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Pentatonic Meandering playing

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Active Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 2
Topic starter  

I asked this question on yahoo answers, but i feel its more effective on an actual guitar site :lol: :lol:

It seems that I have a certain pattern that i play when i just "meander" with my guitar. I usually play the first 3 boxes. I use the fourth and fifth too, but not as often. Bending, hammer ons and pull offs aren't really a problem with me. When i play with a backing tracks or other musicians, my improvision sounds simple, but good. I don't overdo it(bust a Jimmy page). I do practice daily (2-3 hours a day)but I'm only getting faster playing that same pattern. Nothing new. I just feel really REALLY limited when i meander away. 

Any tips to improve my playing (faster, more effective etc)? Or even tips that is like a routine with you, that could help me? Should i look at the pentatonic scale a different way?

Alan Green
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

It's easy to get stuck in a pentatonic rut, so the way out of it is to play around with other scales.

Modal scales regularly raise their heads here; start with the mixolydian.

And try diminished variants - half-whole or whole-half scales, or even the whole-tone scale - their are loads of options.

Grab yourself a set of Scale Cards from your local guitar shop, or look them up online, and let rip. You will play some horribly bum notes, but that's all part of the learning process.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at:

Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1497

Musicians often dis pentatonics. Why? They seem simple, and there are so many other ways to play music.

But every musical form seems to include pentatonics. The earliest musical instrument carved from the thigh bone of a bear by a cave man (or woman) was tuned to the pentatonic scale.

The great sax player, Junior Walker played 5 notes, but knew when and how to play them.

Although I was schooled, and awarded the best sax player in the state each year I was in school, and I've played classical, jazz, rock, blues, country, Latin American, Caribbean and other styles of music, I'd say the majority of what I do is either Major or Minor pentatonic with the minor third added to the major and flatted fifth added to the minor (blues scale). Why? Because it resonates with the audience.

I could easily play over their heads, but if I did, two undesirable things would happen (1) I would no longer have that give and get back dialog with the audience and (2) I'd lose my audience.

A physics professor can blind a lay audience with string theory, higgs bosons, and the like, but if he/she is good, the lecture would be pitched to the understanding of the audience. Same for music.

I look at pentatonics as a challenge. The challenge is to be melodic, not be repetitive, build a solo, let the audience predict the next note some of the time, surprise the audience part of the time, and hide my technique so they don't hear technique, but hear music.

Like painting with charcoal, form and expressiveness becomes very, very important.

So don't feel bad because you are playing pentatonics. Work on knowing when and how to play those 5 notes. It's about expression, it's about melody, it's about satisfying and surprising the audience, and for most audiences, leave the bop scales and dorian mode at home. That is, unless you are lucky enough to be able to make a living playing jazz.

Insights and incites by Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

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