Welcome to the essentials course part two! During the next 5 lessons we will be focusing on the Pentatonic scale. We will not only be learning the shape, but also learning how to play major and minor as well as playing in any key so that you can start improvising!
The pentatonic is easily the most popular tool for rock, blues, pop and funk guitar players... And you’ll soon see why! The pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale based on major scale and was originally born in African American music in at the turn of the 20th century. As we progress through the course we will be using this scale to do a lot of riffing, improvising and soloing, so let’s get it learnt now!
We will learn your first shape in the key of A minor. This basically means we will play the shape starting from the 5th fret (the A note) on the E string. It looks like this:
If you would like to double check the scale and play along, then click on the link below to see the tab.
You may have heard the musical term ‘key’ being thrown about at a local jam night or on TV (typically singers may say that someone is ‘out of key’). Keys are a crucial part of music as they provide something called a ‘tonal centre’. Now, we don’t want to get too deep into this, as there will just be too many questions for this stage of your learning. All we need to know is how keys affect our soloing and scale choice.
So the scenario is pretty typical, you are having a jam with another musician or guitarist and you need to be able to sound good together. Well, the way to do this is by being in the same key. A more experienced musician should know what key they are in and can tell you. Equally, as we progress and you improve you will understand how to determine the key of a song. For now, once you know the key you need to choose the scale. This part is super simple:
Easy as that! They key could be G major, so you play using the G major scale. It could be Bb Major so you play using your Bb Major scale. In this example the key is G minor and you only know the Minor pentatonic scale, so that’s what you use! Further down the line you will know many many minor scales and you can use all of them, but for now you use what you know! The main thing to establish is if it’s major or minor and then what is the tonal centre note (i.e. G or A).
Moving the pentatonic shape is as easy as moving the major scale. We simply find the root (the first note) and then move it to another note and play the shape. Please remember that this scale shape is minor and the root note is the ‘minor root note’. Here is an image to illustrate this:
Here are some examples of the minor pentatonic scale moved around the fretboard. Just click the the red button above the fretboard to see how you move the scale.
Last time we looked at minor, but we can also use the same shape for major. The only difference is that our root note changes. So, rather than the root note being the first note in the scale shape, it is the second. It looks as follows:
Here are a few examples of the major pentatonic moved across the neck. The video explains the technique even further, so be sure to check it out to guarantee you understand this concept!
Improvising is not something we can learn to do in a 10 minute video lesson, but it is something we can start to learn today! The main idea at this point is that you can select the correct pentatonic for the correct key and then start to mess around with it a bit. We have provided you backing tracks in certain keys to try and practice this concept. You will also see the pentatonic shapes below so you can double check you have the correct position on the neck. Have fun!
Here are 5 backing tracks you can play around with to test your knowledge and skills! Below the audio player you will see the pentatonic scales that match the keys, just in case you want to double check.