by Russ Nolan

Using Pentatonics to Connect the Chord Changes

The phrase ‘Playing Over the Bar Line’ means starting a melodic/improvised line over one chord change and continuing it over into the next change (or more). It is the opposite of what many beginning improvisers (including myself at one time) do when they play a phrase over one change, only to stop and re-start when the next change happens.

Applying Pentatonics to the Melodic Line

The goal is to achieve continuity of the melodic line and draw the listener’s attention to it rather than the underlying chord structure. Using Pentatonics is only one of many devices available to practice chord changes. You can also use Bebop Scales, 4ths and other intervals, Triads, etc.
Using my original composition Tell Me as an example (stream the mp3 here), I have taken the eight pentatonic shapes beautifully illustrated in Master Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi’s book Vol 2. Pentatonics.

First, the lead sheet (download the .pdf here): Tell Me Bb_0002


The first Pentatonic shape applied:

Tell Me Pent Ex's Bb Page 1

Download the .pdf with all 8 shapes applied here

Applying this method over challenging tunes will help you become a fluent and more conversational improviser.

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