Blowing Your Mind With The Pentatonic Scale

A quick lesson in theory and technique to help break you out of the typical minor pentatonic scale ruts like the "box" position and bring a refreshing out look to using this common scale.

Ultimate Guitar
The pentatonic scale is very common scale that often gets used over and over again in the same "classic", yet to the motivated guitarist possibly considered boring, concepts through out various styles and forms of music. This lesson is going to show you two theory concepts to use the minor pentatonic scale in new ways to hopefully help inspire you as well as a new technique for each that breaks out of the "box" shape a lot of players get stuck in. I strongly urge players of any degree of skill to attempt to learn the example's provided to under stand the concepts in technique used to break out of typical "box" positions. I also would highly recommend drawing a fret board diagram and circling the notes of the scale first then using a high lighter to draw lines and make shapes that look easy or interesting to play. A visual aid such as this can be very helpful to see the scale in a new perspective and be used to invent new licks of your very own. The first concept we are going to look at is playing a minor pentatonic scale from a perfect 5th above our tonic. In this case we will pretend some one is playing in the key of "E" in some situation where normally they would play the E minor pentatonic scale. "B" is the perfect 5th of "E", so we will begin constructing our scale from there. To build a pentatonic scale start from our tonic note "B" and move forward a step and a half giving you "D", from there move a whole step up to "E", then another whole step up to "F#", followed by a step and a half up to "A" finally. Playing this scale with the notes B, D, E, F#, and A will be playing a different mode of the B pentatonic scale and in relation to E the intervals you will be playing are a major 2nd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, and minor 7th. This creates a "suspended" sort of sound and sounds great over a multitude of situations. Example 1. is a string skipping and tapping line to be played in the key of E. All the note's involved are from the B pentatonic scale.

Next is a really cool way to apply the minor pentatonic scale in a colorful jazzy/blues kinda way over a major chord or key. Again this will be for soloing over the key of "E". This time though we will be building our minor pentatonic scale from the major 7th of our tonic or in other words a half step behind "E". Using the same step wise pattern described in the paragraph above to make a pentatonic scale we have the notes D#, F#, G#, A#, and C#. Note that these note's do not use our root note for the key of "E" or it's perfect 5th "B", this creates an interesting "jazzy" sound by neglecting to use some of the chord tones. In relation to the key of E you are now playing the intervals of a major 2nd, major 3rd, augmented 4th, major 6th, and major 7th. This implies the E Lydian mode as you are already using every interval of the Lydian mode besides the tonic and perfect 5th. If using this pentatonic scale in a "chromatic-bluesy" sort of manor you can create some cool major blues sounding lead ideas as well. Example 2. is a lick the utilizes sweep picking to and is to be played over the key of E major. All the notes used in this example are from the D# minor pentatonic scale from the above paragraph plus a few "bluesy" chromatic notes .
Now the real trick is to try these concepts out in your own playing and inventing your own musical phrases. Hope you enjoyed the lesson and it inspires some mind blowing pentatonic licks and ideas of your own.

