Aloha Premier Guitar readers, welcome to another ripping edition of Lethal Guitar. I really want to thank you again for making this series a success. It’s so fulfilling for me as a columnist to get so much feedback from my readers -- I genuinely appreciate your loyalty. You guys are the best, and I’ll continue to give you my best, I promise!
So far we've covered a few interesting and challenging ideas to improve and expand your shredding abilities. This month, let’s focus on some of the more practical applications for the average rock guitarist. Let’s be honest, most rock guitarists utilize the pentatonic minor scale quite often. Even the best of the best use this scale -- it’s the most commonly used melodic idea in rock and blues history. We’ve all been exposed to it aurally for our entire lives, so don’t feel bad or inferior if you’re searching for new ideas for this common scale.
In this exercise I’ll show you interesting and mathematically sound ideas to link all the common approaches to the pentatonic minor scale linearly on the fretboard, at break-neck speed. Even if you’re seasoned with the use of the scale, you can gain some logical ideas for movement from this example. Study how I connect the positions and you’ll notice the pathways that I use here. This will open up to you the symmetrical ideas the scale already possesses. Symmetry and logical fingerings are the crux of the exercise. Also, strict alternate picking throughout is a critical aspect of the illustration. As we progress through the lesson I’ll increase the difficulty.
The pathways I like to utilize are centered on the flat five in each scale. I love using the flat five as a launching pad for various melodic ideas, but here I’ll use the flat five's position in the scale to our advantage. It’s approached by the four and resolved by the five, creating a chromatic line that adds to the continuity and stability in the line. This stability lends itself to shifting from one scale to another, giving the listener an extremely comfortable transition and creating the illusion of one continuous melody ascending and descending.
Here’s an exercise to get you acquainted with all the positions we can use for the pentatonic minor ascending then descending, in F# minor and/or A major.
Now let’s get a bit more challenging with a chromatic idea ascending linearly. This is more difficult to alternate pick but is excellent for picking development. Start with a down stroke, complete the exercise, and begin again with an up stroke.
In the final example we again challenge our alternate picking
abilities. Here we have excellent step-wise movement in the melodic
lines, again creating the continuity we need for strong/stable melody
in B minor and/or D major.
This month’s lesson will give you excellent challenges for building your picking strength and exposing the symmetry of this common scale. Awareness of this symmetry will give you a better picture of how you can utilize the scale's assets melodically. When you can make these lines sound like “butta,” you’ll notice a new control of your picking and a new freedom with the scale when you improvise or write with it. Practice with a metronome, use a clean tone at first, and carefully alternate your picking no matter how unnatural it may feel initially. See you next time in Lethal Guitar.
©Jeff Beasley 2008
Jeff Beasley holds B.A. degrees in Music and Classical Guitar. He
offers his readers 30 years of experience in studio, teaching and
performance. He is on the National Guitar Workshop faculty in
Nashville, TN. Jeff's CD "Tiebreaker" is available through CD Baby,
Guitar 9, and Jeff's website; GuitarSource3.com. Jeff holds endorsement agreements with Dean, Peavey, DiMarzio, RKS, THD, Ensotec, Robert Keeley, Knucklehead and In Tune.