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Old 08-09-2013, 05:24 PM   #1
mjpb
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Do you need to learn the positions of the pentatonic scales?

Or should you just learn the notes of the both the major and minor pentatonic scale in every key and not bother with practising it using the pentatonic shapes? Whenever I've heard people talking about the pentatonic scales I've always heard them referring to 'positions' and 'shapes', however I understand this isn't the best way to learn a scale. Thanks
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Old 08-09-2013, 06:28 PM   #2
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I don't know where you heard that this isn't the best way! For most people learning the shapes is real easy and since the shapes are moveable, once you have learned them in one key (suggest you start with A min or G min) then you just move the whole set of shapes up and down the fret board to get all the other keys!
In fact, just learn the usual 2 octave shape and then move that about some.
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Old 08-09-2013, 06:30 PM   #3
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For pentatonic scale there is only one "shape", you just move it around for the desired key.. So A minor pentatonic would start on A, and so on..
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Old 08-09-2013, 07:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by AmirT
For pentatonic scale there is only one "shape", you just move it around for the desired key.. So A minor pentatonic would start on A, and so on..

No. Minor pentatonic scale has 5 notes (1-b3-4-5-b7) and it's all over the fretboard. It's not just one shape like this basic shape:

Code:
e|---------------------0-3- B|-----------------0-3----- G|-------------0-2--------- D|---------0-2------------- A|-----0-2----------------- E|-0-3---------------------


All scales are all over the fretboard, they aren't just one position!

Yes, learn the notes in the scales. That way you won't be locked in the positions. For some people the shapes work better, for some they don't. If you decide to learn the positions, also learn how individual notes inside the position sound like! You want to be able to think in sound because music is all about sound!

But yeah, choose what would work best for you. Even if you learn the positions, it's still good to learn the notes in the scale.

Positions may limit you if you don't understand them. It's easy to go on autopilot mode with them (ie, stop thinking in sound and just play random notes). Good solos don't have any randomness in them. You don't want your solos to be random, you want to be able to know what you are doing.
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Old 08-09-2013, 07:31 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by mjpb
Or should you just learn the notes of the both the major and minor pentatonic scale in every key and not bother with practising it using the pentatonic shapes?

I would say it's better to learn both the intervals of the scales and the notes of the fretboard. So, the intervals of the pentatonic scale are 1, b3, 4, 5, & b7 -- which are the notes A, C, D, E, & G in the key of A minor. So, that's the A minor pentatonic scale.

Now, by knowing the intervals, you can then adjust to any minor key. So, the notes of the G minor pentatonic are G, Bb, E, & A. See if you can figure out the notes of B minor pentatonic and the rest of the minor pentatonic scales using the above intervals.

The intervals of the major pentatonic scale are 1, 2, 3, 5, & 6 in any major key -- so A B C# E F# constitutes the notes of the A major pentatonic scale. Now, see if you can figure out the notes of the rest of the major pentatonic scales.

Note: If you don't know what intervals are, then here's your homework; study this lesson from musictheory.net and learn about intervals. Intervals are one of the key concepts of music, so you'd better know what they are.

Next, obviously, you'd have to know where the notes are on the fretboard. So, for A minor pentatonic, you'd have to figure out where A, C, D, E, & G are. This article, which was featured on the UG front page, may actually give you some tips on that. It also touches a bit on how to figure out where the notes of a scale are on the fretboard. Read the whole article; it should help you out a lot.

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Whenever I've heard people talking about the pentatonic scales I've always heard them referring to 'positions' and 'shapes', however I understand this isn't the best way to learn a scale. Thanks

What they mean by a shape (often called a "box" or "box shapes", as well) is this:

It's in 3rd position (meaning your index finger hovers on the 3rd fret). 1 indicates where your index finger goes, 3 where your ring finger goes, etc. The idea is to play the 3 fret on low E, then the 6th fret on low E, and so on...until you get to the "end of the scale" on high E. Then, many people recommend you go from the 6th fret on high E back through the scale shape in reverse order. (Note: I'm deliberately using "6th fret" or "3rd fret", so you can understand how people simply get used to the "frets" of the shape, rather than learning either the names of the notes or the intervals.)
The general idea is that you learn all 5 positions of the G minor pentatonic, of course.
Like so:


However, this really isn't the best way to understand a scale, as you said. A scale is a set of intervals, not a position on any particular instrument.
Many people argue that learning scales as box shapes allows you to learn all the notes of a particular scale anywhere on the fretboard. However, what really happens to most people is that they spend a ton of time drilling shapes and memorizing the shapes without actually learning the intervals of the scale or the names of the notes in the scale. You can easily cut out the middle man, so to speak, by merely knowing the notes of the fretboard and the intervals of your scale.
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Old 08-09-2013, 07:56 PM   #6
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learning positions/shapes is only "not the best way" if you approach it like a limitation. the ultimate goal of learning positions/shapes is still to be able to visualize all the notes in a scale on the entire fretboard.
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Old 08-09-2013, 08:15 PM   #7
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If you know the scale degrees, you can actually form chords of them. In A minor, you have 7 notes. (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) You can form a basic triad by stacking 1 (A), 3 (C), 5 (E). ACE. That's an A minor chord. So actually learning the scale degrees is beneficial not only for shredding the **** out of your guitar, but to also to form and understand chords!

