree only, not the 7th.


You answered you own question
The G# is the 3rd of E7. The A minor pentatonic contains the Flat 3 G of the E7 giving you the 3rd b3rd clash


I see. I was only thinking of the 3rd in relation to the scale and key, not to the specific chord. Makes sense now, thanks.

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As I see it, its really the various combinations of the b3, b5, b7 which gives the blues it flavours

Cheers Shane


You’ve already had this addressed, so @m just reiterating.
Your bold font shows G# = major 3rd of the chord and G (from A minor pentatonic) is the minor 3rd of the chord. The clash happens in the 3rds.

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Hi All. General question regarding either major or minor pentatonic. Is there a better pairing of strings to play together, if I’m wanting to move up and down the neck and moving through the shapes? i.e. high E & G, B & G, or D & B. Etc… Thanks ALL.

Hey Nick,

You’ll find there are pentatonic “highways” that run across the fretboard. They pretty much operate in pairs, accompanied by slides etc to move around. Type the term in Youtube for a variety of tutorials/ explanations.

You’ll often be using these when soloing in a scale based framework, as they present under the fingers well, and generate more fluid playing.
You can " pull off the highway" anytime, anywhere on the fretboatd and drop into one of the pentatonic boxes, an arpeggio, lick etc…
Well worth learning/ discovering these highways. There’s no definitive list or anything though. They’re everywhere, short and long.

Cheers, Shane

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@sclay Thank you. Cool I’ll look that up. Ive been linking ups triads (early days). with the Penta shapes.

Cheers Nick.