PENTATONIC MINOR 101
In this lesson we learn the importance of the pentatonic minor scale. This is the most common scale used in country, blues, pop and rock music. It is easy to learn and is a must for learning to improvise in any style. ‘Penta' means five and ‘tonic' means note, so ‘Minor Pentatonic Scale' really just means ‘Minor Five-Note Scale'.
The reason we learn scales is that they are groups of notes that sound really good together that we can use to make up solos and melodies. They are also great for developing your technique for playing single notes, so they are an important part of your development as a guitar player.
We will also learn the five positions where the pentatonic minor scale can be played on the guitar neck and then, start combining them together. Let’s get started.
First we must learn the notes that make up the scale and learn it on one string. We will use the key of A for these examples. The pentatonic minor scale is made up of the root which is the 1, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th degrees. Thus the notes in key of A would be;
Here is all the positions of the pentatonic minor scale in the Key of A. We will focus on the first 12 frets as the fret board repeats after the 12th fret. Each position covers 4 frets or 2 steps.
_2nd Position__ __4th Position___
___1st Position_ __ 3rd Position__ __5th Position__
* Note that the positions overlap, for instance position two is simply the top half of position one mated with the bottom half of position 3.
All of these positions fit together perfectly and will always be in the same order that they are here. That means that they must always be positioned together as they are and their relation to each other will never change. Now that you can see all of the positions and how they work together to form the A pentatonic minor scale, we will do some exercises that will teach you the individual positions and how we can use them on single and multiple strings.
Here is an exercise playing the scale on a single string. It may seem foolish or simple but it will make you see patterns that are very important. The midi track is set at 50bpm 8th notes. Practice with it first. Set your metronome on a comfortable practice speed and practice on every string 5 minutes each once a day for a week. The object here is not to master the speed but rather observe and learn the patterns.
Exercise 1 - 1st String:
Exercise 1 - 2nd String:
Exercise 1 - 3rd String:
Exercise 1 - 4th String:
Exercise 1 - 5th String:
Exercise 1 - 6th String:
Practice all five positions of the A pentatonic scale. The midi track is set at 50bpm 8th notes. Practice with the midi track to learn the scales. When you feel you are ready to play faster set your metronome on a comfortable practice speed and practice every position daily. I find that practicing scales daily is very useful in progressing you’re playing skills. Practice position one in open position and also at the 12th fret. In my opinion I find the 12th fret position very useful. Make sure you practice at a tempo that allows smooth sounding notes. Never practice at a tempo too fast to play smoothly. Your ultimate goal is to work your way to faster speeds however, it takes lots of practice to master speed scales. Increase your tempo as your skills progress.
Exercise 2 - 1st Position:
Exercise 2 - 1st Position at 12th Fret:
Exercise 2 - 2nd Position:
Exercise 2 - 3rd Position:
Exercise 2 - 4th Position:
Exercise 2 - 5th Position:
In this exercise we will work the pentatonic minor scale on two strings. I find this useful in soloing because same notes sound different on each string. You will also start to see 2 string patterns also. Set your metronome on a comfortable practice speed.
Exercise 3 - 1st & 2nd Strings:
Exercise 3 - 3rd & 4th Strngs:
Exercise 3 - 5th & 6th String:
Here are some popular minor pentatonic licks. I tried to use all or parts of these licks in the solo of the head video. I played the licks with a click track at 90 bpm. Practice them with the tracks to learn them. Feel free to practice them also with your own metronome or drum tracks. All of the licks are in A. I have also included the jam track I used in video at the end of this lesson.
This is a nice hammer-on lick. This is derived from pentatonic 2 string patterns on the first and second string from exercise 3.
Exercise 4 - Lick #1:
This is a real common lick found in a lot of rock songs. It is a really neat and works well in other styles of music also. It is a bit tricky and will take lots of practice to acquire fast speeds. It will sounds better at faster speeds.
Exercise 4 - Lick #2:
Here is a lick that all the notes are in the minor pentatonic scale with a lot of fifth intervals.
Exercise 4 - Lick #3:
Insert PM18 Tab and audio
Here we are playing the first four notes of the scale then dropping to second note of the scale which is the 3rd of the root the playing the following 3 notes of the scale and so on.
Here is the pattern in numbers 1345 3457 4571 5713 7134 1345 3457 4571. We will also play it in reverse pattern also. It is a great practice exercise.
Exercise 4 - Lick #4:
This is the classic Johnny B Goode type of pattern used so much in blues, rock and country.
Exercise 4 - Lick #5:
This is another hammer-on pull-off lick pentatonic minor lick.
Exercise 4 - Lick #6:
Just simple but neat.
Exercise 4 - Lick #7:
This lick is same as lick #7 but with a sweet 3 fret or 1 ½ step bend to end it. Always use 2 fingers to make string bends when possible. I used 2 fingers on this lick, it makes the bend a bit easier. If you are not a conditioned bender take your time, 3 frets is a tough bend.
Exercise 4 - Lick #8:
When you feel like you are getting your practice speeds up to pace try playing the pentatonic minor scale in other keys and tempos. Here is a Jam Track that was in the video plus, tabs to the solo.
Pentatonic Minor - Jam Track: