Pentatonic Sequences For Soloing

Ever wanted to sound more like Eric Johnson? Ever just want new interesting ways to play the pentatonic? Well then this lesson is for you. I'll go over some simple sequences that will not only build speed, but will make your leads sound better.

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Welcome everyone to my lesson on pentatonic sequences. To start off, i'll explain what a scale sequence is. Basically, all it is is taking the notes of a scale and arranging them into patterns that can be used to go up or down a scale. You've actually probably heard these before but just didn't know what they were.

First, lets start by showing the A minor pentatonic scale in the "root position" on the 5th fret.
e----------------5 8----------------
B-------------5 8---8 5-------------
G----------5 7---------7 5----------
D-------5 7---------------7 5-------
A----5 7---------------------7 5----
E-5 8---------------------------8 5-
Now, you should be pretty comfortable with this already. If you are not, take some time to practice just going up and down this scale to get used to it.

Now assuming you are already using the pentatonic, lets break it up into sequences to make things more fun. This will also help build speed in the pentatonic scale.

The first one we'll go over is GROUPS OF 3. The concept is simply play up the scale 3 notes, then go back to the 2nd note and go up 3 more notes. Then from there, go back to the second note in that group and go up 3 more etc... So think of it as 1 2 3, 2 2 3, 3 2 3, etc...
e------------------------------------------------5---5-8--5---
B-------------------------------------5---5-8-5-8--8-----8--8-5....etc..
G--------------------------5---5-7-5-7--7---------------------
D---------------5---5-7-5-7--7--------------------------------
A----5---5-7-5-7--7-------------------------------------------
E-5-8--8------------------------------------------------------
When starting this, make sure to actually count out "one, two, three, one two, three" and make sure to accent the "one" with your picking. Now where it gets a little tricky is connecting the accending with the deccending(which is what is shown at the top of the example. Continue it down the scale). What I like to do is count the top "three" as the "one" for going back down. So count " one, two, three, two, one, three, two, one," etc...
e-8-5---5---------------------------------------------------
B-----8---8-5-8-5--5----------------------------------------
G-----------------7---7-5-7-5---5---------------------------
D-----------------------------7---7-5-7-5---5---------------
A-----------------------------------------7---7-5-7-5--5----
E-----------------------------------------------------8--8-5
You should practice this starting from the top, go all the way down, and then back up as well as starting from the bottom, going up and then back down.

Next, we'll talk about GROUPS OF 4. Now, there are a couple of ways to do these. Once you go past groups of 3 it becomes easier to change it up a bit. For the sake of usefulness(and so I don't have to write out a few different groups of 4), I will show you the one I use the most. it's quite simple and it's very easy to get up to speed. This one will start to sound more eric johnson like and it should because I got it from watching him play. In this one, instead of going back to the 2nd note, we'll go to the 3rd note. This makes this easier to play than going back to the 2nd note which would involve some rolling.
e--------------------------------5-8----
B-------------------------5-8-5-8----8-5 ...etc..
G------------------5-7-5-7--------------
D-----------5-7-5-7---------------------
A----5-7 5-7----------------------------
E-5-8-----------------------------------
See? Pretty easy. This one is probably the easiest one out of all of them but don't be tempted to rush this one. Take the time to make sure every note is nice and clean before going faster. And again, when you get to the top, count the "four" as the "one" when deccending back down. So "one, two, three, four, three, two one, four, three, two, one," etc...

And starting on the top:
e8-5--------------------------------
B---8-5-8-5-------------------------
G----------7-5-7-5------------------
D-----------------7-5-7-5-----------
A------------------------7-5-7-5----
E-------------------------------8-5-
Again, practice starting from the top, go down and back up as well as start from the bottom, go up then back down.

Now the next one I'm going to show you sounds even more Eric Johnson like and Joe Bonamassa like. Its basically a GROUPS OF 6 pattern, but the way i practice it doesn't start out like a group of 6. And the reason for this is to just get your fingers used to skipping back up or down to the previous string in any area on the neck. so think of it like; 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,5,6 etc... instead of 1,2,3,4,5,6,1,2,3,4,5,6.
e-----------------------------------------5-8---5-8---8-5-----------------
B--------------------------------5-8---5-8---5-8---8-5---8-5---8-5--------
G-----------------------5-7---5-7---5-7--------------------7-5---7-5....etc
D-------------5-7---5-7----5-7---------------------------------------------
A----5-7---5-7---5-7-------------------------------------------------------
E 5-8---5-8----------------------------------------------------------------
So as you can see, it's basically a 6 note pattern but it does stray away from it at times to make it easier to play.
e-8-5---8-5-------------------------------------------
B----8-5---8-5---8-5----------------------------------
G-------------7-5---7-5---7-5-------------------------
D----------------------7-5---7-5---7-5----------------
A-------------------------------7-5---7-5---7-5-------
E----------------------------------------8-5----8-5---
And by now i'm sure you know to practice both starting from the top comming down then back up, and starting on the bottom going up then back down.

Another thing to consider is taking these concepts and moving them into the other positions of the pentatonic scale. This way, you can play through all the shapes on the fretboard equally.

Well to wrap this up, I just want to say that I hope this helped you guys out there. I know I wish I knew this when I started out. Another thing you can do is make your own sequences. Obviously I skipped from Groups of 4 to Groups of 6. You could do 5 if you like or even 7. Try going back to different notes too. For example, go up 5, go back to the third note and go up five instead of going to the 2nd.

Anyways, I might do a 2nd part to this to go over other ideas and maybe some examples of licks using sequences in them.

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    austinhue
    This is actually a really great lesson... A lot of people don't realize that the key to a great rock/metal solo isn't necessarily playing odd riffs and strange unpredictable melodies in weird keys... the secret is actually playing with control, and playing the right notes. The pentatonic scale is a great place for beginners as well as experts and it sounds surprisingly non-cheesy. Especially pentatonic minor. I wrote a solo the other day using the "groups of 6" pattern over a C minor scale, up and back down, using triplet eighth notes at 155 BPM for two measures. It sounds fast, awesome, it's easy to harmonize over... just generally wonderful. I definitely recommend this method to everyone.
    pca78
    I sort of stumbled upon this lesson, and as an advanced player in the blues rock realm, I found this exercise to be a real eye-opener. I've always played the other pentatonic approach (I'm not great with technical jargon), the (low-to-high) 1-3-2-2-2-2 style. This lesson has been great in getting across the one-step back,-two steps forward approach to the scale. More ideas are jumping from my fingers. My goal is to develop speed, not insane Malmsteen or Petrucci times, but fluid, EJ-style speed. Thanks for this lesson. I'm still learning it!
    nowa90
    anyone else think of Black Betty by Ram Jam on this: e-----5-8---- B-----5-8-5-8----8-5 ...etc.. G-----5-7-5-7----- D-----5-7-5-7----- A----5-7 5-7----- E-5-8-----
    Coby501st
    this was helpful, now i kinda know how a scale and a solo is related in some ways.
    ragnarr023
    Thanks for the lesson. I shall use it as a warmup AND as practice for my general guitaring. Props to you man
    Martin Messner
    Just one Question... how to improvise other stuff in compination with that? if someone is bored, i would be very happy about getting 1-2 licks in combination with a regualer scale
    miskatsu
    This was an coooool lesson... Hope we don't freeze before we can master guitar solo...
    Uubguitar
    Sweet dude i think this will make me (beginer guitarist) way better....maby i can catch all my friends with this scale cause even they dont know it!