Thursday, May 28, 2009

Minor and Major Pentatonic Scales

A cousin of mine and I were talking this past weekend about guitar stuff; and he mentioned that he's learning a lot of music (chord progressions, mostly) from other artists, but he needs to start working on scales. I told him I would try to put together a post for him, to get him started.

After teaching a new student how to play a C major scale in open position, the next scales we would tackle would be the minor pentatonics. On guitar, there are five different ways to play each scale, depending on the fingering, key, and position you're in.

To help get you started, you can download my handy worksheet, here:

(If you'd like to share this document with your friends or on your own site or profile, that's cool, but you have to include on that page a link to this blog []or to my guitar lessons website [] Thanks!)

The sheet will pretty much walk you through all of the basics of the pentatonic forms. The minor patterns connect to the minor patterns. The major patterns connect to the major patterns. And they both use the same methods for switching from one pattern to the next, as I outline.

There are a couple of other principles you need to keep in mind if you're going to attempt to tackle these scales on your own:

Rule #1: Every finger gets a fret. One finger for each consecutive fret. The exception to this is in pattern 4 on the worksheet, where there is a position shift (changing which frets your fingers are over) between the G and B strings.

Rule #2: Alternate picking. No matter what, each, new note must be played with an opposite pick stroke from the last. Note 1: Down-pick, note 2: up-pick, note 3: down-pick.

Rule #3: For those of you who are really, really new to guitar (and music, in general), the first note of a scale is its root.  (Roots are indicated on the worksheet.) From the root, play the pattern all the way to its highest note, then all the way down to its lowest note, then back to the root note.

And finally, just as another clarification, when we say "up" on a guitar, we are referring to pitch. That means that "up" on the guitar is both movement towards the body of the guitar or movement towards the high E string.

Example: Upward motion on open strings: E(low)-A-D-G-B-E(high)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Keeping a Practice Journal

Ever wonder why your playing isn't really improving - why you're not seeing a marked change in your ability to read  music, play chord progressions, or speed through those scale exercises?  You might be suffering from a lack of what we call 'discipline'.

If you're really serious about improving, there's no better way to track your practice time and improvement than by keeping a practice journal.  Here's how you do it:

Make a spreadsheet that you can use for an entire month.  Use one row for dates and one column for all of the different things you need to practice: bar chords, scales, arpeggios, sight-reading, ear-training, etc.

At the beginning of the month, make a few, key goals, then think about how much practice time you'll have to put in to meet those goals.  In an extra blank column, write down how much time you think you should practice every day next to each of the different items you need to practice (from above).

Every day you practice, keep track of exactly what you work on, using a timer to keep track of how long you practice.  As an extra motivator, use a metrenome to track and record your speed on scale exercises.  Write the beats per minute and rhythmic division you use (quarter, eighth, or sixteenth notes) in the column for the exercise for that date.

I have attached a sample, one-month journal page as a Microsoft Excel file (xls).  And because every student curriculum is a bit different, you'll probably want to go in and tweak the fields a bit.  Here it is: 

I hope this helps!  Keep practicing!


If you have any questions or comments, use the "comments" link below.