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A Set of Pentatonic Scale Exercises to Super-Charge Your
Technique, Ear, and Improvisation
Bobby Stern
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This article was written by guest contributor, Bobby Stern, a long time professional saxophonist, jazz player, educator, Bari Woodwinds endorser
and author of The Melodic Minor Handbook: A Jazz Players Perspective as well as a new self published eBook Slick Licks That Stick!
This is a very useful series of exercises for building your chops and acclimating your ear to different tonal colors. The term X-Centric, in this case,
doesnt mean weird or nutty, but defines a concept where X is the variable central note around which these exercises (or any series of
melodic statements) can be formed.
I believe I first saw this concept related to pentatonics in Ramon Rickers book Pentatonic Scales for Jazz Improvisation which I got when it first
came out in the mid to late 1970s. In this book was a chart depicting the 5 pentatonic scale modes started from each of the 12 notes of the
chromatic scale, written in whole notes in ascending fashion.
Several years ago (as I realized, that after all those years, I could finally play 5 different pentatonic scale modes from any note without breaking too
much of a sweat), I came up with this X-Centric pentatonic exercise. For example, it breaks down like this:
The note C would be the:
first tone of the i mode of C maj. pentatonic (C-D-E-G-A)
first tone of the ii mode of Bb maj. pentatonic (C-D-F-G-Bb)
first tone of the iii mode of Ab maj. pentatonic (C-Eb-F-Ab-Bb)
first tone of the iv mode of F maj. pentatonic (C-D-F-G-A)
first tone of the v mode of Eb maj. pentatonic (C-Eb-F-G-Bb)
This generates 5 different pentatonic modes from the same starting note, each from a different key center.
Now if we take it through the 12 notes of the chromatic scale (125), weve got 60 di stinct pentatoni c modes.
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When we get this stepwise pentatonic exercise comfortably under our fingers, we can then start checking out some interval ic possi bilities.
Taking a page from another excellent book, this time J erry Bergonzis popular Vol. 2, Pentatonics, we can apply any of Gonzs 8 formulas or
shapes X-Centrically.
(A stepin this case refers to the distance between adjacent notes of the pentatonic scale, not the diatonic major.)
(X) skip step down (X) step down (X) skip step up (X) step down.
Applying this formula to the i mode of the C Major Pentatonic scale (C D E G A), this translates, in to:
(C) skip step down to (G), step down to (E) skip step up to (A) step down to (G)
and the pattern keeps repeating.
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In measure 3, we use the same formula starting on C, only this time C is the first note of the ii mode of Bb Major Pentatonic.
(C) skip step down to (G), step down to (F) ski p step up to (Bb) step down to (G), repeat formula..
When we flip Bergonzis formula #1 upside down, we get formula #5. Now the direction is reversed.
(X) skip step up (X) step up (X) skip step down (X) step up, repeat..
i mode of C: (C) skip step up to (E) step up to (G) skip step down to (D) step up to (E), etc.
ii mode of Bb: (C) skip step up to (F) step up to (G) skip step down to (D) step up to (F), etc.

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Hey, I think youve got it! You can try it with any of the eight Bergonzi shapes or any of your own 5 note patterns. It gets really interesting
when you start use these schemes with pentatonics flat 3, flat 6, flat 2, etc.
For that matter, the X-Centric approach should work, theoretically, with any non-symmetrical scal e of any l ength.
Experiment! Have Fun!!
Click the links bel ow to download the exercises in much more readable PDF format:
Major Modes exercises
Bergonzi Formula 1 exercises
Bergonzi Formula 5 exercises
Delve Deeper with Bobby
If you liked this exercise and found it useful, Bobbys new eBook Slick Licks That Stick! contains 177 pages of chops building, non-cliche
exercises, licks and patterns, which can be most useful for the the improvising musician of any level or stage of development.
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Related Articles:
Killer Exercises to Get Your Fingers Flying Gracefully Through Every Key 1.
Improve your Sax Playing with Flute Exercises! 2.
The Klose Exerci ses and 6 Ways to Seriously Boost Your Playing 3.
A Set of Mouthpiece Exercises to Boost Your Tone, Big-Time 4.
Saxophone Powerhouse Eric Alexander Shares Jazz Secrets in New E-book 5.
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About the Author
My name is Bobby Stern. I'm a long time professional saxophonist, jazz player, educator, Bari Woodwinds endorser and author of "The Melodic
Minor Handbook: A J azz Player's Perspective" published by J amey Aebersold J azz, as well as a new self published eBook "Slick Licks That Stick!".
I've been performing, teaching and studying for 35+years and the more I've learned, the more I've realized that it's an endless universe; there's
always so much more to learn; and that we are all students, regardless of our present levels. I've performed in many diverse musical contexts
worldwide with some of the greats, near-greats as well as a few not-so-greats. ;)
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Related Articles:
Killer Exercises to Get Your Fingers Flying Gracefully Through Every Key 1.
Improve your Sax Playing with Flute Exercises! 2.
The Klose Exerci ses and 6 Ways to Seriously Boost Your Playing 3.
A Set of Mouthpiece Exercises to Boost Your Tone, Big-Time 4.
Saxophone Powerhouse Eric Alexander Shares Jazz Secrets in New E-book 5.
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Comments (3)
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Marina says:
March 14, 2013 at 9:41 am
Thank you, Bobby! Good exercises! Ill practice)
Reply
1.
Greger says:
March 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm
I enjoyed reading the article and now I have some new exercises to run through!
2.
A Set of Pentatonic Scale Exercises to Super-Charge Your Technique, ... http://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com/a-set-of-pentatonic-scale-e...
5 de 7 19/09/2014 06:37 p.m.
Man, no matter how much you practice there are always new concepts and things to learn on the sax. I love it!
Thanks and Play On!
//Greger
Reply
maurizio says:
J anuary 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm
utilissimi esercizi per il mio livello e divertenti da eseguire.
Maury
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3.
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