Hopscotch Method. Part 1

Learn about the 5 shapes of the minor pentatonic, how they fit together on the fretboard, and how to break out of staying in one box and using most of the neck in your soloing with them.

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Intro

NOTE: This article is based on the video lesson created by Joe Cefalu, who gives a demonstration of his workout called 'Hopscotch,' exclusively for Shred Academy [website].

I recently watched this video which talks about the "Hopskotch Method," a way of getting out of the boxes of the minor pentatonic. It really works and is a great thing for soloing beginners, so I decided to type them out.

The minor pentatonic scale is used in a wide variety of genres of music. Rock, heavy metal, blues, etc. The most common problem however for beginning soloists is that when they learn a certain box shape of the minor pentatonic, they get stuck within that box and their solos start to sound the same, and it eventually gets boring. Here's a way you can learn more about the 5 shapes of the minor pentatonic, how they fit together on the fretboard, and how you can break down the barriers between those boxes and turn them into a giant box that covers most of the fretboard.

Minor Pentatonic Box Shapes

There are 5 minor pentatonic box shapes. The most common one being:
Fig. 1
|o|-|-|o|
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|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|-|o|

Now the remaining boxes follow it like this:
Fig. 2
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|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|
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Fig. 3
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Fig. 4
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Fig. 5
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If we were to play them following each other they would look like this, all along the fretboard:
  F.1  F.2  F.3  F.4  F.5  F.1
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|

You can see that, at the end, it starts back at figure 1, and that theyre all connected.

Now, while improvising, to be able to solo between these boxes seamlessly, you don't want to just play some licks off fig. 1, then switch to fig. 2, etc. You have to try and take two boxes, and merge them into one giant box.

To do this, we will take the 6 strings of your guitar in pairs. E & A, A & D, D & G, G & B, B & E. 5 pairs. Now what we'll do is take the first pair, E & A, and play the part of fig. 1 on those strings, and then play the part of figure 2 on those strings. So in the key of G minor, it would look like this:
e|-------------------------|
B|-------------------------|
G|-------------------------|
D|-------------------------|
A|--------3--5--------5--8-|
E|--3--6--------6--8-------|

Then we'll move on to the next pair of strings, A & D:


e|-------------------------|
B|-------------------------|
G|-------------------------|
D|--------3--5--------5--8-|
A|--3--5--------5--8-------|
E|-------------------------|
And we'll keep dong that up the 6 strings, so eventually we'll get this from the first 2 figures:
E|--------------------------------------------------------------------3-6-----6-8|
B|----------------------------------------------------3-6-----6-8-3-6-----6-8----|
G|------------------------------------3-5-----5-7-3-5-----5-7--------------------|
D|--------------------3-5-----5-8-3-5-----5-8------------------------------------|
A|----3-5-----5-8-3-5-----5-8----------------------------------------------------|
E|3-6-----6-8--------------------------------------------------------------------|
And if you look at the box shape now, it looks like this:
|o|-|-|o|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|
See what we did there was merge fig. 1 and 2, and made a big box. Once you are able to see the notes on the fretboardliek this, you're soloing will open up more than ever. If we do exactly what we did with fig. 1 and 2 to the rest of the figures, we'll come up with these:
Fig. 2&3
E|---------------------------------------------->
B|---------------------------------------------->
G|----------------------------------------5-7--->
D|----------------------5-8------8-10-5-8-----8->
A|----5-8------8-10-5-8-----8-10---------------->
E|6-8-----8-10---------------------------------->

E|>-------------------------------6-8-------8-10|
B|>-------------6-8------8-11-6-8-----8-11------|
G|>----7-10-5-7-----7-10------------------------|
D|>-10------------------------------------------|
A|>---------------------------------------------|
E|>---------------------------------------------|

|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|

Fig. 3&4
E|--------------------------------------------------------->
B|--------------------------------------------------------->
G|-------------------------------------------------7-10---->
D|---------------------------8-10-------10-12-8-10------10->
A|-----8-10-------10-13-8-10------10-13-------------------->
E|8-10------10-13------------------------------------------>

E|>---------------------------------------8-10--------10-13|
B|>---------------8-11--------11-13-8-11-------11-13-------|
G|>----10-12-7-10------10-12-------------------------------|
D|>-12-----------------------------------------------------|
A|>--------------------------------------------------------|
E|>--------------------------------------------------------|

|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
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Fig. 4&5
E|------------------------------------------------------------>
B|------------------------------------------------------------>
G|------------------------------------------------------10-12->
D|------------------------------10-12-------12-15-10-12------->
A|------10-13-------13-15-10-13-------13-15------------------->
E|10-13-------13-15------------------------------------------->

E|>------------------------------------------10-13-------13-15|
B|>------------------11-13-------13-15-11-13-------13-15------|
G|>------12-15-10-12-------12-15------------------------------|
D|>12-15------------------------------------------------------|
A|>-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|>-----------------------------------------------------------|

|o|-|-|o|-|o|
|-|o|-|o|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|

Fig. 5&1
E|------------------------------------------------------------>
B|------------------------------------------------------------>
G|------------------------------------------------------12-15->
D|------------------------------12-15-------15-17-12-15------->
A|------13-15-------15-17-13-15-------15-17------------------->
E|13-15-------15-18------------------------------------------->

