How to apply pentatonic major to ii V I progressions

Now that we know how major pentatonic applies to all the different modes, let’s look at how these scales apply to a II V I progression.

In the user friendly key of C, the progression would be Dm G7 Cmaj7. The Dm chord is your dorian chord, so the choices for major pent are bIII/I or F major pent, bVII/I or C major pent, and IV/I or G major pent. The G7 can be mixolydian, so the choices are I/I or G major pent, IV/I or C major pent, and bVII over I or F major pent, and finally, let’s stick with Ionian for Cmaj7, and play I/I or C major pent, IV/I or F major pent, and V/I or G major pent.

So to simply, the choices for this progression all boil down to C, F, and G major pentanonic scales. So here are some things to try:

1) play G major pent over Dmin, F major pent over G7, and G major pent over C maj7. You’ll notice the G major pent sounds totally different over the Cmaj7 than it does over Dmin

2) play F major pent over Dmin, C major pent over G7, and C major pent over Cmaj7. This gives you a true “leading the changes” sound. The C over G creates a lot of tension that resolves very nicely without you having to do anything.

3) play C major pent the whole time. This especially works if you take advantage of the quartal sound of pentatonic. Try a sequence like, E A G D C E D A G C A E, or A D C G E A G D

4) play G major pent the whole. This one is nice, as it has no “handle with care” notes, and all the resolution is happening in the rest of the band.

5) play F major pent over Dmin, G major pent over G7, and C major pent over Cmaj7. This will give you the most “inside” sound.

As you can see, there are quite of few choices. So experiment and have fun!

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