The Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic Scale

Get your so­los on track the easy way with a look at a scale used by count­less rock leg­ends

Total Guitar - - HOW TO -

“I’ve heard lots of gui­tarists talk about scales. Why are they im­por­tant?”

One of the most chal­leng­ing things about play­ing the gui­tar is de­cid­ing which notes to play. Now re­mem­ber, a scale is a run of notes that sound good to­gether, so, by learn­ing a few shapes, you’ll take some of the guess­work out of choos­ing those all-im­por­tant notes.

“Is it a lead thing or a does it ap­ply to chords ?”

Both but work­ing out chords from scales can be quite tough un­til you’ve got a hand­ful of shapes un­der your belt, so we’ll stick to solo­ing here.

“Cool. How do I get started?”

In the box­out on the right you’ll see two il­lus­tra­tions of the C ma­jor pen­ta­tonic scale. The first pic­ture tells you which fin­gers to use. Play one note at a time start­ing on the low­est pitched note to get a feel for the scale. The sec­ond pic­ture tells you what the notes are.

“It’s easy enough but it’s pretty bor­ing. Does any­one re­ally use it?”

Sure! The scale can be heard ex­ten­sively in blues-rock with play­ers like Eric Clap­ton and Jimmy Page mak­ing their ca­reers out of pen­ta­tonic solo­ing. The scale’s bright feel makes it well suited to ma­jor key so­los such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet­home­al­abama. Pen­ta­ton­ics aren’t the pre­serve of 70s rock, with acts like Pearl Jam, Arc­tic Mon­keys and Ri­val Sons mak­ing use of the vi­tal shapes.

“How do I turn the scale into mu­sic?”

Think about cre­ative ap­proaches. Try play­ing two notes at the same time, or have a go at mess­ing with the tim­ing of the scale notes to in­ject space and rhythm into your ideas. Or, try ‘skip­ping’ over a string or play­ing longer runs up and down through the scale. Have a look at our tab ex­am­ples, which ex­plore these ideas.

“The tab’s great, but does the scale work over any chord pro­gres­sion?”

No! The C ma­jor pen­ta­tonic scale will al­ways sound good over a C chord or other chords made up of notes from the scale. G ma­jor pen­ta­tonic sounds great over a G chord, A ma­jor pen­ta­tonic over A, and so on.

wh aty­ouwi ll­learn Two ma­jor pen­ta­tonic lead licks A com­monly-used scale shape Cre­ative solo­ing ideas

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