Pentatonic Dominant

Let's talk about a subject that will help you create fantastic lines, chord progressions, and licks in some of the guitar-heavy music genres - Rock, Jazz, and Blues. Welcome to the world of "Pentatonic Dominant"!

Note: Please note that there are many musical demonstrations in the audio version of this episode, which are not accessible in the transcript.

Building the Pentatonic Dominant Scale

Today, we will talk about pentatonic dominants, pentatonic dominants, and how to build pentatonic scales around dominants. Dominants, as you know, are 7th chords, 9th chords, 11th chords, and 13th chords, the type of chords we use in Jazz, Rock, and Blues.

Let's jump right into the subject. The first thing I want to do is let's talk about 9ths chords. The 9ths chord usually has four parts. If we take the four parts of a 9th chord and add a root, we have five notes, which will be pentatonic.

So let's start looking at 9th chords right off the top. I'm going to play a four-part open voicing 9th chord and all the positions of that 9th chord. And since there are four notes, there will be four positions.

The four notes in a dominant 9th chord are the third, the fifth, the minus seven, and the nine. When we put it down an octave for playing a scale, the nine will be a two. Then we add the root. Once we do that, we have five tones. We have 1, 2 3, 5 and -7. The 2, remember, is actually the ninth because it's a second-octave tone.

That's our pentatonic scale, which is dominant because of the minus seven and the natural three.

Columns on the Guitar

Let's apply this to the guitar, starting on the low E-string, the A at the fifth fret. Let's play two notes per string and see how the pentatonic dominant lays out on the guitar.

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Two notes per string, and we start with the root tone or one in the bass on the low E-string. Here is a simple pattern you can use to practice this scale.

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If you like, you can practice two notes at a time.

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Since there are five notes in the pentatonic dominant, you have five starting places or positions for playing this scale on the guitar. You should practice all of them.

We will have two vertical columns since we are playing two notes on a string. Play the front one and the back one in succession for practice.

[please listen to the audio at around 4:55 ...]

Once you have learned these, go to the other four positions, play the front and back columns, and work your way up the fingerboard.

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Learning these columns and switching between them will greatly enhance your soloing in almost any style. Now you can take any three successive notes from these columns and build little dominant triads. All of them together will give you an overall feeling of pentatonic ninths.

[please listen to the audio at around 5:46 ...]

Relevancy for Compositions

It's easy to take these little triad fragments from the columns and create a cool comping pattern. Once you have a comping pattern and think it's cool and it's got a nice contour to it. Add a little drum beat and then sweeten it with another guitar.

[please listen to the audio at around 6:16 ...]

You can hear how adding a sweetening guitar to the original comp creates an overall sound of ninths. Now, if you want, you can play a little solo using the pentatonic scales against this.

[please listen to the audio at around 6:53 ...]

Yeah, that becomes much fun. We haven't put bass on there yet, so we're going to put a bass, but let's write another section first. Let's add a new section to our piece. I want to keep it simple. So we'll stick with the straight-ahead 9th chords, the four-part chords we started this podcast with.

Harmonization & Connector Chords

Okay, let's connect these basic chords with connector chords based on a melody line or scale.

[please listen to the audio at around 6:53 ...]

Excellent. Now, what are those connecting chords? Actually, those are simple diminished chords that connect dominant 9th chords beautifully. We don't call them diminished chords at the academy, though.

We call them "3+3+3", an interval combination based on equivalents because all of the notes are an equal distance apart.

Okay. I think we're ready now. Let's write a little lead line, and then we'll put chords under it. So the lead line, I want to blues it up a little bit. So I'm going to play a lead line, and then we'll harmonize it.

[please listen to the audio at around 8:47 ...]

Yeah, that's got a nice little blues feel to it. Let's add harmony. I'll play it nice and slow so you can easily hear what I'm doing.

[please listen to the audio at around 9:16 ...]

Now, let's hear those at tempo so we can see what it will fit like with our other section.

[please listen to the audio at around 9:51 ...]

Now, you know what it sounds like when it's played at tempo; this was the Paul Reed Smith guitar clean, hardly any effects, maybe a little delay run through a matchless Avalon amp, stereo. Let's put the sections together and voice them out with a bit of power guitar on a couple of lines.

[please listen to the audio at around 10:27 ...]

Musical Demonstration

Now we'll write this other section and orchestrate it but use only power guitar for our orchestration. Now, as opposed to the slightly sweetened power guitar, let's orchestrate this last section with all power guitar. This will really show the contrast and power behind this type of writing.

So now, we'll start with the first section guitar solo, go to the second section sweetened with power guitar, then the third section full power.

[please listen to the audio at around 11:44 ...]


So this is starting to sound pretty big, pretty full. Remember, we haven't even added a bass yet. We might have to do that in a separate podcast because we're running out of time here. Still, I want you to hear how 9th chords and even the little connections of diminished chords work so beautifully when you want to harmonize lines. Just stick to the scale or the lead line came up with.

So, I want you to remember I'm a man with a dream, and that dream is to set guitarists free, to write for orchestra, orchestrate the guitar, write for video games, television, and feature film, and make a great living for yourself through music, interval theory application to the guitar.

Thank you for spending time with me and Music Interval Theory Academy. This has been a great 15 minutes, and I hope you got something from it. We'll talk to you soon.

All my love to all the guitar players out there, and see you next time.


There are many Pentatonic scales, and they all connect seamlessly. We suggest you familiarize yourself with the shapes and columns of each pentatonic scale as you'll recognize the overlaps more easily. This will let you switch between them in your soloing effortlessly.

Author: Thomas Chase Jones