Trombone lesson: Pentatonic scales – how and why

Trombone lesson: Pentatonic scales – how and why

Trombone lesson: Pentatonic scales – how and why

Do you know your minor pentatonic scales? And I mean really know them, up and down and inside out? I recommend that you spend some time with those five tones in all keys. It is a great way to build up your technical skills on your trombone and learn to better find your way around the horn.

Pentatonic scale vs. blues scale

There’s a small but important difference. The blues scale is identical to the pentatonic scale, but it also consists of the b5 (or #11). So the pentatonic scale has five notes and the blues scale has six. This post is about the pentatonic scale, and how to use it. I’ll get back to the blues scale later on, although the two scales are often interchangeable.

Pentatonic scales on the trombone

When you work on pentatonic scales, you’ll notice that they are quite well suited for the trombone. Most of them are rather logical and easy to play on the horn, and you’ll probably discover that some of the more uncommon trombone keys are quite comfortable as well when it comes to pentatonic scales. I often practice these scales as a purely technical exercise, working on topics like phrasing, agility, and high range.

Improvising with pentatonic scales

Ok, you got them down. Now what? I use them a lot when I improvise. For example, take the C minor pentatonic scale. Of course, you can use it on a C-7 chord. But have you tried to play it over an Fm9, Abmaj7, Dbmaj7#11, or an A7alt? Hit one of the chords with the sustain pedal on a piano and try shredding the pentatonic scale over it.

Pentatonic scales are a nice tool when you want to play some of the upper structures of the chords. Take the C minor pentatonic scale over a Dbmaj7. Here you play the 3rd, b5, 6th, 7th, and the 9th, all the juicy notes of the chord. And you get to play them in a comfortable and recognizable pattern.

Loads of pentatonic patterns in the member’s section

But before I get too carried away with advanced jazz theory – now is the time to make sure you have the scales down in all keys. The patterns below are just a few samples of what you can do with a pentatonic scale. As a DigitalTrombone member, you will find over 70 pages with trombone sheet music just about pentatonic scales, spread out over 6 chapters, so if you want to dig deep, I suggest you start your free trial now. I could list at least six very different chords where the same pentatonic scale sounds great – more about that in the member’s section in the article Pentatonic scales in use.

All the patterns in the sheet music gallery are based on F minor pentatonic scale. You should practice the same pattern in all the other keys as well. Have fun – and I promise that you can use this stuff in your improvised solos! Now go puff in that trombone.

[nggallery id=16]


  1. Benjamin 10 years ago

    Great to see a clear and progressive instruction site dedicated to improvisation on the trombone. Keep up the great work and I wish to join your affiliate site but the link did not work.


  1. […] Read more about trombone playing and pentatonic scales More pentatonic tricks for trombone: Penatatonic scales – how and why Sheet music in printer friendly PDF format. Bass clef (C) and treble clef (Bb). Suited for trombone, trumpet, euphonium, tuba etc. Price: $2.50 This entry was posted in Improvisation, Scales, Technical exercises, Trombone lessons and tagged pentatonic licks, pentatonic scale, trombone, trombone lessons by king2b. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. […] I like pentatonic scales. They tend to fit the trombone quite well, and are in general useful for many things such as bass lines, blues themes and funky horn section phrases. And of course in improvisation. This is probably the best scale to start with if you are new to improvising, since it will sound melodically any way you play it. I have written about how to use pentatonic scales in improvisation here. […]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *