Monday 16 January 2012

Chromatic Side-slipping with the Pentatonic Scale

An easy way to step 'Outside'

Over the years, I have come to terms with the fact that when it comes to guitar playing (and life in general), I'm pretty much a 'path of least resistance' kind of guy. That's why I love tricks that take a simple concept, and turn it into something cool. In this lesson, we are going to take a standard Pentatonic Minor Scale and take it 'outside'.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the idea of playing outside, it is the concept of playing notes over a chord that are traditionally considered to be 'wrong'. We will access these outside notes by 'side-slipping' the scale one semitone higher. It is also possible to move the scale down a semitone as well, but to my ears, moving up sounds nicer.

Am Pentatonic Scale. For Bbm, start pattern at 6th Fret

When you play an Am Pentatonic scale over an Am chord, you end up with the Root, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, and flat 7th of the chord at your disposal. These are all very stable notes so you are almost guaranteed not to hit a clunker. But when you slip to Bbm, all bets are off! We are now playing the Major 3rd, flat 5th, Major 7th, flat 9, and 11th of our Am chord. These notes are interesting to say the least. Don't worry if these terms are unfamiliar. Just think, Am scale = Normal - Bbm scale = Outside.

In the above video, I attempt to improvise some lines over the Am backing track, dividing my phases into four bar chunks. I try to keep within the Am Pentatonic Scale for three and a half bars, then slip into the Bbm Pentatonic Scale for the last two beats of bar four. You can hear how the tones get much more interesting during the Bbm sections. But since the notes quickly resolve back to Am on beat one of the next bar, your ear doesn't really hear the notes as being 'wrong'. As an experiment, see how long you can stay on the Bbm scale before it starts sounding questionable.

It's really all about the attitude of your playing. If you do it half heatedly, it will just sound like a mistake. But if you confidently slip into those outside notes, then decisively resolve back like you meant to do it, people will think you are a genius! Have fun!

Download the practice backing track Here