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Theory 05: Basics Of Improvising

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In this lesson we'll discuss the basics of improvising. You've learned a bunch of theory so far and it's useless if you can't make music out of it. We'll start with Pentatonic Scales.

Pentatonic Scales

The pentatonic scales are very simple because they have only 5 notes (obviously: penta = 5, tonic = tones). Actually, they are much eaiser to learn than diatonic scales and modes! So, you may ask: "Why didn't you start teaching these first instead of all those scales and modes from the past lessons?". The answer is simple: by knowing all the theory you've learned from the past lessons, you will be able to use these scales a lot better when composing or improvising. You'll see what I mean later, I promise!

Now, let's go back to the scales. There are two main variations: a Major Pentatonic and a Minor Pentatonic. The main reason to use pentatonics is that the error margin when improvising is reduced because you're playing a scale that has only 5 notes. Let me introduce the scales then:

Major pentatonic

A bright-sounding scale. In the key of E, we have:

- E Major Pentatonic: E F# G# B C# E

E Major Penta


From this sample, we can figure the intervals:

- Intervals: root - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 - octave or W W W+H W W+H
* Remember: W = whole step, H = half step, W+H = one and a half step

This scale sounds good over Major, Major 7th and Dominant 7th Chords.