Melodic Solos: Combining Natural Minor and Pentatonic Minor

The most common scale for soloing is the pentatonic minor scale. This scale sounds excellent over a wide range of chord progressions as well as musical styles. The main problem with the pentatonic minor scale is it can get boring after a while to the ear. You end up playing at the same old tired licks over and over again. The ear wants to hear something different.

One way you can change up the pentatonic minor scale is to use the regular natural minor scale. you can combine the two of them together to get some Unique Sounds and to get away from the straight pentatonic minor sound. Here are the two scales below so you can see the notes in those scales.


Scales:

A Pentatonic Minor Notes: A C D E G

A Minor Notes: A B C D E F G A


Just a quick note on C Major Scale

You can ignore this section and skip straight to the A Pentatonic Minor, but if you want to understand a bit more theory on relevant major & minor… then keep reading.


The A minor scale comes from the C major scale.

This Is the 6th degree, and we call this the relative minor of the major scale. It is sometimes also referred to as the Aeolian mode or the 6th mode of the major scale. You don't need to concern yourself about modes for the time being.

All we want to do is to play a C major scale but start on the A note. When we do this, we are playing A natural minor because when we are soloing, we stress the A note and not the C note. If we are stressing the C note, then we are playing to C major scale.

This might sound confusing to you, but all we are doing is creating a different sound when we start on a different note.

If you play C major, which is C D E F G A B C and then play a C major chord, it sounds in tune.

If we start on the A note and we play A B C D E F G A and play an A minor chord, it sounds in tune. The notes are in a different order, so the scale sounds different, too. This is because the A minor chord is the relative minor of C.

It contains exactly the same notes just played in a different order.

Any sixth degree of a scale is the relative minor. For example, if we want to play G major, The relative minor of G is E minor. This is because E minor is the sixth chord in the G Major scale.


A Pentatonic Minor

A pentatonic minor scale comes from the A minor scale. We are just omitting a couple of notes. Both of these scales can be combined together when soloing.

Below is the most common A pentatonic minor position. This is the scale you should learn first before you add to notes of the natural minor, which we will talk about in a few moments.

Thick string to thin string: (A) = root note

  • 5 (A)-8
  • 5-7
  • 5-7(A)
  • 5-7
  • 5-8
  • 5 (A)-8

A Natural Minor

The A pentatonic minor and by adding a few notes to it, we will get the A natural minor. This scale can be played in the same position as the regular a pentatonic minor scale by adding in only a few notes.

Thick String to thin: (A) = root note

  • 5(A)-7-8
  • 5-7-8
  • 5-7(A)
  • 4-5-7
  • 5-6-8
  • 5(A)-7-8

You can see that the notes of A pentatonic minor are right inside of this scale.

  • 5-7-8
  • 5-7-8
  • 5-7
  • 4-5-7
  • 5-6-8
  • 5-7-8

Melodic Solos

By combining both of these scales together, you can create more melodic solos.

Try creating some licks using A pentatonic minor and then licks using the regular A natural minor scale. You can play longer in more interesting runs when you are using the A natural minor scale.

Adding in additional notes from the natural minor scale will add a different flavour to the minor pentatonic scale.

Or you can swap out some of the notes in the pentatonic scale from the natural scale.

The ways you can do this by doing some slides, hammer ons and offs, bends to these notes.

You will find that the natural minor sounds great over rock progressions as it has more of a pure minor sound.

The A pentatonic minor has more of a rock and blues type sound to it.


Conclusion

Try playing a pentatonic minor scale and get used to how it sounds.

Once you get this sound in your head, try playing the A natural minor scale and then try combining both of them.

By combining both scales, you will have a more melodic solo because you're taking elements of both scales and combining them together for more interesting sounds.