E|>------------------------------------------13-15-------15-18|
B|>------------------13-15-------15-18-13-15-------15-18------|
G|>------15-17-12-15-------15-17------------------------------|
D|>15-17------------------------------------------------------|
A|>-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|>-----------------------------------------------------------|

|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|

Method Alternative

Another way to overcome the barriers between the boxes is to take 1 pair ofstrings, and go through all the box shapes on those two strings. Solets say, E & A. You would basically play this:
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|
B|----------------------------------------------------------------|
G|----------------------------------------------------------------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------|
A|------3-5-----5-8------8-10-------10-13-------13-15-------15-18-|
E|--3-6-----6-8-----8-10------10-13-------13-15-------15-18-------|

|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|

And that would also increase your ability toimprov and you will see the whole neck in a completely different way. For the rest of the pairs of strings, it would look like this:
A & D
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|
B|----------------------------------------------------------------|
G|----------------------------------------------------------------|
D|------3-5-----5-8------8-10-------10-12-------12-15-------15-17-|
A|--3-5-----5-8-----8-10------10-13-------13-15-------15-17-------|
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|

|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|

D & G
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|
B|----------------------------------------------------------------|
G|------3-5-----5-7------7-10-------10-12-------12-15-------15-17-|
D|--3-5-----5-8-----8-10------10-12-------12-15-------15-17-------|
A|----------------------------------------------------------------|
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|

|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|
|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|

G & B
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|
B|------3-6-----6-8------8-11-------11-13-------13-15-------15-18-|
G|--3-5-----5-7-----7-10------10-12-------12-15-------15-17-------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------|
A|----------------------------------------------------------------|
E|----------------------------------------------------------------|

|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|

B & E
E|------3-6-----6-8------8-10-------10-13-------13-15-------15-18-||
B|--3-6-----6-8-----8-11------11-13-------13-15-------15-18-------||
G|----------------------------------------------------------------||
D|----------------------------------------------------------------||
A|----------------------------------------------------------------||
E|----------------------------------------------------------------||

|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|

Conclusion

Well, that's it for the lesson. The minor pentatonic scale is a major milestone in the transition from rhythmist to soloist, and I hoped this small contribution helped you out along the way.

80 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    singurel
    p.s. When i said the range of the pentatonic i ment all the notes you can find all along the fretboard
    singurel
    hm...i think what you have there is just a complex way of saying something really easy:why would you need to learn all the shapes and stuff?i took a look over this and it kinda` messed up my mind...i find it very complex....by me the simplest solution would be to think of the pentatonic, wrap you mind around it, get all the notes in it.then, i think it`s a lot easyer to play within the range of the pentatonic, just concentrating on getting the notes right rather than bending your mind to remember 50.000 different shapes...isn't it?that`s how i do it
    notoriousnumber
    Truly, truly wonderful. I have been playing for a couple of years and this is something I have severely looked over. Thank you so much for this in-depth, well explained lesson. Cheers.
    *Spoonman*
    This is the first lession on scales ive read that i actually understood! i cant' believe i didnt know what it all ment before ,its pretty easy really
    Metalhead1991
    thx man awsum lesson. i like ur method alternative but i was wonderin if it wud work if u did it with 3 strings. ill try it and see if it works but like from a theoretically wud it be good or wud it sound wrong?
    Ziggy511
    Very nice lesson. I think i found 1 error though. On the Method Alternative on the E&A string the last note should be a 17 not 18. Not a big deal though it is still an awsome lesson.
    d_lord1
    This is going to sound quite retarded but I am a beginner and don't understand about shapes and modes and stuff. Also, what do the diagrams, e.g. Fig. 1 |o|-|-|o| |o|-|-|o| |o|-|o|-| |o|-|o|-| |o|-|o|-| |o|-|-|o | mean?
    yao151
    is it even werth learning the major scales posiotions if you play heavy metal? i have heard that minor scales are what people use for metal solos. please give me some advice
    Irontallica09
    very good, this is exactly the way I learned. I learned the pentatonic in 1 position got bored so learnt them all and mixed it up, did this for the major scale (7 positions, or modes) etc
    mike288
    camspiers wrote: I watched the video, a shame he was more concerned with playing fast then writing melodic phrases. Signs of a player who practices playing more than listening.
    well put man
    Rambow66
    ok im still confused... i dont know how to read the boxes, can someone please help?
    MadTaco
    Rambow66: This might help you out - Imagine Fig. 1 like it was your fretboard with the low E at the bottom. The circles represent where you're fretting a note. Fig. 1 |o|-|-|o| |o|-|-|o| |o|-|o|-| |o|-|o|-| |o|-|o|-| |o |-|-|o| So, for the sake of example, here's the same exact figure with the fretting for G Minor Pentatonic, which most of this lesson is written in - Fig. 1 |3|-|-|6| |3|-|-|6| |3|-|5|-| |3|-|5|-| |3|-|5|-| |3 |-|-|6| Hope that helps. You should be able to piece together the other boxes after that if you use this as a starting point. Awesome lesson. I can't believe this kind of stuff isn't more common. It just makes way too much sense. Perfect score.
    camspiers
    Cool lesson man. I watched the video, a shame he was more concerned with playing fast then writing melodic phrases. Signs of a player who practices playing more than listening. This is the best pentatonic learning tool I have ever seen though. Well done both of you.
    røvrebs
    Extremely simple, yet with infinite uses. Great! Also it opens your mind up to all the different patterns and logics on a guitar; helps you find your own best way to remember them. Excellent!
    sTx
    God! This is one of the best lessons on how to effectively use minor pentatonics without screwing up your theory. Cheers, ST
    jmilli2
    Watched the video on youtube and then read this... much easier when it's written down
    GaragePunk
    i like how u layed it all out there instead of trying to teach in little confuing segment good lesson thanks
    Stanovavich
    Thank You! I've been practicing scales and they always sound so boring when improvising, now I see why.
    workstar
    Good job on the lesson. easy to understand. I murdered my guitar teacher...
    eljony
    very helpull 4 the begginers also its important to clarify that the box shapes depends con the root note i used to play always in A minor pentatoci, 4 all the chords... its better if u ar playing in G.. to start the box shape in the fret #3 for example.. Good one! cyaz!