View Full Version : Mastering the pentatonic scale

12-16-2003, 05:38 PM
Guys, as you probably know already, I'm a major blues junkie. I'm looking to master the five pentatonic scales in every position. I am sure this has probably been covered a number of times on this site so a link to an article or a previous post will certainly be welcome. Since I am looking for mastery of the scale, I would like excercise suggestions that will help achieve this. Once again I appreciate all your great advice.

12-16-2003, 05:40 PM
Try Pentatonic Madness by Eric, is really kick a** article.

12-16-2003, 05:50 PM
I was already checking that article out. It appeared to me to be a little too much lick based. I am looking for exercises that wil achieve mastery of the scales, not just a couple licks.

12-16-2003, 05:59 PM
Perhaps you've seen this one too. It's not merely lick-based. Its great.

Guni's Pentatonic article (http://www.ibreathemusic.com/article/36)

12-16-2003, 08:01 PM
Guni's article is tremendous. I'm wondering is there any books with nothing but pentatonic scale exercises designed to master the scales in all keys. Much in the same vain as Guni's article. My goal is to get to the point where I no longer think about patterns or keys. Much like Guni stated, I want to be able to play vertically, horizontally, diagnolly, etc without any conscious limitations.

12-16-2003, 08:28 PM
Has anyone seen or owned any of the fretboard roadmaps series. Here is a link to the Fretboard Roadmaps: Blues.


Since amazon doesn't have the option of looking inside that particular book, I have no idea if its what I am looking for. I'm not looking for absolute begginer crap. I want a list of exercises that instill a mastery of the pentatonic scales in all position. Written much in the same vein of Terrifying Technique for Guitar.

12-16-2003, 08:31 PM
Also check out my pentatonic-pattern-workout:


12-16-2003, 08:37 PM
thanks eric. I actually have been doing the exercises from your articles for the last hour. Great article. An expanded addition of your article is basically what I'm looking for. Such as book of a 100-200 different exercises utilizing only the pentatonic scales. ex would be much like the ones you provided but also played vertically, horizontally and diagnoly and designed to build speed and tie the patterns together.

12-16-2003, 08:38 PM
And by the way Eric. Great f%%ing article!

12-16-2003, 08:50 PM
Thanks a lot, glad you like the articles.
Regarding exercises for the pentatonic patterns... it would take time to prepare something about that. But I also can recommend to check out some solos by Eric Johnson... he is a master when it comes to connecting pentatonic patterns and moving through them... some of his solos sound like he used a scale with about 600 notes, and itīs all pentatonic scale.
See if you can find some TABs for his songs. If you can, check out the solos in the song "Desert Rose" ( on "Ah Via Musicom" ).,.. the first half of the main solo is all Fm Pentatonic

12-16-2003, 11:29 PM
hey eric, just got off your website and wanted to say god damn it! I don't even like that style of music but damn! It was very melodic and extremely listenable. The technique was obviously through the roof. Awesome!

12-16-2003, 11:35 PM
Hey, thanks so much !!! I am glad you liked the tunes, it means a lot !!
Itīs interesting... that you say you donīt like that style of music... I assume youīre referring to instrumental rock. I can understand that, a lot of people arenīt really interested in that kinda stuff... I am glad you liked my tunes though... I usually try to go for rather melodic songs, instead of just wailing away ( you should have heard the original version of "Atlanta Dawn"... it was ridiculous ), because to me "Instrumental guitar rock" means "Having the guitar take the place of the vocalist", playing the melodies etc.
So I usually try not too forget about the melodic side.

You wouldnīt believe how many people have approached me after shows, saying "Dude, that was great, but you know what ? You really need a singer"
Some of them think that we play instrumental stuff cuz we didnīt find a singer yet =)

Anyway, thanks again, I really appreaciate !
Warm regards

Spin 2513
12-17-2003, 12:02 AM
Originally posted by bparham77
Guys, as you probably know already, I'm a major blues junkie. I'm looking to master the five pentatonic scales in every position. I am sure this has probably been covered a number of times on this site so a link to an article or a previous post will certainly be welcome. Since I am looking for mastery of the scale, I would like excercise suggestions that will help achieve this. Once again I appreciate all your great advice.