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Here we go, instead of commending the OP and adding our on experiences to help the community, lets just shit on the effort that the OP went through to post this.
    Well....seeing as how this is apparently so terrible can any one at least tell me what would have made the lesson more helpful or mind blowing? Even though the title was meant purely to gain the article attention more then anything. My thought was that providing these two harmonic concepts of the minor pentatonic scale as well as two techniques I do not see commonly used with it would be helpful or inspiring to some at the very least. In my experience I have noticed that many people learn scale's but may not learn much of the applications possible for the scale and this lesson was providing some ideas to do so. If there is a better article on this subject or any ideas to make it better I would be more then happy to hear them.
    Mayermick86: The lesson, fundamentally, was not terrible. Not at all. Matter of fact, I kind of liked it. The problems with it are almost entirely with the name. UG readers who frequent the site are used to (maybe intentionally) misleading titles for articles, and tend to harbor borderline severe distaste and contempt for them. The article is not mind-blowing, sorry to say, nor is it what I thought it would be about. I enjoyed it, but the dual-infraction of the article being unspecific and deceptive is annoying. If you had simply called the lesson something like "Pentatonic Modes", I would have still looked at it because pentatonics will always have a special place in my heart as a guitarist, and I enjoy/appreciate running through modes of scales other than just the major. Just be careful what you name your lessons, next time. It was a good lesson, but some of the more childish and critical elements of the UG community will always be there to tear others down at first the sign of any faltering qualities or imperfections. 7/10
    Thank you, that was what I was looking for more then anything. I completely agree with you on the title issue. I was hoping it would attract more readers rather then entirely misleading them in the process and seeing as how it's my second article, was not yet completely aware of the back lash that would come to pass ha ha.
    re:seeing as how this is apparently so terrible can any one at least tell me what would have made the lesson more helpful or mind blowing? A video or audio clip demonstrating the musical example. Without it many people would find this lesson to be too much work and not worth the effort. If we can hear the lick we can work out if it's worth learning and check if we're doing it right. Also, typing the examples up in an actual notation program (Sibelius, guitar pro etc.) and taking a screenshot of the score, presenting the notation/tab along with some rhythm notation for much greater clarity. I never bother to read the type of tab you used.
    Where was the mind blowing lick I hear so much about? I never thought of the pentatonic as boring, listen to some real blues to hear some real mind blowing pentatonic.
    It's not about a mind blowing lick, more a mind blowing concept of creating new sounds with the minor pentatonic by building it off of another note then the root in order to create a different harmonic comparison of intervals. These are two concepts that actually are used in blues all the time.
    The licks are not bad man its just you built up exception by using mind blowing. Like you said the concepts are used all the time so it is not mind blowing, still good though. Better than all the advertisement garbage you see all around UG lessons lol.
    Thanks for the post man, I've been trying to learn what makes a great solo in my quest to shred. hahaha, But seriously, this helped me, keep postin' and keep playin'!
    pay no attetion to the naysayers every crowd has some dumbass players in it these guys apparently know nothing about song writing thats why they use tabs and steal solos or licks no orginality
    So basically you're trying to say "use notes that aren't in the pentatonic when you normally would use the pentatonic will help it not sound like the pentatonic." Mind blowing alright... This is why you use your ear, so you don't have to memorize a million situations of when to play what ontop of what. Use your ears and you'd already know this.
    The goal of this lesson is to use your ears as well. The hole point of studying harmony like in this lesson is to momentarily have a particular goal in mind in these two case's building pentatonic scale's from a not so typical note other then the root. Then you use your ear from that to explore and create new melodies and phrase's. In either case you can still use a minor or minor blues pentatonic from the root note's, how ever you can get more mileage out of your licks by playing them in different keys as well as by fusing the concepts together.
    No it's using the minor pentatonic scale just using it form other note's then the root you would typically think of using it from hence opening your ear up to newer sounds and ways of using it. Perhaps even more unique shapes as your ear searches for interesting notes in it, after all you will be hitting different intervals then what a minor pentatonic scale built from the root would do. You obviously missed the hole point of the lesson.
    The "lessons" that UG posts are about as useful to a practiced musician as a pair of headphones is to a deaf person.
    So you're assuming all of UG readers are practiced musicians?
    No, but it would be nice to see an article that actually had some material in it that was a bit more...advanced...rather than seeing articles about how to "learn a solo in 7 steps." It's one step, its called open the damn book and practice. Let's see some articles that cover altered chords/scales and their application or maybe even some not-so mainstream scales like the hungarian minor or the persian scale. Something, anything, that strays from the typical lessons that can be found in almost every guitar book on a shelf.
    Or braille on a drive thru.
    Then what are you doing reading them at all? Why not just leave the lesson be for those who may have wanted to learn a new concept to try out in their writing? It seems like you all flamed me more for the title or for already knowing the content more then anything. Whats the point in that?
    I like to read lessons because you are never done learning guitar until you give up or die. The point is just to troll and be sarcastic because we have nothing better to do with our life's lol.
    Title aside, I appreciate things like this to help me (a novice at best) to improve my playing. I hope the snarky, useless comments don't discourage you or others from sharing useful info like this in the future...Thanks
    This site gets worse by the day. So many kids here probably struggle with this basic exercise and feel the need to downgrade a different way of thinking because it's not br00t3lz enough for them.
    Ive been struggling with the idea of modes for a while and this has helped me a little. Thankyou for the thread.