Weekly Workout: Pentatonic Patterns

by Scott Nygaard

The pentatonic scale can get a bad rap as a simple fallback scale to noodle on when the guitarist doesn’t really know what he/she is doing. Yes, it is true. The pentatonic scale has been abused to create way too much formless, meandering lead guitar nonsense. But, if looked at in different ways, the pentatonic scale can reveal some unusual sounds. For example, we can treat the pentatonic scale as a scale in itself, not as it relates to a major scale. To do this, instead of thinking of the major-pentatonic scale as consisting of the root, second, third, fifth, and sixth of the major scale, just think of C–D–E–G–A as the root, second, third, fourth, and fifth steps of the C major pentatonic scale. If we continue this scale for another octave, we can think of the next C–D–E–G–A (an octave above the first) as the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth steps of a two-octave major pentatonic scale.

Weekly Workout 5: Pentatonic Patterns
Click to enlarge.

In this workout, we’ll create four-note patterns by simply removing the second step of the A minor pentatonic scale. So, for example, the first four notes in measure 1 are A–D–E–G. We’ll continue by playing this four-note pattern on every step of the pentatonic scale, moving upward. So, the second four-note pattern (in the second half of measure 1) is C–E–G–A. The second half of the workout, starting in the middle of measure 4 at the A on the first string, descends using the same pattern. 

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar, February 2013

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