But , have you mastered the "Hair Brush ", yet

04-22-2004, 07:47 PM
Hi everyone

Eric, I've read your suggested articles and I was wondering: what fingerings do you employ for all five pentatonic shapes?

I struggle with patterns 2 - 5 (primarily) on the lower strings in the upper regions of the neck i.e. the 10th fret and beyond. My fingers feel a little cramped and I struggle to get a decent leverage for hammers-on and pull-offs whilst simultaneously trying to keep my first finger fairly flat in order to mute the adjacent treble strings.

Your fingering suggestions would be appreciated.

04-22-2004, 10:51 PM

first of all, I prepared a video of me playing all 5 patterns in an upper position ( above 12th fret ). I am not sure whether the vid will really be helpful to you, because a) the framerate is low, and even though I played rather slowly, it might be tough to see which fingers I am using and b) the video-size is small in order to keep the filesize small ( dunno whether youīre on dialup ). Oh, and c) the audio sucks. I set the encoder to low audio-quality in order to decrease file size. It sounds pretty wobbly and stuff, but I figured the audio ainīt that important in this case, so just turn down the volume, k ? :)



Anyway, my rule of thumb usually is "1 finger per fret". So if I am i.e. in 12th position ( if the pattern starts at the 12th fret ), I play all notes at the 12th fret with my index finger, all notes at the 13th with my middle finger and etc.

At first, that felt weird, cuz it didnīt feel right to i.e. use middle-finger and pinkie on one string, I tended to use index and ring finger instead, which a lot of people do.
You can drill yourself to get there, I think it makes sense.

However, that doesnīt mean I ALWAYS stick to that rule. It really depends on what I played right before, or what I wanna play right after it.
Sometimes, I use some weird fingerings... like using the first finger and pinkie to play a whole tone step or even a half tone step...
It depends, but I mainly stick to that rule of thumb, and after I worked on it, I got used to it... it doesnīt feel weird anymore to i.e. play Pattern 1 with that fingering.
Hope this helps
If you need more specific information or have more questions, lemme know...
Warm regards

04-23-2004, 09:53 AM
Thanks for the reply Eric; very helpful as always.

Before I ask you a further question, I should probably explain how I personally label the pentatonic shapes:

If we're in A minor, I would call the 5th fret position pattern 1, the eighth fret postion pattern 2, the 10th fret pattern 3 and so on. The three I struggle with the most in the higher area of neck are patterns 2, 3, and 5. Here are the fingerings I use:-

Pattern 2

1st 1 3
2nd 1 3
3rd 1 3
4th 1 4
5th 1 4
6th 2 4

Pattern 3

1st 1 2
2nd 1 3
3rd 1 4
4th 1 3 (or 4)
5th 1 3
6th 1 3

Pattern 5

1st 1 3
2nd 1 3
3rd 1 4
4th 1 4
5th 1 3 (or 4)
6th 1 3

As you can see, when you don't apply a '1 finger per fret' rule as in my case, it almost becomes a mini position shift. At the GI in london many teachers advise using your stronger fingers when fretting these shapes in order to make bending easier. But when using these patterns I struggle to find fluidity of both sound and movement when playing though pentatonic exercises and sequences. You might think 'well just play what's comfortable' but I think its important for all techniques to 'blend' into one, without consciously altering hand positions for patterns, licks, bending, sweep ideas etc etc. I'd be interested to hear your opinion.

The video clip was very helpful too. I'm not able to hear sound on this computer (I'm in work) so I was wondering what left-hand muting techniques you are using.

Thanks again for your time and effort.

04-23-2004, 10:59 AM
Those fingerings you listed look quite familiar to me. A lot of people use them that way, and yeah, the opinion of those GI-teachers makes sense.
Sure, for bendings it usually makes sense to use the "stronger fingers" etc. I occasionally do that, but in general I prefer to use reinforced bends ( which often gives me even more bending-control than using the stronger fingers only ) in order to bend notes that I i.e. fret with my pinkie.
I know that some of my fingers still are stronger than others, even though I have used the "1 finger per fret" approach for years now. However, using that rule of thumb sure helped me to develop finger strength, and I can do bends with my weaker fingers, too.