If you only know shapes of chords/scales and not the intervals and which note is which, then you're limiting yourself and your playing ability. I know it is a pain the *** to learn all the notes on the fretboard and the scale degrees etc, but trust me, it IS rewarding.

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Old 08-09-2013, 08:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
learning positions/shapes is only "not the best way" if you approach it like a limitation. the ultimate goal of learning positions/shapes is still to be able to visualize all the notes in a scale on the entire fretboard.

Which really isn't needed, if you realize what the intervals of a scale are and where to find the notes of said intervals on the fretboard. (Memorizing the fretboard is key.) Once you done that you can: just pick a key, set the intervals of your scale to satisfy your key, and play away. You can even add in accidentals to spice things up.
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Old 08-09-2013, 09:26 PM   #9
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If you learn the notes of the scale then when you apply it to the guitar you will form the shapes anyway. If you learn the shapes then the notes are still going to be there so it's basically six & a half dozen. My question is why not learn both? It's not like you have to learn just one method. I've seen people that can play the most intricate jazz progressions & solo over them all day long & they don't know the first note on the fretboard. Why? Because they have the most awesome ears for melody & know the SOUNDS instead of the notes.

Point is, you can skate by with just knowing the shapes & having the ear to find the sounds you want (which believe me is not everyone when they start out.) Or you can learn the notes & develop the shapes on your own terms & won't be stumped when I say, "That's cool use of the 11th in that chord you just played."
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Old 08-09-2013, 09:33 PM   #10
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Mick Goodrick explains it best. You should learn on one string, then two strings, open positiom , vertically and combination.. in that order. Thing is, all the free sites and traditional methods never explain this.
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Old 08-09-2013, 09:55 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J-Dawg158
If you learn the notes of the scale then when you apply it to the guitar you will form the shapes anyway.

Joe Satriani and Steve Vai and the rest would like a word with you...

Most of the "top guitarists" don't naturally use shapes. Rather they use whatever notes & techniques fit the song.
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Old 08-09-2013, 10:09 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by crazysam23_Atax
Most of the "top guitarists" don't naturally use shapes. Rather they use whatever notes & techniques fit the song.


they've played so much guitar that it's instinct to them, which is essentially the same as knowing all the shapes. it's not so much those shapes that beginners learn on, but that the entire fretboard lights up in their mind with the notes of the key (so i've gleaned from random jazz videos on youtube).

what you're saying sounds great in theory, and would be the "right" way to learn, but it'd be tedious and i doubt anybody would be able to learn quickly that way. besides, it's just natural to eventually see the shapes (which again, is the whole point of learning shapes), even if you're not strictly locking your hands in those positions.
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Old 08-09-2013, 10:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
they've played so much guitar that it's instinct to them, which is essentially the same as knowing all the shapes. it's not so much those shapes that beginners learn on, but that the entire fretboard lights up in their mind with the notes of the key (so i've gleaned from random jazz videos on youtube).

I'm not sure your source is the best, in this case...

Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
what you're saying sounds great in theory, and would be the "right" way to learn, but it'd be tedious and i doubt anybody would be able to learn quickly that way.

It'd be no more tedious than drilling tons of shapes for quite a long while. Furthermore, learning shapes just reinforces to many early students that it's all a bunch of shapes. Scales are not a bunch of shapes or even the pattern those shapes resolve to when applied to the entire fretboard. Scales are various intervals, each of which has specific sounds when moving from one to another.

According to the shapes method, every single scale has its own set of shapes. If I want to learn the hungarian minor, I learn the 5 shapes of it. Major scale, 5 shapes. Minor, 5 shapes. Blues scale, 5 shapes. At least, that's what it reinforces to new guitar players. It took me about 3 guitar teachers before I finally had one who told me about intervals or the notes of scales. Standard practice with the shapes method is just to have students drills the various shapes until they get them down, without revealing the reason why (until the student realizes that it's all connected, that is, and starts seeing it in the way you say). What a lot of work for very little benefit!
Conversely, by learning the notes of the fretboard and the intervals of the scale, you learn where each note on the fretboard is (yes, it isn't an easy or fast process to learn the notes on the fretboard, but you'll need to know them all at some point anyway) and then can take the intervals for any scale, choose a key, and play that scale. I don't really know the hungarian minor, but I guarantee you that I could look up the intervals and do exactly what I say without having to do anything else; I've learned the notes of the fretboard and can apply the method I'm advocating quite easily to just about any scale. Since you already would know the notes of the fretboard, you naturally would know the patterns within the fretboard in the first place -- without the need for pointless drilling. You'd also know the names of the notes and the sound each note makes.

