Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pentatonic Scale Exercises: 3's

At a recent lesson, my student and I ran out of time and I promised her that I'd write a post here, providing some guidance for her next step. Here's what we're working on...

Major and minor pentatonic scales are fundamental to any guitar player. They're one of the first things a player will learn, and they are the gateway into the world of blues and rock guitar solos. If you're serious about guitar, you know these well.

So you've got all five box patterns memorized. Now what?

There are a number of scale exercises that can be applied to any scale we learn, and the first step is to learn the three, most basic ones. A scale exercise is simply a pattern of notes within the scale designed to improve a player's skill. Today, we'll cover what I call "3's".

In the examples below, we're playing Form 1 in second position, in the key of A minor. (Form 1 is the 2-4, 2-4, 1-4, 1-4, 2-4, 2-4 fingering pattern.) This exercise is quite simple, really.

3's can be described as follows: Play three ascending notes, go back one note. Using the note you went back to as "1", play three more ascending notes, etc. (The pattern is reversed when descending.)

Here are a few rules:

1. Every finger gets a fret.
2. Alternate picking (down-up-down-up)
3. Use a metronome
4. Each note receives the same duration (eighth notes, to start)
5. Always start and end on the root note

Take a listen...

And here's the sheet music that corresponds to the audio above...

Notice this pattern is ascending. We also have to remember to practice our 3's descending as well. You'll see that you naturally have to turn around once you get to the highest note of the pattern. Stop on the highest note after completing the last ascending pattern grouping possible. Once you're there, start a new group of three notes and descend away, all the way to the lowest note within the form. Then, turn around again (and ascend with 3's back to the root). Always start and end the exercise on the root note.

Here's an audio example of the entire exercise...

So why do we use and learn scale exercises? Because they allow players to improve their muscle memory, tonal memory, and increase speed and accuracy when playing single notes. In addition, these exercise patterns are also commonly found in popular song guitar solos.

Cheers! Keep on playing.

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