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Lead Guitarists: Understanding Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scales

Aug 23, 2008
In this article we are going to provide you guidance about our 1st scale, the Minor Pentatonic scale. Pentatonic is a special scale to learn, especially for guitar. It is commonly the first scale. It is pretty easy, and it works really well over simple chord progressions, and is a great place to start practicing improvisation for soloing.

The basic information about the Minor Pentatonic Scale

Pentatonic scale has 5 notes (hence the Penta- in its name). This is the 1st scale. It is very absorbing because most scales you will learn in the future have 7 notes in them. It has only 2 notes on every string and this forms the pentatonic scale more simplified to play. The Pentatonic scale includes both major and minor - we will focus on the Minor Pentatonic musical scale in this lesson.

In the scales intro any scale can be described by a plain numeric pattern, and the pentatonic scale can also be described in the same fashion.

Its formula is: 3 2 2 3 2

Lets see how this works in an exemplar, for example G Minor Pentatonic.

We start with G as our base note, and add up every step of the rule to find the next note:

G + 3 semitones is Bb
Bb + 2 semitones is C
C + 2 semitones is D
D + 3 semitones is F
F + 2 semitones is G

Thus there you acquire G minor pentatonic notes that are G, Bb, C, D, F, G. This formula can be implemented with any other base note for the exact scale entirely depending upon your choice.

Furthermore, you can move these patterns up and down the neck. For example, if you want a minor Pentatonic, then you work it out as follows:

The base note A is 2 semitones up from G, so just move every of these rules up 2 frets and voila, you will find formulas for A minor pentatonic.

Also, the patterns repeat up the neck after the first five - hence if you want to climb up higher, start again with the 1st rule played with the G root note played on the 15th fret instead of the 3rd fret.

The Blues Scale

Another scale, very closely related to the minor pentatonic scale is the blues scale which is used in blues. An attitional leading note to the pentatonic scale is normally imparted by the blues players which is technically known as a flattened 5th - that stands for an additional note in between notes 3 and 4 of the pentatonic scale. When this note is added to the minor pentatonic scale you find the blues scale.
The pattern changes when you add that extra note to it and it becomes like this: 3 2 1 1 3 2, and our example G minor Pentatonic becomes G, Bb, C, Db, D, F, G when rewritten as the blues scale.

The Minor Pentatonic Musical Scale in Action

Now we are going to talk about that how to play the Minor Pentatonic and the Blues scale. Both the Pentatonic and the Blues scales are suitable for playing Rock and 12 bar blues with. Lets focus on 12 bar blues - a very pretty simple concept that is considered as a source of some amazing music over the years.

The chords you apply are a type of I, IV, V progression - what that means isn't actually critical at this point, but the chords you would apply with a G minor or Pentatonic musical scale would be as follows:

G - G - G - G - C - C - G - G - D - C - G - D
This chord sequence enables you to play sequences of notes from any of the pentatonic boxes and you will acquire a bluesy kind of improvisation going.
About the Author
Z Roberts is the founder of 50 Blues. He has recorded 50 of the best professional blues backing tracks.
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