Dominant 7th chords possess a plethora of different melodic devices that you can use when improvising over these common and important chords. Though you can explore different modes of the Melodic Minor Scale, symmetrical scales such as whole-tone and diminished, as well as other exotic sounds when adding to your 7th chord vocabulary, sometimes the easiest way to expand this part of your playing is to fall back on a familiar sound, such as the pentatonic scale.
As time in the practice room is short for most people, relating new knowledge to previously learned material is a great way to quickly expand your playing without facing the time commitment of learning something completely new.
One of my favorite dominant chord colors is the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale. Besides being an interesting scale from a coloring standpoint, it is also closely related to several other pentatonic scales from a fingering standpoint, making it easy to get under your fingers and in your ears in a relatively short amount of time.
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The Lydian Dominant Pentatonic scale is closely related to both the Lydian Dominant Mode, as well as two different pentatonic scales, the Lydian Pentatonic Scale and the Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale.
From a fingering point of view, you can take the Lydian Pentatonic Scale, find the 6th and then raise it by one fret, one half-step, and you have created a Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale. As well, you can take the Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale, find the 5th, lower it by one fret (half-step) and you have also built a Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale.
Either way is fine, so try both and see how they sit with you. As long as you can learn this scale based on previous knowledge, not starting from scratch, by relating it to another pentatonic scale you should be fine. If you do have to learn it from scratch that’s fine too, but you might want to go back and review those other pentatonic scales just for your own knowledge.
Here is how these three scales compare from an intervallic standpoint:
Root 2 3 #4 6 Root
Root 2 3 5 b7 Root
Lydian Dominant Pentatonic
Root 2 3 #4 b7 Root
From a usage standpoint, the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale can be used to improvise over a 7th chord, producing a 7#11 sound in a similar fashion to the Lydian Dominant Mode.
Here is how the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale looks compared to the Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale on paper. Since it is used over a 7th chord, I prefer to think of it more closely related to the Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale.
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Below you will find four different fingerings for the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale, two on the 6th string and two on the 5th string. For each string set I have written one fingering that stays in position as well as one that shifts up the neck as you ascend the scale and shifts down the neck as you descend.
Try these fingerings out and see how they sit under your fingers. If you find that you aren’t a fan of these fingerings, no worries, just write out some of your own that cover a one or two-octave span. These are common fingerings, but they are far from Dogma, so feel free to experiment with them in the practice room to see what you can come up with from a fingering perspective with these, or any, pentatonic scales.
In the following scale patterns, which you can apply to the technical portion of your practice routine, I have taken a “triadic” approach to the pentatonic scale. This means that I played the first, third and fifth notes of the scales, followed by the second, fourth and sixth notes of the scale, basically creating three-note chords based off of the intervallic structure of the pentatonic scale.
You will notice that these notes don’t spell out the traditional Root-3rd-5th triadic grouping that you are used to seeing, instead they are creating new three-note groups based on the first-third-fifth notes of the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale.
Also notice that there is a rhythmic component to this pattern that really sounds hip when you play it at a steady pace. The melodic pattern, a three-note triad based shape, is played against a two-note rhythm. This is referred to as rhythmic superimposition. While this may sound like a fancy term, but it’s just a simple way to play a group of three notes while using a rhythm that is based on a two-attack pattern, displacing the starting note of the melodic pattern each time it is played.
This is a fun way to expand your pentatonic scale knowledge and finger dexterity, while adding new ammunition to your improvisational vocabulary at the same time. Once you have these patterns under your fingers, take them to a static 7th chord and try them out to see how they sit under your fingers and in your ears in an improvisational setting as well as a technical one.
One of my favorite places to use the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale is in the context of a blues chord progression. In the following example, I have written out a one chorus improvised blues solo that uses the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale for each chord in the tune.
So, for F7 I used the F Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale, for Bb7 the Bb Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale, and for C7 the C Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale. After you’ve checked out this chorus, try to write one or two out on your own. Then when you feel comfortable, try practicing with a playalong recording, while only using the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale to create your lines over the blues.
Give the Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale a try in your practice routine this week. It is a fun and easy way to spice up your 7th chord soloing without having to learn seven-note modes or odd-fingered scales in the process.
Do you have a favorite way to use this scale? If so, please share it in the comments section below.
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