[Lesson] Linear Pentatonic Scales

Discussion in 'The Sevenstring.org Workbench' started by Drew, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    <div align="center">
    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">Linear Pentatonic Scales</span>
    </div>
    Players such as Rusty Cooley, Francesco Fareri, and Marcel Coenen are pushing the boundaries of the world of contemporary lead guitar, and if they are indicative of future trends then we will be seeing a lot more up-and-coming guitarists expanding their musical range by moving to seven strings (often detuned a half step), and taking an increasingly linear approach to scalar playing by arranging scales in groupings of thre, four, or even five or more notes per string on the fretboard. In other words, if you want to keep up with the sort of blisteringly fast extended scale runs these guys are known for, it might be a good idea to brush up on a few alternatives to your standard "box" and thre note per string diatonic scales.

    Pentatonic scales make a great introduction to linearly arranged scales for a number of reasons. First, while they are fairly stretchy, the fingerings themselves (after a little woodshedding) are generally quite manageable. Second, their wide intervallic structure lends itself to playing at extreme speeds, in that they sound less "blurred" than their diatonic coutnerparts and actually give the illusion of even greater speed as the scale covers a greater harmonic territory in a given number of notes. Finally, from a live performance standpoint, these patterns just look cool; your fretting hand will look like Cousin It as it runs up and down the neck playing licks based on these patterns.

    The examples below will be arranged three-note-per-string and as such are more indicative of the style of Coenen than Cooley or Fareri (whose four and five note groupings are still a bit beyond the reach of my fretting hand, at the monent). As playing pentatonic scales in this manner covers a tremendous amount of fretboard territory, it's not really feasable to introduce these as "patterns" as such, so this is simply an ascending D minor pentatonic run that climbs from the third fret D on the low B string up through five octaves to the 22nd fret high D and then descends back down, shifts down one step, and then repeats going from C to C within D minor to give your fingers a new set of patterns to play with. Try this with a clean tone, and start VERY slowly. It's possible to muscle through runs like this, especially if you're alternate picking, but to really make these fly (and decrease the risk of tendon damage down the road) you'll want a perfectly relaxed fretting hand. so, concentrate on staying loose, fretting with the tips of your fingers, having meter-perfect timing (you may wish to set your metronome to a moderate clip and play one note per click at first, if this proves difficult at first), and playing with as light a touch as possible. Gradually build up, and let speed come on its own.

    <div align="center">
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">D Minor Pentatonic run</span>
    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/3nps1.jpg"</img>

    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/3nps2.jpg"</img>

    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/3nps3.jpg"</img>
    </div>

    At first, you'll be able to play the familiar "box" pentatonic patterns far faster than these, but stick with it a while and eventually you'll be ripping through these.

    Once ideas like this start to become comfortable, the next hurdle is learning how to improvise in scales arranged this way; there are only so many fingering options at your disposal when you're playing stretches like these, so you'll have to know both your pentatonic scales cold across the entire fretboard, and be able to move within them with ease. With this in mind, practice and study the following series of scales. There are the five main "box" pentatonic patterns, one starting on each scale degree, and this excersize has you playing through all five of them, ascending in one and then descending in the next. It may be helpful to mentally say the name of each scale degree as you play, to help ground these patterns in a harmonic context.

    <div align="center">
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">Seven String Pentatonic "Box" Shapes in E Minor</span>
    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/7pents1.jpg"</img>

    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/7pents2.jpg"</img>

    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/7pents3.jpg"</img>
    </div>
    From there, begin practicing moving through the various positions in three note groupings along individual strings; set your metronome at a comfortable pace and start improvising along a single string in a manner similar to this:

    <div align="center">
    <img border="0" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/lessons/LinearPentatonics/legatopent1.jpg"</img>
    </div>

    Playing pentatonic scales like this has a very unique sound; due to their relative paucity of scale degrees they sound almost as much like arpeggios (technically, a minor pentatonic scale could be thought of as a minor 11th arpeggio, in fact) as they do scales, and this opens the door to a few new aural textures. For example, try alternating measures of fast diatonic and fast pentatonic licks for contrast, going from musical density to musical space and back without sacrificing speed.

