Category Archives: Piano Scales

Piano Scales: Minor Pentatonic & The Blues Scale

Piano-ScalesWhen it comes to piano scales for improvisation, the pentatonic is one you will want to have fun with in all keys. Now, we already acknowledged the major pentatonic scale. Let’s look at it here, specifically the C pentatonic scale:

C  D  E  G  A  C

As we have mentioned before, the major pentatonic scale consists of the 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the major scale. It cannot be overemphasized that learning this and other scales in the other keys will certainly be conducive to massive confidence.

Now that we have looked at the major pentatonic scale, we will use it as a foundation for playing the minor pentatonic scale. Just like the major scale has a relative minor scale, the minor pentatonic scale has a relative minor pentatonic scale.

If we begin the C major pentatonic scale on the A instead of the C and end it on an A, we have:

A  C  D  E  G  A

There we have it! Yes, this is the A minor pentatonic scale. It’s one of those piano scales you’ll want to master. So, the formula is as follows: begin any major pentatonic scale on the 6th degree and end it on the same degree an octave higher and the result is the relative pentatonic scale.

We also have already spent some time acknowledging the blues scale. Well, let’s use this minor pentatonic scale as a foundation for playing a blues scale beginning on the same note. Maybe you have already noticed that the only difference between the minor pentatonic and the blues scale is one note.

Again, here is the A minor pentatonic scale:

A  C  D  E  G  A

Now, let’s simply add an Eb (or a flat 5) to this and here is the result:

A  C  D  Eb  E  G  A

Yes, here we have the A blues scale!

So, there you have it! To arrive at any blues scale, simply play the minor pentatonic scale that begins on the same note and then add the b5, and you’ve got it!

It really helps when you can make associations like this when comparing scales. Let’s face it… we only have 12 different pitches. So, inevitably, there will be many similarities between the various scales that we will learn. Whenever the opportunity arises for us to associate one scale to another, this makes it easier for us to see a new scale for what it really is.

Again, you are highly encouraged to learn these scales in a number of different keys, as you confidence will absolutely soar as a result of doing so. As you become more and more technically in command of those keys, remember…






Piano Scales: The Dorian Mode

Piano-ScalesOf the many piano scales that you will want to familiarize yourself with is the Dorian mode. Let’s take a look at this special scale, which you will find yourself using frequently while improvising on piano.

First, to easily understand the construction of the Dorian mode, we will begin by taking a look at the major scale. Specifically, we will spell out the C Major scale here:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

What scale do we arrive at if we start this C Major scale on the second degree which, in this case, is D… and if we end the scale with D as well?

Here it is:

D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D

Wahlah! There we have the Dorian mode. Specifically, we have D Dorian mode.

The Dorian scale (or mode) is a minor scale. As we look at the 1, 3, 5, and 7 of this scale, we have:

D  F  A  C

Yes, the Dmin7 chord!

Play a Dmin7 chord with your left hand while playing the D Dorian scale with your right and listen closely. Do you hear how well this scale sounds when played with this chord?

This is one of those piano scales you will want to learn in the other keys, too. To do this, play any major scale that you are familiar with and then start that scale on the 2nd degree of that scale and play up to the same pitch name as we did above. So, as another example, if you start with the G Major scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G

and then start this scale on the A and end on A, we arrive at:

A  B  C  D  E  F#  G  A

Yes! That’s the A Dorian scale!

We mentioned that this scale is also referred to as a “mode” and we are going to get into further explanation of modes and we’ll also be looking at more of them. However, now that we know this scale sounds so good with the min7 chord, have some fun with playing some patterns. using it.

For example, play an Amin7 chord with your left hand and, with your right hand, play a pattern starting on the first note (A) like this:

A  B  C,  B  C  D,  C  D  E… and continue. Listen to this!

Okay, now go find a favorite standard song that you are learning to improvise on and, when you have a minor 7 chord, consider improvising an idea over that chord. In other words, use what you are learning. It is in the  where the “gold” exists!