Pentatonic Perfection

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Published on 04-8-2016
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In this article we are going to look at the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is made out of 5 notes (hence the pent reference in the name) and traditionally it has a major and minor form.

The minor form is made up of the following intervals – R b3 4 5 b7 and the Major form is made up of – R 2 3 5 6.

The traditional fingerings of the scale are useful but in this lesson I am going to be focusing on some less than traditional fingerings for the pentatonic scales. The problem with the traditional patterns, is that they do not lend themselves to sweep picking – they are clumsy to play for the right hand and do not really lend themselves to any kind of speed.

I am going to lay out what may seem to be difficult left hand fingerings, but the liberation you will feel in the right hand, once mastered, will be well worth the blood, sweat and tears.

Here is the A minor pentatonic scale, a familiar scale with an unfamiliar fingering. This one will take some effort, but just take a look at how convenient the right hand is for this – a lot of ample sweeping opportunities! This one really flies once you've got it down.

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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Here is the Major pentatonic scale with the same right hand picking pattern. The beauty of this picking style is that all of the arpeggios are going to have the exact same picking pattern in the right hand, only the left hand changes.

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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Once you understand that a pentatonic scale is either R b3 4 5 b7 for minor or R 2 3 5 6 for major then you can make alterations to the relevant intervals to make modal pentatonics. For example, the lydian mode is R 2 3 #4 5 6 7, we can simply take our minor pentatonic scale and change the 3rd, the 4th and the 7th to "lydianize" it. So a lydian pentatonic would be R 3 #4 5 7. This has a very cool sound! Check it out:

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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Now we will apply the exact same principle with the mixolydian mode. The formula for this one is R 3 4 5 b7 – we only had to change the 3rd from b3 to major. Check it out:

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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Here is one of my favorites, the locrian pentatonic. It has the following intervals – R b3 4 b5 b7. This is A Locrian pentatonic and will work over Amin7b5l, but one of my favorite applications is to play it over an F7 chord... very cool! Check it out:

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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Now we will look at some more unusual sounding pentatonic scales based around modes from the melodic minor scale. The first of which is based around the 3rd mode of melodic minor, "lydian #5," which has the following interval formula- R 2 3 #4 #5 6 7.

The pentatonic scale has the following formula- R 3 #4 #5 7. Try it out:

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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Finally, this pentatonic is based around mode 7 of melodic minor, the "altered scale" also known as the "super locrian" scale. This scale has the following formula – R b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7.

The pentatonic has the following formula – R b3 b4 b5 b7 – b4 is essentially a major 3rd... very cool!

Learning Pentatonic Scales
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As always, I really think you need to take these arpeggios very slowly indeed at first – some of them may seem impossible at first, but believe me, although they are a challenge, with practice, they are very possible.

The main thing is to try and have fun making music out of them. I really hope these inspire you to try and look for new fingerings for your scales that will let you view the guitar in a whole new light.
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