The Major Pinky
This is an easy memory trick to take advantage of one of the most interesting and cool things about the Major Pentatonic Scale. In the exercise below notice that the good old and dearly beloved box pattern is serving as the pattern for both the C Major Pentatonic Scale and the C Minor Pentatonic Scale- that’s two scale folks. It’s only one fingering pattern but if you know how to shift it, if you know what you are doing, that highly favored box pattern will produce two essential and iconic sounds associated with modern guitar playing. Notice that when you are playing the most favored pattern of C Minor Pentatonic, your first finger is on the root, and this is the recipe for Blues and Rock. When shifting to C Major Pentatonic, you put your fourth finger, your pinky on that very same root note and shift the pattern down 3 frets, this is the recipe for a Country sound or just a beautiful major pentatonic sound in general. The easy way to remember it is this: when using the most favored box pattern, to play the Major Pentatonic sound you would place your pinky, or finger 4 of the fretting hand, on that root note. The string six, fret VIII root note of a Major Pentatonic Scale. I have dubbed this concept of the Major Pinky -get it?
The exercise below is meant to be training for the ears and is not meant to showcase lead playing, they are listening exercises, solos created by running the notes of the pentatonic scales in their natural order without doing anything fancy, no hot lick, interesting interval leaps or string skips.
The ability to play nice and musical scale passages, developing an easy conversational style, lies at the heart of being a professional sounding lead guitarist. Use the play along example to get the feel of this stepwise movement along the scales concept. Before proceeding make sure you understand the two different scale sounds, Major Pentatonic and Minor Pentatonic in your eat and fingers. Make sure you understand how one fingering pattern can create, through shifting position on the neck, two vastly different and important scale sounds.
Speed Fingering: C Major Pentatonic
This is a scale/ memory trick meant to give you greater control when trying to cover a wide range using the Major Pentatonic Scale as a soloing vehicle. The scale pattern below is sort of like a trade secret and works like a charm in a variety of situations. The memory device is reciting the names of the fingers used to execute the move while you are playing: “One, Three, Slide, One, Three” -over and over. The diagram below has the finger numbers appearing on each note.
One – Three – Slide – One – Three
As you memorize the scale runs below, remember to keep the fingering strategy at the front of your thinking saying “one – three – slide – one – three” over and over as you memorize and VISUALIZE the patterns.
Next use the play along groove above to play the scale in order and in time. As I have said several times throughout this course the ability to play the notes of this scale, or any scale in time and in order, and making melodic and rhythmic sense of that playing is at the heart of being a convincing lead player. Remember that the Law Of Melody states that notes in a scale are drawn to their neighbors. Of course being a melodic and rhythmic player is your goal. Use the interactive music below to practice the multiposition speed fingering beginning on C,string five, fretIII.
Root 5 Starting Point
Root 6 Starting Point
Major Pentatonic Solo: A Classic Rock Style.
The following example is based on the solo to the all-time great rock song Let It Be by the Beatles. This example really shows you the melodic power and catchy sound of playing the Major Pentatonic scale in stepwise order, their natural order.
Major Pentatonic Solo: Electric Blues Style.
Below is a melodic solo you could play on a blues shuffle like Tore Down popularized by two of my ultimate guitar heroes, Freddie King and Eric Clapton. Use this solo when you are in a blues jam session that has become a minor pentatonic slugfest to create a cool, uncomplicated and highly musical feeling. Also these contrived, or planned out solos serve only as starting points and require your own personal touches, embellishments or edits to be truly convincing in a live musical setting.
Illustrated to the right is scale portion that should be at the forefront of your thinking, only 4 notes derived from C major pentatonic scale found in the 5th position. Listen to the composed or singable quality that just a few notes can create. Since you never want your mind to be imprisoned by the box patterns associated with a scale keep the Major Pentatonic “highways” that you have learned in the front of your mind.
The Sliding Pattern Transposed
The next example uses the multi position (sliding) Major Pentatonic scale with the root on string five transposed to the key of D Major. Practice the scale in the new key by studying the diagram at right and the interactive music trainer just below.
Learn to visualize the patterns by watching your fingers negotiate the passage. Having quality input will increase your learning speed .
The sliding major pentatonic pattern is like a highway connecting cities only the cities are chord forms. Pay special attention to all of the D root notes appearing inside of the common knowledge chord forms.
Rhythm & Blues Solo: Major Pentatonic Scale
As a musician and avid music fan, I was always impressed with guys like David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Carlos Santana, and Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers) and the artistic impact of their pre-conceived or planned out solos, the signature licks, not the jamming and improvising. I have had many brilliant instructors but the ones who taught me the most would write out by hand, interesting and coherent solos for their students. I think it would be wrongheaded to dismiss this type of study and practice because it somehow doesn’t measure up to the true standards of great improvisers, these types of lessons have yielded fantastic results for so many guitar students.
When a nice little solo, or collection of solos, become your point of departure, what you base your improvised music on, for instrumental solos, your playing sounds more musical and interesting. This is as opposed to basing everything purely on scales, which can give a predictable, dry and lifeless to your playing. In the final contrived solo presented in this lesson I’ve used a smooth jazz/ R & B groove to represent the countless hours that my playing partners and I have enjoyed playing this type of material. For further study I recommend George Bensons classic Breezin’.
This lesson is all about firming up your control of the Major Pentatonic sound. The most highly favored form of a pentatonic scale, the good old box pattern come to the rescue here as well as a beautiful sliding scale, illustrated here in great detail. Lead guitar playing is much more than running up and down fingering patterns and doing cliché bends, it’s also about thinking in terms of melody. To increase your melodic ability, learn to duplicate the solos I have recorded here in perfect unison with in the play along exercises.