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How To Solo And Improvise on ANY Chord Progression

Lisa Witt  /  Chording / Jul 23

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Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one scale that you could learn, that would allow you to be able to play, solo and improvise over almost any chord progression?

Well, it turns out, there is! And I have to confess that I had NO idea it even existed! For years I was playing the piano, playing in bands and writing my own songs and I didn’t know about this scale (don’t judge me).

I was making life WAY harder for myself, especially when it comes to soloing or playing melodies.

The Pentatonic Scale

I’m talking about the Pentatonic scale. It is, without doubt, the easiest and most useful scale you will ever learn.

It’s only 5 notes! (that’s where the ‘pent’ comes from). There is a major Pentatonic scale and a minor Pentatonic scale. Each only has 5 notes, but they are a little different.

Let’s start with the major Pentatonic scale. We’ll use the key of G as an example.

A normal G major scale has the following notes

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7
G – A – B – C – D – E – F#

The major Pentatonic scale consists of the 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 notes.

So the G major Pentatonic scale is:

G-A-B-D-E

What makes the Pentatonic scale so amazing is that you can play those notes over pretty much any progression in the key of G. You can play them in any order, together or on their own.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

Ok, let’s move on to the minor Pentatonic. The minor Pentatonic has a different formula, but still only uses 5 notes.

Let’s use E minor for our example. The notes of an E natural minor scale are:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7
E – F# – G – A – B – C – D

The minor Pentatonic scale consists of the 1,3,4,5 & 7 notes.

So the E minor Pentatonic scale is:

E-G-A-B-D

Now let’s just stop. Notice anything similar? The notes of the E minor Pentatonic and G major Pentatonic are EXACTLY the same!!

That’s because E minor is the relative minor of G major! So — the minor Pentanoic scale has the same notes as its relative major Pentatonic.

I think that’s so cool.

But if you just learn the formula, that might be an easier way to remember it!

And again this scale can be used over pretty much any chord progression in the minor key.

So try it out! There is so much to explore and discover with the Pentatonic scales. And they provide such a wonderful starting point for riffs, runs, and melodies.

Have fun!


Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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