Anyway... it again depends, really. I agree to your opinion that there should be something like a "red line" or rule of thumb which keeps you from constantly altering things depending on what you wanna play.
But... sometimes that is the best approach. Take the "thumb behind neck" thing... that works great when you have to stretch, it helps to fret accurately etc.
But it still sometimes is better to put the thumb over the neck ( on top of it ), i.e. for really wide bends etc. I donīt even think about where I put my thumb anymore, it justhappens depending on what I wanna play.
So even though a "rule of thumb" is a good idea, there ARE situations where you have to break out of that in order to play what you wanna play.
So my advice would be to work on the "1 finger per fret" thing when you play those patterns ( theyīre good finger exercises too... forcing myself to do it helped me to work on finger strength ), but if you need to break out of that rule, donīt worry about it and do it.

Regarding left hand muting techniques... I often use a part of the finger I fret with to mute adjacent strings. When I eg. sweep, I fret the notes with the fingertips, and the part of the finger which is slightly below the finger-tip mutes the adjacent string. ( Example: when I fret a note on the G-string, that part of the finger can mute the B-string if necessary )
But a lot of the muting I do happens with the right hand... whether I do bends, sweeps or legato, my right hand constantly is muting the strings that are not being used. The palm mutes the lower strings, the fingers that arenīt in use ( that are not holding the pick ) mute the higher strings. I worked on the tunnel approach a lot ( where both hands are creating a "tunnel" around the string youīre actually playing on ). It might not be rocket-science to do that, but it sure was a good idea to focus on that.
So, both hands are involved in muting.
Warm regards

04-26-2004, 11:24 AM
Thanks for the input Eric.

05-03-2004, 11:48 PM
Listen to Queen/Brian May stuff. Get a copy of "Live In Wembley '86". Brian made a huge use of pentatonics live, and in studio. But live, there's be loads of dragged out sections where he's just messing around on pentatonics.

05-04-2004, 12:01 AM
Learn the 5 caged positions of the Pentatonic, then learn all 12 pentatonic in open/1st position. Once you know these you will be able to move them around to any key you want and know all of these forms. I also suggest adding the M3 and or b5 to al of htese to ge the feel of the two most common added/altered notes (M6 comes after these). Then when you have this learn pentatonic forms alternating 3 nps and 1 nps. As with any scale use mathematical permutations of motives to move threough the scale.

05-13-2004, 07:31 PM
Sluzc, though the diffrent mathematical methods presented have helped me a great deal in memormization, picking skill, and figuring out new licks, I cant seem to see how it helps me learn to play blues freely and confidently with the penatonic scales which is one of my first goals. I can play a variety of licks, runs, etc... and have learned alot of the cliches... but it doesnt real make sense to me as a whole yet. So my question is what should I be looking for in these mathematical excersises that im not already seeing? Should I develop a diffrent way of practicing them apart from the excersises shown here that could help me in more of a blues / improvization kind of way?

Any ideas including anyone wondering what the hell I am talking about would be realy helpfull, thanks.

05-13-2004, 09:12 PM
Find a blues player that you really want to emulate, listen to them nonstop for at least 2 days, and transcribe as much of their stuff as you can, you will see immediately it will affect your playing style. I was transcribing some Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery stuff, All Blues, and D-Natural Blues, respectively, and it really helped me space out what I was doing and get my playing more melodic and phrased better.

05-14-2004, 04:44 AM
thanks for the advice, Ive just started working on transcribing by ear, trying to do the Jimi Acoustic Song Cherokee Jam but it gets kinda tricky once he starts playing more then 2 notes at one time in the leads :(

05-19-2004, 08:33 PM
a little off the topic but for a beginner (like me) where would be a good place to learn the pentatonic scales. Are there some good websites or music books. I looked through a couple articles on this site a while back but got a little lost.