Improvising With The Pentatonic Scale
In this lesson, we are going to expand on my previous lessons—“How to Seamlessly Play Arpeggios Over Three Octaves” and“How to Seamlessly Play 7th Arpeggios Over Three Octaves” —while adding pentatonic scale to the mix. Not only will this lesson help expand your musical vocabulary, but it may also change how you visualise and navigate the fretboard.
So what is the pentatonic melody?
Pent stands for the number five which is how many notes this scale contains and Tonic means the root note of the key which is called the tonic note as in the C Major scale the C is the tonic or first not of the key. This scale is believed to have originated from Asia and is known as an exotic scale leaving out some important intervals like in the pentatonic minor scale omitting the 2nd and 7th notes of the major scale which are very resolving notes in the scale allowing you to play it over other chords with no clashing notes.
The six strings of the guitar can be looked at as three pairs of strings. The first pair being the low E and A strings. The second pair being the “middle” D and G strings, and the third pair being the B and high E strings.
Whatever pattern of notes you play on the first pair of strings, you can repeat an octave higher by simply performing the same thing on the next pair of strings, but two frets higher. You can do it again, another octave higher, by performing the same thing on the next pair of strings, albeit three frets higher up the neck than before.
In this lesson, we will do this with the five positions of the A minor pentatonic scale. Below are the five positions of the pentatonic scale played over three octaves. Check out the video above for specific fingerings, and to see and hear these examples.
The pentatonic scale is very often used in writing vocal melodies Make sure to practice these slowly, with alternate picking, transitioning from octave to octave by simply moving your whole hand up the neck, keeping the ‘shape’ of the pentatonic scales in your hand.
Guitarist Adrian Galysh is a solo artist, session musician, composer and educator. He’s the author of Progressive Guitar Warmups and Exercises. Adrian uses Suhr Guitars, SIT Strings, Seymour Duncan pickups and effects, Brian Moore guitars, Voodoo Labs, D’Angelico guitars and Morley pedals. For more information, visit AdrianGalysh.com. GuitarWorld.com readers can enjoy a FREE five-song EP download by clicking HERE.
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