Improv Tip Week #9-Targeting Using Dominant Pentatonic

Welcome to week #9 where we’ll be finalizing the last of our “Pentatonic Series.” There’s obviously many more types of pentatonic scales that are out there that you can use these targeting concepts with, but I have some other topics that I want to get out to you. This week’s pentatonic scale, much like some of our other exotic pentatonics, probably has a few different names that you may have heard. However, for this blog’s purposes…I’m calling it the Dominant Pentatonic scale. This scale (along with a number of others) is very recognizable if you’ve spent any time listening to guitarist, John McLaughlin. Unlike some of the other pentatonics we’ve discussed, this particular pentatonic employs the 4th scale degree as well as the flat 7th (hence the name dominant pentatonic). It has a very distinct sound because of the half step in the middle of the scale between the 3rd and 4th scale degrees. The dominant pentatonic is constructed of the root, 3rd, 4th, 5th and flat 7th scale degrees (see example below).

While I’m sure you can find ways to make the dominant pentatonic scale to work over various modes (see previous tips), I’ve found that for me-this scale works best with dominant (or dominant related) chords. The first example below uses the G-dominant pentatonic scale over the G7 chord in the second bar. Notice (like in practically all examples over the past 9 weeks), that the G-dominant pentatonic scale is used to target the “G” of the Cmaj7 chord in the 3rd bar. One of the reasons why I like this particular pentatonic scale is because of the half-step motion built into the scale. Music and great improvisations have tension and release of varying degrees. The dominant pentatonic scale has an interesting and exotic sound because of the tension and release found within the scale itself. When you use it as a tool along with targeting principles-you will find that your lines begin to communicate with your audience.

The above example is a very practical use of the dominant pentatonic scale. However, you can use dominant pentatonic scales that aren’t based on the root of the chord of the moment. In the example below, I use the C-dominant pentatonic scale over the G7(#9) chord because the half-step motion in the scale flows nicely from the G7(#9) chord into the Cmaj7 chord.

Both of the examples I’ve used today would be considered “inside.” All of the pentatonic examples we’ve talked about the past couple of weeks can be used to go “outside” of the harmony as well. One way to do that is to take the pentatonic scale you would use and play it 1/2 step up or down from the root. Always remember, though, you can’t be “outside” without defining “inside.” My general rule for playing “outside” of the harmony is to always start “inside,” go “outside” and then come back in. It can be used to great effect, but is very easily overdone.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and the past “Pentatonic Series.” I always look forward to hearing from all of you so please feel free to leave your comments and share this tip (and blog) to others via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.

I would also love to give you a FREE MP3 from my first album, Mountain, Move. Simply fill out the short form after clicking the image below!

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About the Author jasonklobnak

Jason Klobnak is a versatile trumpet player that has been performing as an active musician, author, clinician, composer and educator. His band, J's Ruckus, is Denver's blend of Post-Bop, Soul, Gospel, and Hip-Hop. They perform infectious and up-lifting originals for audiences hungry for a memorable live experience. J's Ruckus released their latest album, Suck Less, in March of 2020 and their first EP, Sermons, in July of 2019. Both were recorded live in front of an audience. Suck Less was recorded to a packed auditorium at Arapahoe Community College's Waring Theater in Littleton, CO. Sermons was recorded in front of a sold out crowd at the Soiled Dove Underground.  The JKQ (the Jason Klobnak Quintet/Quartet) is Mr. Klobnak's Hammond B-3 centered groups. The JKQ released their third full-length album in March of 2018 called Friends & Family. It has been very well reviewed, on numerous Top 10 lists for Jazz radio stations across the country (including Denver's KUVO 89.3FM which named it May 2018's CD of the month), and in Jazzweek's Top 100. Each composition was written for specific family and close friends (that might as well be family). Their second album, New Chapter, was recorded in part thanks to the Pathways to Jazz Grant from the Boulder County Arts Alliance. In 2015 and 2016, New Chapter was in the Top 75 on the Jazzweek charts and on the Top 10 playlists for over a dozen radio stations worldwide. Their first album, Mountain, Move made the Best Recordings of 2013 list from AllAboutJazz.com by C. Michael Bailey. His very well reviewed Christmas single, Hark the Herald, in 2016 as part of a creative project with musicians James Roberson and Nathaniel Kearney Jr. Besides the JKQ, Mr. Klobnak is a B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman-custom trumpet), Denis Wick (mouthpiece and mutes) and Westone Audio endorsed artist (ES20 and Tru Customs). Mr. Klobnak has played and recorded for numerous groups ranging from jazz, soul/R&B, indie-rock/pop and gospel. In addition to performing, he has also written two improvisation-based books called Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony and is currently an adjunct professor and brass instructor at Arapahoe Community College. Mr. Klobnak holds a bachelor degree from Drake University (Des Moines, IA) and a Master’s degree from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music (Denver, CO).

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