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Jazz Piano Lesson: An Intro to Improv Using the Pentatonic Scale


For aspiring jazz musicians of any instrument, beginning the process of learning to improvise can sometimes feel a bit daunting. Players new to improvising often feel overly exposed when asked to take a solo and can feel overwhelmed not knowing where or how to begin. Fortunately, there are several tools available to us as musicians that make for a perfect starting point when learning to improvise. The first, and likely the most important of which, is the Pentatonic Scale.


Jazz music, as many of us either know or are discovering, is predominantly constructed using dominant seventh harmonies. The Pentatonic Scale is a fantastic tool in the context of jazz as a result because it can always be applied in some way when playing over dominant seventh chords. The best and simplest way to illustrate the functionality of the Pentatonic Scale over dominant seventh harmonies is in the context of a 12-bar blues.


In this online jazz piano lesson, master jazz pianist, recording artist, producer, and ArtistWorks instructor, George Whitty shows us how we can improvise over the chord changes of a 12-bar blues in the key of C using only the five notes of the C Minor Pentatonic Scale. The improvisational concepts that George provides through this lesson can be applied in any key and to any instrument. Aspiring jazz players of all instruments can receive valuable information from George’s guidance.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play jazz piano from a master musician like George Whitty? Try some free online piano lessons now!


“When playing over blues changes, the Pentatonic Scale is a can’t-miss, very simple collection of notes,” George explains. “The beauty is that you can freely play very simple or elaborate stuff using just this scale and never sound like you’re making a mistake or playing a wrong note. They’re just a great collection of notes!”


What is the Pentatonic Scale?

A Pentatonic Scale is any scale that is comprised of five notes per octave, and there are a variety of different Pentatonic Scales used throughout different musical traditions worldwide. In western music, including jazz, the most commonly utilized Pentatonic Scales are the major and minor pentatonics. The minor pentatonic, which of the two is used most often in jazz and blues music, consists of the first, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh degrees of the minor scale. The major pentatonic, on the other hand, is made up of the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the major scale. In George’s lesson, he focuses specifically on the minor Pentatonic Scale.


“There is so much music that we can make with just the Pentatonic Scale,” explains George. “There are a nearly infinite number of ideas that we can expand on with just this collection of notes, and it’s the perfect place to begin your exploration of improvisation.”


To learn the minor Pentatonic Scale and how to begin implementing it into your improvisation, dive into this online piano lesson from George Whitty:


An Intro to Improv Using the Pentatonic Scale with George Whitty:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play jazz piano? Through our comprehensive piano lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like George Whitty, and get personal feedback on your playing.


George’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner piano to advanced performance techniques, improvisation methods, jazz standards, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as pianists and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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Jazz Piano Lesson: Altered Dominant Chords with George Whitty




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