The Baker’s Dozen Approach To Pentatonic Scales

6 for the price of 5

While pentatonics are a great melodic and harmonic device, slipping some extra notes into the scale can add some additional spice to the  approach.  The most common way to do this is through the method used in the blues scale – which is a pentatonic minor scale with an added note (in the case of the blues scale – a tritone).

The impetus for posting on this was a post my friend Moby Pomerance put up regarding some elements of this very topic.  Originally I had devised an alternate (i.e. approximate) fingering for his idea – but ultimately I put a few twists and turns in it and came up with one lick that’s really three mini licks rolled into one.

First – The Scale

Here’s a “box” position D pentatonic minor scale as a starting point:

What I’m going to do is add in a 9th (e) for an additional flavor

If I put this in a 2 note per string pattern using the D on the D string 12th fret as a starting point, I get this fingering ascending and descending. (Use alternate picking with this lick.)

While there’s nothing wrong with fingering it this way, I like dividing it into 3 string groupings.  The 2-note-per-string approach with alternate picking is more aggressive – but the dividing the notes per string into grouping of 3-1-3 on the g-high e strings is a little more legato makes it easier for me to sequence sections.  So here is the same idea but moved to the 7th/8th position.

Pay careful attention to the picking pattern and the 4th finger.  The slide is indicated here to accent the pinky movement. While it’s picked in this example, it could also be played with only the first pick attack.

The lick

This idea is presented below in a larger lick that works over a d minor/d min7/d min9 chord.    Here’s an mp3 I recorded with the FNH Guitar  in AU Lab- first played slow (1/2 time) then faster (full speed – tempo is around 200).

** Note – the mp3 player on the site seems to be working better in Safari – but if you have trouble playing it – just refresh the page.


Notes:

  • The picking may seem idiosyncratic – but the approach is based on sweeping individual notes on multiple strings and alternate picking for notes on the same string.  You should find it consistent in that regard.
  • I see this as 3 licks.  Bar 1 is one approach.  The 1st two descending ideas in bar 2 as the second approach and the last 2 arpeggio ideas as the 3rd lick.
  • The note groupings are not all uniform.  Bar 2 has groups of 6 and 7 and splits a group of 5 up between bars 2 and three. .  Breaking out of rigid 4 note 1/16th note patterns adds an element of unpredictability .
  • There are a number of e-f slides to highlight the added note in this lick.  This is done with the idea of breaking the lick into segments rather than just using them in the lick as a whole.
  • Using patterns that have only 1 note on the B string – can make for some interesting chord ideas as well.  Here are some melodic fragments that can double as substitution chords over a d minor chord (with an mp3 here).

Lastly, examining the notes in this scale: D,E, F, G, A, C  as unique triads reveals the following:

D, F, A (d minor) + C, E, G (c major)

in other words – to get away from the full-scale approach – you could alternate D minor and C major arpeggios and get a very similar effect.  I’ll look at this more in a future lesson.

In the meantime, if this idea is interesting to you – you may also want to look at this GuitArchitecture lesson post, or look at the pdfs of the pentatonic posts in the online lesson (PDFs) tab on the top of the page.

I’m always looking for feedback.  If there’s anything in this lesson that helps, or that raises other questions – feel free to drop me a line at guitar.blueprint@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

-SC

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