How to Effortlessly Play Pentatonic Scale Over Three Octaves

Improvising With The Pentatonic Scale

In this lesson, we are going to expand on my previous lessons—“How to Seamlessly Play Arpeggios Over Three Octaves” and“How to Seamlessly Play 7th Arpeggios Over Three Octaves” —while adding pentatonic scale to the mix. Not only will this lesson help expand your musical vocabulary, but it may also change how you visualise and navigate the fretboard.

So what is the pentatonic melody? 

Pent stands for the number five which is how many notes this scale contains and Tonic means the root note of the key which is called the tonic note as in the C Major scale the C is the tonic or first not of the key. This scale is believed to have originated from Asia and is known as an exotic scale leaving out some important intervals like in the pentatonic minor scale omitting the 2nd and 7th notes of the major scale which are very resolving notes in the scale allowing you to play it over other chords with no clashing notes.

The six strings of the guitar can be looked at as three pairs of strings. The first pair being the low E and A strings. The second pair being the “middle” D and G strings, and the third pair being the B and high E strings.

Whatever pattern of notes you play on the first pair of strings, you can repeat an octave higher by simply performing the same thing on the next pair of strings, but two frets higher. You can do it again, another octave higher, by performing the same thing on the next pair of strings, albeit three frets higher up the neck than before.

In this lesson, we will do this with the five positions of the A minor pentatonic scale. Below are the five positions of the pentatonic scale played over three octaves. Check out the video above for specific fingerings, and to see and hear these examples.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is very often used in writing vocal melodies Make sure to practice these slowly, with alternate picking, transitioning from octave to octave by simply moving your whole hand up the neck, keeping the ‘shape’ of the pentatonic scales in your hand.

Guitarist Adrian Galysh is a solo artist, session musician, composer and educator. He’s the author of Progressive Guitar Warmups and Exercises. Adrian uses Suhr Guitars, SIT Strings, Seymour Duncan pickups and effects, Brian Moore guitars, Voodoo Labs, D’Angelico guitars and Morley pedals. For more information, visit AdrianGalysh.comGuitarWorld.com readers can enjoy a FREE five-song EP download by clicking HERE.

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Pentatonic And Blues Scales For Guitar

What Are Blues Scales

The blues scales are truly based off of the pentatonic scales with one extra note added. We call that extra note the “blue note ” because it devotes the pentatonic scale its obvious “bluesyness .” The actual note in the context of the scale lets say C Major, is called a Flat 5 which would be F# in the Key of C.

The only real discrepancies between the scales on the guitar and the same scales on any other instrument is the fact that there is more than one route to play them on a guitar. This is due mostly to the fact that the guitar is a stringed instrument and there are at least 3-5 ways to play any unique note.

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Pentatonic Scales Are Used In Jazz Guitar Scales

Ye Olde Devils Note The Flat 5

The minor pentatonic blues scales are created using the root( or 1 ), flatted 3rd, 4th, 5th, and flatted 7th of a major scale. Notice that there is no 2nd or 6th scale tone used. There’s an interesting reason for that but it requires a substantial sum of music theory to explain it and this isn’t actually the place for that now.

To make the minor blues scales we take the minor pentatonic scale and add a flatted 5th( or sharp 4) to it. In the key of A, this creates a scale with the notes A, C, D, Eb, E, and G in it. Some people don’t differentiate between the minor and the major blues scales. If someone calls a scale a blues scale, assume they mean the minor version. The diagram below is in the Key of F# so just move the entire scale up 3 semitones you will be in the key of A as mentioned above.

Blues Scales For Guitar

A major pentatonic scale is created with the 1st( root ,) 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th tone of a major scale. In C that would be C, D, E, G, and A. To make them major blues scales you add a flat 3rd which gives you C, D, Eb, E, G, and A in the key of C.

The Difference of Major & Minor Notes

Notice that the rule governing relative major and minor keys/ scales is also in effect here. If you look at the keys of A minor and C major, which are relative, meaning the product contains the same notes, you’ll find the same group of notes.

The A minor blues scale is A, C, D, Eb, E, and G. The C major blues scale is C, D, Eb, E, G, and A. Same notes, different starting point. This sort of thing happens all the time in music. This is of particular interest if you’re playing blues result guitar because you can see that your blues guitar scales genuinely do double duty. Once you learn one pattern, it’s really useful for 2 keys, one major and one minor.

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