A modern approach to pentatonic and blues scales
Pentatonic and blues scales are almost always the very first scales every electric guitarist memorizes and practices. Yet, even the non-guitar playing folk is very familiar with their sound since they sparkle in literally innumerable rock tunes. Be it as a part of the riff, vocal lines or guitar solos, we could never emphasize enough the fact that pentatonics truly EQUAL rock and blues music. This is why they are also every electric guitarist’s frame of reference for any other scale and chord.
Of course, as you can easily imagine every rock’s progeny-genre has also adapted those lovable scales into its own repertoire and therefore you can hear them in all heavy metal sub-genres as well as in fusion and jazz music.
In fact, there are quite a few reasons for this. First of all, the pentatonic scale shapes being well-organized in their boxes, are very easy to learn by heart. Moreover, they sound very smoothly and every degree of theirs fits like a glove in a key-centered chord change since they do not contain any “avoid” tones unlike any other mode or scale. After all, the pentatonic scale is just a min11 arpeggio.
Secondly, each such scale can be used in almost every possible harmonic situation (dominant, minor and major) and hence gives us interesting and versatile results when manipulated correctly. Actually, every, say, A minor pentatonic lick can be used over Am, C, A7, C7, Dm, D7, Em and Gm(as an outside choice) chords to name a…few. Also, each of the 5 boxes can be used as a separate pentatonic mode, which eventually multiplies every lick’s possible uses.
So, no matter what your style of preference or favorite axeman is, I truly believe that you will find some interest in the following licks that combine pentatonic scales with some advanced guitar techniques. Of course, to fully understand the concepts, you should already be familiar with the 5 minor pentatonic and blues boxes. Enjoy and if you haven’t done already, also check three notes per string blues scale article.
Lick No 1 ( Blues scale with wide stretches )
The previous lick is from the song “Hell Kunt Beat Me” (several puns intended) from SlavEATgoD’s “Blank Core Inn” CD. You can watch the official music video of the song here. The solo starts from 2:38. Also, there’s a video demonstration of several guitar solos from the same record, which you may watch here. To see this very lick put into context, go to 0:46 of the demonstration. The guitar used here is a Gibson SG special with a dropped C tuning.
Needless to say, there are some rather demanding stretches involved in the previous lick. So it would not be advisable to try it without warming up. Also, practice slowly with a metronome to make sure that the quintuplets are in time, which is the hardest part to achieve especially with the legato technique at slow to medium tempos.
The scale used is C blues starting from the first box (1st bar) and ending in the fifth box and the techniques involved are wide stretches, string skipping, legato and hammers from nowhere.
Lick No.2 (Minor pentatonic lick with wide stretches and tapping)
This lick is from SlavEATgoD’s song “The Quitter”, whose official music video you may enjoy here:
and if you want to watch it in action, you may watch this demonstration as well: (1:14-1:15 approx.)
One very cool thing about this powerful lick is that being of small size, it can be easily used in many improvisational situations. Here again, we have some demanding finger stretches that should be practiced separately in case one is not already familiar with them.
Lick No 3 (three notes per string pentatonic with legato)
The previous lick is a long legato line I’ve used in the song “(St)ill Recurrent” (in 3:29 approx.) in the I Bow Candles debut album “The Outs And Breakdowns of Symmetry” .
The cool thing about this lick is that it uses the exactly same shape in all strings and hence it is very easy to memorize. I’d advice you to use upstrokes even when ascending so as to hit the string while muting at the same time. However, this is not imperative and you may use whichever picking pattern is the most comfortable for you.
Well, people I hope you dug this article as well. Thank you very much for the great feedback and see you soon :).
About the author : SinniK Al is a Cardiff based electric guitarist, widely known for his work with SlavEATgoD, I Bow Candles and Seduce The Heaven. Currently, he’s recording SlavEATgoD’ s sophomore record and preparing his solo instrumental record and I Bow Candles ‘ sophomore record. He is endorsed by 39 custom guitars
© 2012 SinniK Al