Finger Strength and Pentatonic Scale Lesson

author: Jacques Nel date: 01/23/2014 category: soloing
rating: 9.2 / votes: 22 
Finger Strength and Pentatonic Scale Lesson
Hi! Only a week ago I started learning lead, having been a rhythm guitarist for a few years now.

I am going to post a few lessons to all others who are only starting out as I feel there is a lack of a proper guide to how you should go about learning to play lead.

From what I've learnt so far, there are 4 parts to learning to play lead:

1. Musical theory
( a ) Scales
( b ) Keys
( c ) Key changes
The list goes on but you get the picture
2. Technique
3. Physical training
4. Commonly used licks and phrases (cliches)

Everyday, you should work on all these parts. I'm doing this a bit backwards because I should have first done an introduction but I'll start off with a little practice routine I have devised (however I'm sure it's been used before) to help with strength and speed training and at the same time it helps you learn the pentatonic box shapes. So let's begin.

Remember the best way to practice is by using a metronome, otherwise it's difficult to track your progress.

Here are your pentatonic "boxes" on the guitar neck:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12                        
E|---|-F#|---|---|-A-|---|-B-|---|-C#|---|---|-E-|
B|---|-C#|---|---|-E-|---|-F#|---|---|-A-|---|-B-|
G|---|-A-|---|-B-|---|-C#|---|---|-E-|---|-F#|---|
D|---|-E-|---|-F#|---|---|-A-|---|-B-|---|-C#|---|
A|---|-B-|---|-C#|---|---|-E-|---|-F#|---|---|-A-|
E|---|-F#|---|---|-A-|---|-B-|---|-C#|---|---|-E-|
Box 1 starts at the 2nd fret and if you play up the pattern ends on A on the lower E-string, as demonstrated in the tab below
E|---------------------2-5-2-------------------------------
B|-----------------2-5-------5-2---------------------------
G|-------------2-4---------------4-2-----------------------
D|---------2-4-----------------------4-2-------------------
A|-----2-4-------------------------------4-2---------------
E|-2-5---------------------------------------5-2-----------
Box 2 starts at the 5th fret on A and playing up it ends on B on the lower E-string as follows:
E|---------------------5-7-5-------------------------------
B|-----------------5-7-------7-5---------------------------
G|-------------4-6---------------6-4-----------------------
D|---------4-7-----------------------7-4-------------------
A|-----4-7-------------------------------7-4---------------
E|-5-7---------------------------------------7-4-----------
Box 3 starts on B on the 7th fret and works its way down to C# on the lower E-string:
E|----------------------7-9-7------------------------------
B|-----------------7-10-------10-7-------------------------
G|-------------6-9-----------------9-6---------------------
D|---------7-9-------------------------9-7-----------------
A|-----7-9---------------------------------9-7-------------
E|-7-9-----------------------------------------9-7---------
And finally box 4 starts at the 9th fret on C# and ends at the 12th fret on the lower E-string on E as seen here:
E|---------------------------9-12-9---------------------------
B|---------------------10-12--------12-10---------------------
G|----------------9-11--------------------11-9----------------
D|-----------9-11------------------------------11-9-----------
A|------9-12----------------------------------------12-9------
E|-9-12--------------------------------------------------12-9-
In the beginning you spend endless hours playing these up and down trying to memorize them. Remember these can be moved up and down the neck as well and they will still be "correct."

Another thing anyone who wants to play lead needs to work on is both speed and strength. In most cases your little finger poses the biggest problem as it is not coordinated and strong when you start learning to play.

I devised the following exercise to learn my boxes and also build strength and speed in all my fingers. To play it, assign a finger to each fret and always use the specified finger at all times. So let me show you my exercises.

Exercise 1:

E|------------------------------------------------------------
B|------------------------------------------------------------
G|------------------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------
A|-----2-4-2---------4-7-4---------7-9-7----------9-12-9------
E|-2-5-------5-2-5-7-------7-5-7-9-------9-7-9-12--------12-9-

The exercise above follows the 4 boxes on only the E and A strings all the way up to the 12th fret. I play this up and down and then up and down again for a few times. It works best when played with a metronome. All the exercises follow this same principal. We will come back and change them when we get to string skipping.

Exercise 2:

E|------------------------------------------------------------
B|------------------------------------------------------------
G|------------------------------------------------------------
D|-----2-4-2---------4-7-4---------7-9-7----------9-11-9------
A|-2-4-------4-2-4-7-------7-4-7-9-------9-7-9-12--------12-9-
E|------------------------------------------------------------

Exercise 3:

E|------------------------------------------------------------
B|------------------------------------------------------------
G|-----2-4-2---------4-6-4---------6-9-6----------9-11-9------
D|-2-4-------4-2-4-7-------7-4-7-9-------9-7-9-11--------11-9-
A|------------------------------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------------------------------

Exercise 4:

E|---------------------------------------------------------------
B|-----2-5-2---------5-7-5---------7-10 7----------10-12-10------
G|-2-4-------4-2-4-6-------6-4-6-9--------9-6-9-11----------11-9-
D|---------------------------------------------------------------
A|---------------------------------------------------------------
E|---------------------------------------------------------------

Exercise 5:

E|-----2-5-2---------5-7-5----------7-9-7------------9-12-9---------
B|-2-5-------5-2-5-7-------7-5-7-10-------10-7-10-12--------12-10---
G|------------------------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------------------------------------
These exercises can stay with you forever as they also provide a good warm up if you are an advanced player as well. I will share all the things I learn while also learning lead with you guys over the next few months.

Thank you for reading. This is my first lesson so please comment and suggest improvements.
More Jacques Nel lessons:
+ Guitar Modes Lesson 1 Scales 02/25/2014
+ Bending Techniques and Exercises Guitar Techniques 03/06/2014
+ The Pentatonic Scale Extensions Scales 02/10/2014
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