Minor Scales Over Major Chords? WTF?

By fearzero Guitar Lessons 7 Comments on Minor Scales Over Major Chords? WTF?

Hey everyone, thanks for checking in. Today I am going to discuss why seemingly minor scales work over major chords, and show you 3 licks that blur the lines between major and minor. Let’s jump right in.

Ever notice how the minor pentatonic scale seems to work over a major chord of the same name? ie Am pentatonic over A major chord?

Well, the reason that the minor scale works is because when you play that minor 3rd over a major triad or dominant 7th chord voicing of the same name, you are creating what is called a #9 against the chord. #9 happens to be a very useful tone over major chords, just make sure the chord you are playing over is either a major triad, dominant 7, sus2 or sus4. Major 7 chords need not apply as the dissonance created between the #9, major 3rd and the major 7th is something truly ugly lol!

So again, minor pentatonic scales or blues scales work over major or minor chords. Remember, the reverse is not true. You cannot play a major pentatonic of the same root name over a minor chord.

Anyway, here are a few licks to get you blending #9s and major 3rds. Tab and video below. Happy fretting!

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  • Naveed Faizi
    Posted on May 17, 2018 at 7:36 am

    you are really good in teaching very helpful things to play guitar in a better way. Thank you so much

  • Marc Tremblay
    Posted on January 14, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you for this. So If I understand correctly, I can solo in the minor Pentatonic scale over any Major Chord and it will work? I though all this time that if my chord progression is rooted in a minor chord I need to solo over it in the minor Pentatonic and if my song is in a Major key I should only use the major Pentatonic. What an eye opener!!

    • fearzero
      Posted on January 19, 2020 at 10:11 pm

      The minor pentatonic will work over a major chord type of the same name, as long as that chord type isn’t a major 7th chord. Major triads are fine. Glad you found this helpful. 🙂

  • Gil Ríos
    Posted on June 25, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I mean this is pretty obvious but what I learned recently is that a Major scale is the same as another Minor scale. For example: G major is basically the same as E minor, just as A major is the same as F sharp minor.

    • fearzero
      Posted on June 25, 2020 at 6:47 pm

      Yup, it is all about relativity. But realistically you have to go into arpeggios to truly take advantage of a scale/mode’s inherent qualities. Thanks for the comment.

  • Tim
    Posted on November 26, 2020 at 3:44 am

    I always use both interchangeably, as long as the root is A I use either scale as long as it’s in A it works.☺☺☺

    • fearzero
      Posted on November 26, 2020 at 6:04 am

      Just make sure it’s major or dominant function. The major will not work over a minor chord. 🙂

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