    Have fun with these; arranging pentatonics in three note per string groupings can allow you to eat up huge expanses of fretboard at a rapid clip, especially on a seven string. Enjoy!
     
  2. Soupy

    Soupy Soupy

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    This is pretty awesome.
     
  3. kaotik94

    kaotik94 SS.org Regular

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    Right on! I have been practicing the "Box" shapes scale for a for a few days now. All these scales are dramatically improving my speed. This is great stuff! Thanks!!:yesway:
     
  4. sonofabias

    sonofabias SS.org Regular

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    I have a number of Rusty's instructional dvds, the four and five notes per string work is really great. I'm learning a lot from these and if it's good enough for Loomis(who studies Rustys Art of Picking dvd). Extreme pentatonics and Shred guit. Manafesto.
     
  5. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    Great lesson Drew :metal:

    Very thorough, informative and clear.

    I really like your point about the minor pentatonic being the same as an extended minor arpeggio, though I'll be a nit-picker and say that it is better described as a m7 add11 arpeggio as there's no 9th (eg. D minor Pentatonic = D F G A C = D F A C G reordered into a Dm7 add11 arpeggio.)
    But nitpicking aside your point is excellent. I've been thinking of this 3nps pentatonic style as sounding kind of in between the stepwise sound of linear scales and the big leaps of arpeggios as you say, but it never occurred to me that it can actually be thought of as an arpeggio in itself.


    With pentatonics I also find it helpful to remeber that, whenever you are using a consistent number of notes on each string, there are only 5 strings to traverse before your fingering pattern starts to repeat. So whatever fingering shape you play on the 7th & 6th strings will be the same on the 2nd & 1st strings.


    Also kudos to you for emphasizing relaxed technique, especially in the fretting hand in this situation. As a teacher I find it especially heartbreaking whenever I hear of someone who has damaged their hands from playing their favorite instrument. I believe just about all these kinds of injuries can be avoided with good understanding of physiology and awareness of muscle tension as you play.
     
  6. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    Great lesson.

    Someone should do a follow-on to this, on applying 313-style ideas to the seven string...:idea:
     
  7. Trespass

    Trespass AEADGBEA

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    Brilliant lesson! I was trying to rearrange some scales the other day into the 3nps method, but this blew whatever I was working on out of the water.
     
  8. Vision

    Vision SS.org Regular

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    I think there should be a clearer warning not to muscle through these. My hand is friggin killing me! :wallbash:
     
  9. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    There's definitely a good warning in Drew's text here, but I could see how anyone could miss it if they're just skimming and mainly paying attention to the notated examples. Maybe this should be in bold?


    I really think Drew's emphasis on a light touch and slow practice speed is right on the money. Anyone who really establishes a good habit of feeling & sensitivity to muscle tension should be completely safe from any hand injury even for the extreme stretches presented here.:shred:
     
  10. Zamm Bell

    Zamm Bell My name is Sam Bell

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    Also practicing these stretches with legato slowly, you need to practice with no tension so when you finnaly get it to higher speeds it will "hopefuly" feel effortless and sound effortless! Much like Cooley, Taylor, and Gabel.
     
  11. conortheshreder

    conortheshreder Macho fantastico

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    great lesson i was just wondering if im suppose to keep my fingers on the fretboard when i do this or can i lift em off when im doing the large interval jumps, any ideas?
     
  12. failshredder

    failshredder hammer every cock

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    Not to butt in, but I'm pretty sure Rusty Cooley, who has pretty average-sized hands (as near as I can tell), takes his index finger off the fretboard to hit the pinky note if he can't make the stretch outright. Keep in mind that I gave myself tendinitis trying to learn a similar stretch legato lick, so, uhh&#8230; be careful. :)
     

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