Pentatonic Scales

Separate degrees in bichord structure

  

This section is officially sponsored and assessed by the Father of Blues from Alabama.

 

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1st degree

2nd  degree

3rd degree

4th degree

5th degree

1st degree on the 12th fret

 

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Scale notes: E - G - A - B - D

Intervals between notes: minor third - full step - full step - minor third - full step

 

Here's the structure of the different pentatonic scale degrees bound together:

 

 

Here comes a Flash animation of the pentatonic scale degrees:

You can also check the scale degrees in mirror images. The tool I developed to create these mirror images is called OSIRE. It has many more features and is available for purchase.

 

1st degree

Low third - full step - full step - low third - full step

 

This degree is also known as minor pentatonic scale, and is considered, among others, the basis for African-American music and Hungarian music. As for the technique, your fingering should always be consistent, as per the figure below, under the mirror image.

 

  • 0-3

  • 0-2

  • 0-2

  • 0-2

  • 0-3

  • 0-3

2nd  degree

Full step - full step - low third - full step - low third

 

Also known as major pentatonic scale. It plays a particular role in the ancient Chinese music.

 

  • 2-4

  • 1-4

  • 1-4

  • 1-3

  • 2-4

  • 2-4

3rd degree

Full step - low third - full step - low third - full step

 

  • 2-4

  • 2-4

  • 2-4

  • 1-4

  • 1-4

  • 1-3

4th degree

Low third - full step - low third - full step - full step

 

  • 1-4

  • 1-4

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 2-4

  • 1-4

5th degree

Full step - low third - full step - full step - low third

 

  • 2-4

  • 2-4

  • 1-4

  • 1-4

  • 2-4

  • 2-4

1st degree on the 12th fret

 

 

Since it's no open string scale, the fingering goes like this:

  • 1-4

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 1-4

  • 1-4

The normal fingering often seems to be just too hard to manage on the classical guitar on frets higher than the 12th because of the guitar body itself. So if you happen to have a classical guitar, I recommend the fingering below (it is basically leaving out the fourth finger, replacing it with the third):

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

  • 1-3

It is worth mentioning that Jimmy Hendrix played these scale degrees on his right-handed Fender Stratocaster strung to lefty. Here's a little video of me improvising to the backing track of the well-known song Voodoo Chile.

 

The fingering rules I describe as for each pentatonic scale degree may appear odd to some players experienced guitar as opposed to the fingering techniques they have developed or encountered. Even though this consistent fingering technique is part of the PĂ©nzes methodology, you can use whatever fingering technique you find reasonable when improvising to blues music, for instance. However, a too casual, inconsistent manner of playing the guitar is not what I prefer to do and teach. It is the typical of some blues guitar players, which seems to be authentic and approved in this genre.

 

Nevertheless, this looks to me nothing but artiness, regardless of the guitar player. That is why my approach is that one must master a consistent guitar technique so it can be up to them when to stick to the strict rules and when to let loose.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Father of Blues from Alabama has expressed his disapproval of this manifestation of mine, so I am hereby asking for his forgiveness.

 

Forgive me, dear Father!

 

Plus here's an opportunity for you to see the Father of Blues resting in his rocking chair playing blues and awaiting the hurricane approaching from the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Principally, scale patterns for the basic scales can also be used for practicing the pentatonic scales. However, using your imagination you can create your own pentatonic scale patterns. I dare to say that mastering the basic scale patterns are way more important than practicing the pentatonic scale patterns, since having obtained confidence and consistence in the basic scales is for sure going to have a good impact on pentatonic scales. All in all, your skills can be improved and mastered through practicing scale patterns on and on, but triggering your musical imagination for improvising needs some other exercises, which I will thoroughly describe in the section on improvisation.

 

When trying to improvise blues solos using the E pentatonic scales described above, the following chords are likely to back the music:

 

E7 - A7 - B7

 

Whatever the other chords may be, these chords will play a substantial role in blues. However, in my opinion any chord or note can be incorporated into a blues improvisation with adequate timing and style.

 

You should pay special attention when trying to incorporate notes a half-step above the root, meaning note F as for an E blues improvisation, Bb as for an A, etc., in your solo.

 

In some musical literature these scales expandable in notes are referred to as 'pentatonic minor scales'. Basically, these notes can be included in a minor or pentatonic scale. As an example, here's the cello solo of Johannes Brahms' Double Concerto:

 

For those who don't find the above example suggestive enough, here's a classic song from Led Zeppelin. Since I've been loving you, which I think is one of the top songs of 70s' improvisative rock music. The remarkable aspect about the song is that even though it is composed in a C minor (C minor pentatonic scale), the note half-step above the root is present, primarily in the bass line.

 

Some claim that putting these notes outside of the pentatonic scale into melodies based on minor pentatonic scales will result in losing the pure blues pentatonic spirit. My understanding is that instead of stubbornly sticking with the blues pentatonic scales, one should start thinking outside the box.

 

All in all, listen to Hendrix's music and mark his famous words:

 

'Blues is easy to play but hard to feel.'

 

There is a Hendrix in all of us, let him come to life!

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