A big part of the musical vocabulary you hear in great saxophone solos comes from scale patterns.
Today I’m going to teach you an easy and fun to play pentatonic pattern that you can start using immediately in any solo.
Practicing Pentatonic Patterns
You have probably come across other pentatonic patterns before, maybe you even watched some of my older videos on the subject.
But today’s pattern is a bit different though because we are not using the major or minor pentatonic scale. Instead we are using what we call the dominant 7 pentatonic scale.
It’s just like a major pentatonic scale, but instead of the 6th scale degree we substitute the flat 7.
This configuration works great over dominant 7 chords, and just changing that one note gives us a nice new color to work with for variety.
I made a PDF download for this lesson that you can get for free from the BetterSax Shed. Use this link to get access if you haven’t already signed up or aren’t receiving our weekly BetterSax email updates.
Before you learn any pattern you need to know the scale it’s based on and be able to play it over the full range of your instrument. So on that PDF I wrote out the scale up and down for you to practice first.
Make sure you are going slow, playing accurately, using your best sound and staying relaxed.
Once you know your dominant pentatonic scale we can apply countless patterns to it to improve our technique and add new vocabulary to our improvising.
Dominant 7 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
This pattern comes directly out of our brand new course called Pentatonic Studies on Groove and Soul Standards by Steve Kortyka, more on that in a little bit.
So let’s break this pattern down into steps and skips.
We start on the root which is G for alto saxophone then we skip a scale degree down which brings us to the 5th, then up a scale degree to the 7th then skip up again landing on the 2nd.
For this pattern, we are adding in a little rhythmic syncopation, repeating the last note and then going down a step.
Practice that a few times and once you have it down, we are going to apply the same pattern to each note of the scale.
Now we just want to apply that same formula (skip down, step up, Skip up, rest, repeat note, step down) to each note in the scale.
We can also flip this pattern, and any other upside-down and play it backwards.
If we were to break down the formula for steps and skips now, all we have to do is reverse the direction of the movement. So starting on the root G again, this time we skip up, step down, skip down, little rest, repeat, step down.
Now learning the pattern itself in one key is just the beginning. There are a lot of other steps you’re going to want to take in order to make a pattern like this something you can use effectively when soloing.
That’s the purpose of the new course Pentatonic Studies on Groove and Soul Standards Vol 1.
Pentatonic Studies on Groove and Soul Standards Vol 1
You see, once you’ve learned a pattern one of the best ways to integrate it into your playing is to use it over a set of standard chord changes. This is how high level improvisors practice and if you want to accelerate your development, this is about as close as you can get to a shortcut.
Steve has composed a series of 14 pentatonic scale pattern based etudes written over the chord changes to some of the most popular Groove and Soul Standards everyone needs to know.
This selection of tunes comes directly from the BetterTrax collection of backing tracks and they are designed to work together.
In the course you get video lessons for each etude which makes the whole thing amazing, Steve walks you through what you need to know to get the best results while dropping tons of valuable tips along the way. You can watch them over and over as much as you need.
We’ve also made these beautiful physical copies of the book available for those of you who are like me and prefer the real thing to reading pdfs on a screen.
Of course there are audio recordings of all the etudes and patterns for alto and tenor saxophone included as well.
The first etude in the course uses this pattern over the chord progression to the Chicken by Pee Wee Ellis
That chord progression is all dominant 7 chords so this pattern is a perfect fit.
This new course is a really effective and fun way to develop your improvising chops and I know you guys are going to love working through it.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you if you want to be a stronger improvisor is to learn your major scales in all 12 keys. This is the ticket to entry into the world of playing over chord changes. So you’ll want to watch this video next where I show you a great method for learning this quickly.