Repeat Pentatonic Licks Across The Fretboard

A few ideas and patterns to add variety to your pentatonic solos.

Ultimate Guitar
*Disclaimer: Just letting you know, this is my first lesson.* The pentatonic scale is the most widely used (and abused) scale in rock, pop, blues and jazz - but it still sounds damn good, which is why nearly every guitarist eventually resorts to it while improvising (and also why I should probably take back that 'abused' aside). This lesson's just about a few interesting things I noticed while noodling around on the pentatonic while soloing. First of all though, if you do know the notes for the pentatonic scale (major or minor) for a certain key across the fretboard and don't have difficulty in moving from one position to another, then this lesson might not be much use. But if you (like me) are stuck in pentatonic boxes while soloing, hopefully these patterns/ideas may help you break out of that. By the way, I'm only going to restrict myself to repeat licks on the B and G strings, but after this lesson you should be able to apply it to whichever strings you want to So, let's take an average, everyday pentatonic minor scale - D for example. The most popular pattern for playing it is this: e|---------------------------------10-13-| B|---------------------------10-13-------| G|--------------------10-12--------------| D|--------------10-12--------------------| A|--------10-12--------------------------| E|--10-13--------------------------------| However, on just the G and B strings, you could play this scale (starting from different notes) like this: B|---1---3---6---8---10---13---15---18---20---22--| (starts with a C) G|-0---2---5---7---10---12---14---17---19---22---24--| (starts with a G) The regular repeat licks in D minor pentatonic, within the box and for these two strings involve the 10 and the 13 on the B string (A and C) and the 12 on the G string (G). There are many permutations and combinations that you can use with these three notes alone, a couple of examples are B|---------10-13--------10-13-------10-13--------10-13--| G|--12b14--------12b14-------12b14--------12b14--------| and B|------10h13p10----10h13p10----10h13p10----10h13p10--| G|--12-----------12-----------12----------12------------| (The first one is just that lick from Adrian Smith's solo in 'The Trooper', lowered one step). You'll notice, they're very similar. In fact, I don't think of them as two separate licks, but just really 3 'circular' notes that I can easily and fluidly string together in a variety of different ways. You can find 3 note groups like this all across the fretboard though for those two strings, once you know the notes. Using B|-----10--13-| G|-12---------| as a template, we also have these groups on the D minor pentatonic scale B|----1--3-| G|-2-------| B|----3--6-| G|-5-------| B|----6--8-| G|-7-------| B|-----8--10-| G|-10--------| (I really don't know what to do with this one though, it's very majorish) B|-----13--15-| G|-14---------| B|-----15--18-| G|-17---------| B|-----18--20-| G|-19---------| So you could just as well use these groups too while soloing in D minor - for example, instead of the usual licks in the box, you could use these: B|---------15-18--------15-18-------15-18--------15-18--| G|--17b19--------17b19-------17b19--------17b19--------| B|-----6h8p6---6h8p6---6h8p6---6h8p6--| G|--7--------7--------7-------7--------| And, by virtue of symmetry, you could also use all the other 3 note groups in a similar fashion. And also generalize to other scales and other strings once you figure out the notes of the scale across the fretboard. For these particular licks (on the B and G strings, that is) I discovered that developing a good fluid legato style (lots of fast trills and hammer ons and pull offs) works wonders while playing them. Kind of like Dave Murray (you might guess by now that Maiden is my favorite band; you would be correct). Also, they sound really good with wah. Of course, if you do know all the notes of the pentatonic scale across a string, then this should be obvious to you, and you've probably just wasted your time reading this lesson and learned nothing new. These 'repeat lick groups' are just intended to be a stepping stone on the path to learning how to play the same scale all over the fretboard, and of course, once you're comfortable with that, you should find your solos becoming lot more interesting, even if they still just restricted to one scale.

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Great lesson mate! Hats of to you. I learnt the major scale like that on a couple of strings. I do know all the shapes for the pentatonic scale but find it hard to group them up fluidly while improvising so I tend to get in a box and stay there for a while. This will help me a lot. Legend.
    Thanks a lot man! I'm almost in the exact same rut, this is still the only way I know how to move from one position to another while still making it sound natural.
    Just learn the c major scale.every other scale and mode comes from it.You can write tons of tunes in that key and make a career from it.Ask Iron Maiden.
    Iron Maiden plays in E Minor far more than C Major/A Minor.
    Yeah I'd agree with that, Maiden does play most of their songs in E minor, but still, you can't derive 'every other scale and mode' from the c major scale.
    Just finished reading your lesson. I found it interesting and very helpful. Thanks!!
    Tight lesson man. Great licks and sound great with some wah. Wish I would of saw this when I first was learning to expand my pentatonic past the first position lol.