Quote:
besides, it's just natural to eventually see the shapes (which again, is the whole point of learning shapes), even if you're not strictly locking your hands in those positions.

Also, why are placing so much emphasis on seeing? Screw seeing; this is music. We're dealing with sound here. Who cares what you can see?! The only shape you need to "see" is the fretboard itself; the rest is just extraneous. Now, start emphasizing hearing.

The point of learning all the notes of the fretboard isn't to see them; it's to hear them. It's to get your ear and your hands to be able to work together and therefore play the sounds (notes/chords/etc.) you want to play.
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Old 08-09-2013, 10:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
they've played so much guitar that it's instinct to them, which is essentially the same as knowing all the shapes. it's not so much those shapes that beginners learn on, but that the entire fretboard lights up in their mind with the notes of the key (so i've gleaned from random jazz videos on youtube).

what you're saying sounds great in theory, and would be the "right" way to learn, but it'd be tedious and i doubt anybody would be able to learn quickly that way. besides, it's just natural to eventually see the shapes (which again, is the whole point of learning shapes), even if you're not strictly locking your hands in those positions.


Well yeah, it might be more tedious and demanding, but as usually, the more effort you put into something, the greater the reward will be. That very much applies here.

You can go the easy way and just learn shapes and be average or you can learn the intervals/note names, etc and be ABOVE average.

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Old 08-09-2013, 11:32 PM   #15
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i agree with learning the sound of intervals and note names/degrees, that is a given. but to champion that as something you should do instead of shapes implies a system where you're relying on no muscle memory whatsoever. that won't work unless you never ever want to play fast (and we all want to play fast at some point, if just for a second or two). shapes are not evil.
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Old 08-10-2013, 12:06 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
i agree with learning the sound of intervals and note names/degrees, that is a given. but to champion that as something you should do instead of shapes implies a system where you're relying on no muscle memory whatsoever. that won't work unless you never ever want to play fast (and we all want to play fast at some point, if just for a second or two). shapes are not evil.


So why not learn both? The key thing is to understand why those shapes are what they are and that they are not just simply shapes. I personally know the shapes, but I also know the intervals/note names. But yeah, you've got a point there. You have to be very skilled to utilize all the knowledge about the intervals etc quickly. I mean given the time anything is possible, but to utilize it WELL during improvisation is another story.
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Old 08-10-2013, 01:30 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
i agree with learning the sound of intervals and note names/degrees, that is a given. but to champion that as something you should do instead of shapes implies a system where you're relying on no muscle memory whatsoever. that won't work unless you never ever want to play fast (and we all want to play fast at some point, if just for a second or two).

You're assuming shapes are the only way to do muscle memory. You could easily take riffs/licks/whatever from various bands you like (and some you don't, lol) and build up your muscle memory without having to use shapes. For example, I learned a lot of muscle memory by learning licks that Randy Rhoads wrote and played. I also learned a lot from Van Halen.

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shapes are not evil.

No, just inefficient, imho.
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Old 08-10-2013, 01:42 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by crazysam23_Atax
You're assuming shapes are the only way to do muscle memory. You could easily take riffs/licks/whatever from various bands you like (and some you don't, lol) and build up your muscle memory without having to use shapes. For example, I learned a lot of muscle memory by learning licks that Randy Rhoads wrote and played. I also learned a lot from Van Halen.


No, just inefficient, imho.


And how exactly does that differ from learning shapes? By learning licks and songs, you're essentially learning shapes, just not scale shapes. Even if you learn them from sheet music, in the end its all the same. (except that you of course learn where the notes are on the fretboard)
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Old 08-10-2013, 01:46 AM   #19
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And how exactly does that differ from learning shapes? By learning licks and songs, you're essentially learning shapes, just not scale shapes. Even if you learn them from sheet music, in the end its all the same. (except that you of course learn where the notes are on the fretboard)

Because you break out of the standard box shapes, generally. That's the whole point. In terms of muscle memory, the result is probably the same. But I think most people would find learning riffs/licks from songs to be more fulfilling than drilling scales all day.
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Old 08-10-2013, 01:56 AM   #20
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Because you break out of the standard box shapes, generally. That's the whole point. In terms of muscle memory, the result is probably the same. But I think most people would find learning riffs/licks from songs to be more fulfilling than drilling scales all day.


Well yes, I fully agree drilling scales all day does get boring and that it is a good idea to learn other bands' songs, but learning licks/songs has little to do with actually learning scales imo :P

But one thing I consider almost as important as learning scales is learning the harmonic functions of chords. Dominant sevenths, diminished triads, secondary dominants etc etc. Really useful if one wants to compose music instead of just playing leads and stuff.
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