Technique Rules! - May 2001
This time I'd like to get into the subject of "pentatonics". Pentatonic scale is a five note scale and sometimes it's referred to as the "Blues scale" (though this is not entirely correct since Blues scale is including a flat five note). It is very useful and one of the most commonly used scales in Rock guitar world. It's often found in "cultural music" (Indian, African, Chinese, …) too. In Rock music we frequently hear it in its "minor" or "major" versions.
Today we'll concentrate on the "minor" version. Basically it's not very different from a simple minor scale. If you take A minor scale (the one I most often use for examples here) and throw out the 2nd (note) and the 6th (note) you get A minor pentatonic scale. So, the notes of a simple A minor scale are: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, (A) therefore the A minor pentatonic would be: A, C, D, E, G, (A).
This scale is one of the basic tools for Rock (Blues, Metal) guitar improvisation (playing leads in another words). Here are a few guitarists who use pentatonics as a corner stone of their lead styles: Eric Clapton, Michael Schenker, Kirk Hammet, SRV, Angus Young, Richie Blackmore, Eric Johnson, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, … and many, many more.
For beginning I would advice you to learn all 5 positions of A minor pentatonic (in two notes per string manner) across the guitar neck. And then search for basic licks… Of course there are a lot of different ways to apply them. But more about that later on in some other "Technique Rules!"…. I often use pentatonics in my solos. You can hear me play E minor pentatonic oriented lead on the song" Mystic II" from my self-titled Shrapnel album. It's around 5:10 almost at the end of the song. Although the very end of the solo is going more into minor scale mode directions everything before that is almost pure pentatonics in a" Hendrix like" blues- meets- metal way. "Mystic II" (MP3) is at www.metal-rules.com/sounds/borislav.asp.