Guitars Most Important Pattern

This lesson will help you make your first serious steps in more lateral improvising and soloing on the fingerboard.

Ultimate Guitar
Guitars Most Important Pattern

This information may not be new, because it can be taken out of all kinds of other lessons on pentatonic scales. The thing is, I have never seen this specific idea presented in as fun, simple and logical way as I am about to show you.

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This lesson will focus on playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale over several octaves using a combined vertical and lateral approach and it will give you an ability with the scale that you can go forward with to make your first serious steps in more lateral improvising and soloing on the fingerboard.

Common Minor Pentatonic:

The idea of extending the minor pentatonic scale along and across the neck involves linking together more than one scale shape along the span of the fingerboard. This will help to form a series of linked shapes that will allow players to move more rapidly along the fingerboard.

The process will allow players to begin from anywhere on the instrument and move more quickly along the neck with access to more notes than we have available within only one position.

Example 1). This shape is the most popular pentatonic shape known to guitar players. However, it is locked into one vertical position.

There's no questioning that the shape shown above is both good and valuable because it can be so easy to memorize and quick to apply for making up solos. However, it is within a position vertically and this makes it somewhat limiting, (since we run out of room so fast).

Lateral Pentatonic Shapes:

To gain easier access to more notes of the Pentatonic scale, our best plan would be to learn to extend the notes of the minor pentatonic scale more horizontally along the neck. However, due to the amount of overlapping notes when moving pattern to pattern, the connections of these shapes can become overwhelming very quickly.

Once you learn how to play more lateral shapes for the pentatonic and when you understand how it can be stretched along the neck in an "across the frets" fashion, you will not only have more access to notes, but you will be able to perform longer more flowing scale runs and more lengthy guitar licks laterally across the fingerboard.

But, the question becomes, how can you quickly and easily learn to apply a more lateral pentatonic layout along and across the neck?

The "Frying Pan" Shape:

The easiest approach to take in learning to cover more ground using an along the neck lateral pentatonic scale concept is what I've nicknamed over the years as the "Frying Pan" shape. It's fun, it's easy to understand, and after you do this once, you'll never forget it for the rest of your life!

Start by imagining what a frying pan would look like as if it were to be superimposed upon a guitar fingerboard diagram. I know it sounds goofy, but trust me on this.

Example 2). Frying pan visualization exercise... This is easy, just imagine a frying pan sitting on the guitar fingerboard. The example below has the frying pan on the 6th and 5th strings at the third position.

Now think of "tracing over" the frying pan shape with a series of notes taken from the Minor Pentatonic scale... It's just that easy!

Example 3). Pentatonic scale (low register position) key of "A Minor."

This shape (above) is the first in a series that can be repeated up through three octaves. That's a lot of distance across the neck when soloing. As long as you hold the "frying pan" shape in your mind, you'll be able to carry on across all of the other areas of the fingerboard with ease.

Example 4). Re-locating the "frying pan" shape to a mid-range octave in the same key. (5th position on the 4th and 3rd strings).

The new fingerboard area and octave range uses the exact same frying pan scale shape and allows us access to a new area of the guitar neck with the same fingerboard geometry. Have a run through the notes found in example five below.

Example 5). Pentatonic scale (mid register position) key of "A Minor."

And, to extend the range of the pentatonic scale pattern even further, we can extend our layout by yet one more frying pan!

Example 6). Re-locating the "frying pan" shape to a higher-range in the same key. (8th position, strings 2 and 1).

The scale patterns are all identical and follow the visualized shape of the frying pan. It's so easy to play through the patterns because they are very easy hold in your memory. All it takes is one try and you've nailed it for life. Once you've practiced your fingerings and technique, you can move on to playing a few licks and even your first "frying pan solo."

Example 7). The upper register pentatonic scale shape...

Now that we've organized all of the frying pan layouts and how they connect back to the Minor pentatonic scales, it's time to learn how everything connects together as one complete fingering shape on the neck.

Connecting The Frying Pan Shapes:

The shapes can be connected and applied as one complete layout on the neck for solos or when creating melody lines. I'd suggest making a study of one frying pan shape at a time, then slowly combining them. Once all of them are committed to memory, the entire shape will come together as the pattern shown in example eight.

Example 8). The entire layout of an, "along the neck extended pentatonic." Key of "A Minor."


This shape can work for any key and can also operate off of the 5th string. All that you'll need to do is spend some time working on the new layouts. Once you commit them to memory, try working with the shape in Major Pentatonic. You'll need to reorganize the layout for the Major keys, but it won't take you long to notice how the shape changes to produce major tonality.

This pattern will work fantastic for playing lead or for composing worked out guitar melody lines. One thing for sure, you'll use this idea nearly every time that you play a guitar solo.

- Andrew Wasson

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The Author: Andrew Wasson (GIT Grad.), Ultimate Guitar's "Top Contributor"

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Wow, the frying pan visualization technique is pretty nifty. Gonna sit down with this when I practise tomorrow. Thanks.
    so if i read this right, the root note is at the back of the pan. Then how would rearrange for A Maj, since both Maj and Min A have the same root note?