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Guitar Lesson: How To Use The A-minor Pentatonic Scale In The First Position

Jan 30, 2008
When you learn to improvise you have most likely come across various guitar scales. But, how do you practice guitar scales in order to use them in your playing? In this lesson you will learn how to make music of scales!

What is a pentatonic scale?

A common major scale consists of seven notes. A C-major scale for example have these seven notes:

C D E F G A B

The note after the B is a C and the scale starts over again in another octave. A pentatonic scale consists of five notes. In a pentatonic C-major scale the notes F and B are omitted. This makes for less collisions between scale notes and notes in the chords used. In other words, you can use a pentatonic scale together with more chords.

The A-minor pentatonic scale

This scale consists of the five notes A C D E G

If we play these notes in the first position on the guitar you will have the following sequence of notes:

05 35 04 24 03 23

The first number tells you which fret to press down. The second number indicates which string to play. 05 means that you play the open fifth string, that is, without pressing down a fret. The first string is the bottom string when you play.

We will now play the A-minor pentatonic scale in the first position of your guitar. The whole scale from the sixth to the first string will look like this:

06 36 05 35 04 24 03 23 12 31 01 31

In this scale sequence you will find the note A in two positions. That is, on the fifth open string and on the second fret third string.

What can you do with this scale?

1. First I suggest that you commit this scale to memory and that you practice playing it from the lowest note to the highest and then back again.

2. Use correct left hand fingerings. That means that you play the notes on the first fret with your left hand index finger, the notes on the second fret with your middle finger and the notes on the third fret with your ring finger.

3. Play small sequences using only a few of the notes in the scale. For example:

05 35 04 24 04 35 05 or:

23 12 32 01 31 12 23

4. Work on creating melodies using the scale. This will help you understand where the notes you hear in your head are on the fretboard and also make your pentatonic improvisations more musical and enjoyable for yourself and your prospective audience.

5. Improvise together with chords. As you work with the A-minor pentatonic scale you can use chords to make the guitar solo improvisations more interesting. Here are two chords that you can use together with the notes:

A-minor: 05 24 23 12 01

D-major: 04 23 32 21

As your probably remember, the first number indicates the fret and the second number the string to play. When you play the chords you can strum them from the lowest sounding string to the first string. For example, strum the A-minor chord and improvise a few notes using the pentatonic scale. Then play the D-major chord and continue to improvise. Play the A-minor chord again and continue in this way.

Improvisation is a form of composition and the musical value depends on how well we know where the notes are on the fret, how focused we are in the creative process, how well we have mastered patterns and licks that are building blocks that can be used to create music, our feelings and many more elements in the musical process.
About the Author
Peter Edvinsson is a guitarist, composer and music teacher. He invites you to download your free guitar tablature sheet music at http://www.capotastomusic.com
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