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THE JAZZ PIANO BLOG
by Gjermund Sivertsen
Pentatonic Tricks for Jazz Piano Lesson

The pentatonic scale is one of the most useful scales I know. You can use the scale on multiple styles. In the following video, I will show you eight pentatonic tricks that you can use when you play and improvise like a jazz pianist.

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Summary

PENTATONIC TRICKS.

Let’s talk about the famous pentatonic scale. This scale is beneficial and useful for many
instances. It’s one of my favorite scales to use when I improvise, no matter what style I
play. By using the pentatonic scale, you can easily add tricks to your playing that sounds
good.


THE BASICS

1. In case you don’t know: The C-pentatonic scale is the same as the C scale, except
     you skip the fourth and the seventh note of the scale.

2. There are two scales: Major pentatonic and Minor pentatonic scales.
     a. These are the same, but the context is different.
     b. For example C major pentatonic scale = A minor pentatonic scale

3. You only need to practice the scale in 12 keys, and then you can use it on both
     minor and major chords.


VINTAGE JAZZ PIANO

TRICK 1:

Play the Gb pentatonic scale with just one finger ascending. You simply do that by dragging your finger across the piano on the black keys.

It’s perfect for Lounge style-music.

Here is how:

And when you can use it in a lounge-style tune:

TRICK 2:

The second trick in the book that is also easy to apply is when you do the first trick, but now you add another note underneath.

It is also perfect to use when you
play the lounge style.

Here is what it may look like:

Note: The second note you’re adding can be many things.
You can also use this trick at the same place as you did for method 1:

TRICK 3:

The third trick is when you reverse trick one. Now you use the inside of your third finger
and play descending.

Also, you can play the trick when you play in the key of Gb, Eb minor, or if you can make it
fit anywhere else.

TRICK 4:

This is the three-fingers pentatonic run. I’ve learned it from Dick Hyman, who grabbed it from Art Tatum.

This trick is a little harder to achieve than the two above, as you now actually have to use your fingers.

TRICK 5:

Grouping by using three notes.

When you play the pentatonic scale, you can simply play three by three notes in a sequence. In the following example, I’m grouping the pentatonic scale by using notes in this sequence:

(There are many more ways of doing it than written above)

TRICK 6

Grouping by using four notes is another good way to use the pentatonic scale.

Use this trick when you improvise over the tune: Summertime.

TRICK 7

So you want to be able to play outside? It is simpler than what you think. Simply play notes from the C# minor pentatonic scale, while the harmony still plays in C minor. It creates an awkward sound, but over time, if you practice a lot, you can get away with it without sounding too far off.

Here is an example of what it can look like on paper: (Or screen):

TRICK 8

The last trick is also related to the concept of playing outside.
For this example, you can play four notes from the pentatonic scale, moving it up a minor third step and repeat (with a new pentatonic scale).

For example:

C major pentatonic scale = C,D,E,G,A. Just play the first four notes: C,D,E,G

Then move it up to Eb and play the Eb major pentatonic scale. Eb, F, G, Bb (Just the first four notes)

Then continue with Gb and A.

Make sure you resolve it to get back in whenever you’ve played outside.

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Conclusion: If you get to know all of these pentatonic tricks, and you the feel for where it is good to use them, you’ve got many great tools in your toolbox for playing jazz piano.

Whenever I now play, I don’t think about these tricks. I just play and use my ears to guide me. However, when I was a student, I practiced all of the tricks mentioned above. They are all handy to know.

Good luck!

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