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Thread: Using Major Pentatonic Shapes

  1. #1
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    Default Using Major Pentatonic Shapes

    I brought this over from my thread regarding my new jamming project I am involved in. http://www.thefret.net/showthread.ph...372#post200372

    In that project, I am called to play fills and leads over a variety of songs, a lot of which are not blues or blues rock songs in minor keys. Thus, I can't just camp out on the minor pentatonic shapes. Having to learn new things.

    One technique I have been trying is using the pentatonic shapes, which I have learned up and down the fretboard, but shifting so that I can use the major pentatonic shape. I learned this from some tutorials I found in iTunes. You just shift the standard shape we all think about so that the normal root note is on the right, and not the left. So then it is the note that extends 4 frets above the lowest note in the pattern on the low E string. Then I can expand the pentatonic shapes from there. Obviously you have to remember that the roots are in different places than when you are playing this shape as a minor pattern.

    This is easier for me at this point than knowing the full major scales, though I am trying to learn those too. Also, I think it is more flexible for me as it is simple shape based so it gives me a map, but doesn't lock me in as much, and I can experiment and find other tones I can use, such as chord tones that are not in the basic shape.

    Ideally, I could just have the fretboard be my canvas and find notes by ear, but being a mid life newbie, having a road map to get started helps. Anyone else use this approach or try this?
    Steve Thompson
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    SVL, what I find works for me is knowing the sonic difference between a tone (2-fret jump) and semi tone (1-fret jump). For example, in the case you mention some songs call for a major scale solo and some a minor solo and some progressions will allow you to use either/both depending on the underlying chord. As you correctly state the shapes/patterns are the same (pentatonic) but are 4 frets apart. If you start with say a root note of C on the 8th fret E string, you could not slide that note back a semi tone (1 fret) to the B note and have it sound good over a standard Blues in C type progression. However over a major type progression C-AM-F-G that interval will work ok.

    So what I'm trying to get at is if in your head you can hear that semi-tone interval before you play it, you can kinda predict whether it will work and that defines what scale you can jam in over the progression. Over time it kinda becomes intuitive and you'll find yourself hitting bum notes less and less. What it boils down to is if you know what a full tone interval and semi tone interval sound like from your current note, and you know the major/minor patterns on the fret board, it becomes very easy to fall into the 'correct' scale for the chords you're playing over.

    I'm not much of a theory guy but that kinda works for me.....
    - Lev

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    I never would have thought of looking on iTunes for tutorials. Mind sharing the title of them so I can take a look?

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    It was this guy: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/g...ns/id258401691

    The pod casts are free, and he sells more detailed stuff. Mark Wein goes over the major pentatonic shapes I am talking about in his free lessons on his site too.
    Steve Thompson
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    Guitars: Fender 60th Anniversary Std. Strat, Squier CVC Tele Hagstrom Viking Semi-hollow, Joshua beach guitar, Martin SPD-16TR Dreadnought
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    A thing that really improved my playing many years ago was learning to play around the chords with pentatonics. After enough practice the whole topic lightens up and you will easily dive into cool fills. I have taken the major chords c,g,e,a,d. Lets pretend you play a c on3rd fret on the a-string. Start the c-major pentatonic on that c, then play the minor pentatonic starting from that c. It's important to play the chord and then play the pentatonic box. Move on the next c-note and do the same. The advantage is that you don't have to count frets etc. It can't be helpful to play around 3rd fret and then jump to the 8th fret for position 1 rocking...
    It's important to play out of a natural feel for the chord that undergoes your fill. Think Hendrix ;-) Play the chord, play the scale, make short little licks. Now transpose these licks on the fretboard. Tha is a way to explore the positions. You have all the time in the world and you play some cool licks already from what I have heard on your clips. Don't worry, you will do a good job in that band as long as you know where you are in the song. Start filling the "gaps" in between the pentatonic notes from time to time. If you start playing scales at once, your fills will sound like scales...hope you get what I mean.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimi75 View Post
    A thing that really improved my playing many years ago was learning to play around the chords with pentatonics. After enough practice the whole topic lightens up and you will easily dive into cool fills. I have taken the major chords c,g,e,a,d. Lets pretend you play a c on3rd fret on the a-string. Start the c-major pentatonic on that c, then play the minor pentatonic starting from that c. It's important to play the chord and then play the pentatonic box. Move on the next c-note and do the same. The advantage is that you don't have to count frets etc. It can't be helpful to play around 3rd fret and then jump to the 8th fret for position 1 rocking...
    It's important to play out of a natural feel for the chord that undergoes your fill. Think Hendrix ;-) Play the chord, play the scale, make short little licks. Now transpose these licks on the fretboard. Tha is a way to explore the positions. You have all the time in the world and you play some cool licks already from what I have heard on your clips. Don't worry, you will do a good job in that band as long as you know where you are in the song. Start filling the "gaps" in between the pentatonic notes from time to time. If you start playing scales at once, your fills will sound like scales...hope you get what I mean.
    That's what I'm trying to do more of lately. One thing I will mention that has been useful to me recently is to make sure you know the entire fretboard in pentatonics or whatever. It will help a lot to at least know your 5 positions inside-out if you don't already.

    I for one have needed some remedial help on it, since I really only had position 1 down cold. It helps a lot in that your fingers then know certain patterns and you can focus your brain on the stuff Jimi is talking about instead of trying to remember where your fingers go.
    Quote Originally Posted by Spudman
    Does anyone read the original post?
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    Jimi and Eric, that is very much what I have been trying to to. I started a couple years ago in lessons playing the main pentatonic position, and expanding one position up, and one down so I had some slides to go to etc., and also focusing on the barre chords that fit in that main position. I have since learned the shapes of the pentatonic patterns all up and down the fretboard, and can transpose for any key. I am not automatic at it, but can get there as long as I am a bit familiar with the song. I have lately been trying to use those same pentatonic shapes, but the major scale versions, so I can do the same thing.

    It is a little new, since a lot of the songs I have played over the last few years are more minor or blues based. Focusing on the chords (and knowing where I am in the song of course) will be a big help as I familiarize myself some more. As I learn this, I anticipate I will add in the notes that fill the gaps, and in that way, pretty soon I will have decent knowledge of the entire major scales. I also love to combine the positions so I can slide into notes rather than stay in the box, and get different sounds that way.

    But I think focusing on the chords, and little licks that use the triads, transpose and use the same notes elsewhere, find cool passing tones, etc., is key. Without that, it is easy for it to degenerate into noodling. That works ok on "Wooden Ships" as that is pretty much what Stills did on that song anyway, but most of the songs need a bit more focus. Fortunately my ear anticipates and follows the chord changes a bit naturally, so at least I have that going for me.

    I also am going to continue to learn the key licks on some of the cover tunes, both to identify the song and give a starting place, and also to learn vocabulary, and how other guitarists have used the available notes.
    Steve Thompson
    Sun Valley, Idaho


    Guitars: Fender 60th Anniversary Std. Strat, Squier CVC Tele Hagstrom Viking Semi-hollow, Joshua beach guitar, Martin SPD-16TR Dreadnought
    Amphs: Peavey Classic 30, '61 Fender Concert
    Effects and such: Boss: DS-1, CE-5, NS-2 and RC20XL looper, Digitech Bad Monkey, Korg AX1G Multi-effects, Berhinger: TU100 tuner, PB100 Clean Boost, Line 6 Toneport UX2, Electro Harmonix Little Big Muff Pi, DuhVoodooMan's Rabid Rodent Rat Clone, Zonkin Yellow Screamer Mk. II, MXR Carbon Copy Delay


    love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart. . .
    - j. johnson

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