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Improve Your Pentatonic Playing With Just 3 Notes! Pt.1

This series of lessons is taken from a monthly column over at

Pentatonic scales can be found in almost all genres of music, from classical Indian ragas to straight up funk and blues, they are definitely one of the most useful scales that you can learn. In this lesson we are going to look at the Minor Pentatonic which uses the following notes from the minor scale: R b3 4 5 b7 So in the key of A minor this would give us the following notes: A C D E G Most of us will have played some kind of bassline or lick that is based around this scale, especially in the blues, rock and funk genres. In the following lessons I’m going to show you some ways in which to expand your pentatonic playing by expanding the scale and adding in some extra notes to give you some more ‘colourful’ approaches to your riffs and fills. First off let’s expand the 1 octave pentatonic scale over the fingerboard to give us some more options and access to different note combinations Fig.1

Note the inclusion of the b7 (G) below our root note and the b3 (C) should now be played on the 3rd fret, 3rd string. It’s important to use consistent fingering as this facilitates flow and efficiency when playing this scale at speed, I suggest the following (starting on the b7 G on 3rd fret of the E string): 1 - 4 - 1 S 1 - 4 - 1 - 4 - 1 S 1 - 4 With 1 being 1st finger and 4 being pinky and S being a shift with the 1st finger from one position to the next. A second advantage of viewing the pentatonic scale this way is that it makes all the notes only 2 frets apart instead of having that ‘awkward’ 3 fret span at the beginning between the root and b3. In the next lesson we will look at adding in some ‘outside’ notes to really spice up your pentatonic licks! Feel free to get in touch with questions/lesson suggestions via email: Keep practicing and stay tuned for more lessons coming soon! Craig.

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