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> Minor Pentatonic And Blues Scales
Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 5 2007, 02:11 AM
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The Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scales

Introduction

In this lesson we are going to look at our first scale, the Minor Pentatonic scale (more on the blues part later). In the introduction to scales we went over a few reasons that you might want to learn scales and how important they are to you as a musician. Well particularly for guitar, the Pentatonic is a great scale to learn. It is usually the first scale taught with good reason. It is pretty simple, and it works really well over simple chord progressions, and is a great place to start practicing improvisation for soloing.

Introducing the Minor Pentatonic Scale

The first thing to note about the Pentatonic scale is that it only has 5 notes (hence the Penta- in its name). Now since this is the first scale we have looked at in depth that migh not seem like a big deal, but in fact it is interesting because most scales you will learn inthe future have 7 notes in them. Among other things, this makes the pentatonic scale easier to play and finger because it only has 2 notes on each string. The Pentatonic comes in both major and minor - we will concentrate on the Minor Pentatonic scale in this lesson.

In the scales introduction we found out that any scale can be described by a simple numeric formula, and the Pentatonic scale is no exception to this.

Its formula is: 3 2 2 3 2

Lets see how this works in an example, for instance G Minor Pentatonic.

We start with G as our root note, and add each step of the formula to get the next note:

G + 3 semitones is Bb
Bb + 2 semitones is C
C + 2 semitones is D
D + 3 semitones is F
F + 2 semitones is G

So there you have it - G minor pentatonic is the notes G, Bb, C, D, F, G. You can apply this formula with any other root note to get the exact scale that you want.


On The Fretboard


So how does this look on the guitar? Well, since we have 5 notes, we also have 5 possible boxes or patterns for each key of the Minor Pentatonic, here they all are fr G Minor:


Attached Image

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Remember that you can move these patterns up and down the neck to get the exact scale you want. For instance, if you want A minor Pentatonic, then you work it out as follows:

The root note A is 2 semitones up from G, so just move each of these patterns up 2 frets and voila, you have patterns for A minor pentatonic.

Also, the patterns repeat up the neck after the first five - so if you want to go up higher, start again with the first pattern played with the G root note played on the 15th fret instead of the 3rd fret.

The Blues Scale


The blues scale is very closely related to the minor pentatonic scale, and is used unsurprisingly in blues. The blues players often ad an attitional passing note to the pentatonic scale which is technically known as a flattened 5th - that means an extra note in between notes 3 and 4 of the pentatonic scale. This note is called the blue note, and when you add it to the minor pentatonic scale you get the blues scale. Since they are so closely related, I thought I'd mention it here!

Adding in that extra note changes the formula to look like this : 3 2 1 1 3 2, and our example G minor Pentatonic becomes G, Bb, C, Db, D, F, G when rewritten as the blues scale.

Lets look at our boxes again with the blue note included (shown in green just to be awkward!)

Attached Image

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The Minor Pentatonic Scale in Action

Ok, now we know how to play the Minor Pentatonic and the Blues scale, lets talk about how we can put them into action. Both the Pentatonic and the Blues scales are particularly suitable for playing Rock and 12 bar blues with. Lets focus on 12 bar blues - a very pretty simple concept that has produced some amazing music over the years. Its elements are simple - a repeating chord sequence, and use of the pentatonic scale.

The chords you use are a type of I, IV, V progression - what that means isn't really important at this stage, but the chords you would use with a G minor or Pentatonic scale would be as follows (One chord represents 1 measure):

G - G - G - G - C - C - G - G - D - C - G - D

With this chord sequence as a backing, you can play sequences of notes from any of the pentatonic boxes and you will get a bluesy kind of improvisation going. For additional blues inspiration, take a look at the Blues section of the Video lessons - Gabriel has out together some awesome blues lessons to get you started!

Thats it - questions and comments in the forum!

Attached File  Pentatonic.mp3 ( 151.72K ) Number of downloads: 7077


Attached File  Blues.mp3 ( 152.44K ) Number of downloads: 6060


This post has been edited by Andrew Cockburn: Sep 3 2007, 04:16 AM


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Gen
post Jul 5 2007, 02:17 AM
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Awsome lesson Andrew, its really helpful!
smile.gif


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Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 5 2007, 02:19 AM
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QUOTE (Gen @ Jul 4 2007, 09:17 PM) *
Awsome lesson Andrew, its really helpful!
smile.gif


Wow, it was only up for 6 minutes smile.gif Glad you liked it!


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Gen
post Jul 5 2007, 02:31 AM
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i can read really fast biggrin.gif Im a mutant!!
And i also refresh the forums like 20 times in one minute(i think that s the reason) lol
GMC addict!


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post Jul 5 2007, 07:52 AM
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Excellent.
Thanks Andrew


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Ryan
post Jul 5 2007, 08:04 AM
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Ive always wanted to learn the minor penta. scale, but I have a really big question. Ok, the major scale. has the same boxes. With a few extra added notes. Correct??

Well if so. Whats the point, of just using the minor penta. scale when you have less notes than the major scale??
I think its just that they have different root notes. So it makes the minor, feel more differnet than the major. Correct??

I think im getting htis minor thing totally wrong!!

I know its a good easy beginner scale. To learn, and to start improv. and making your own licks, and all. And i also know. Its a very important scale. But i cant figure out why!!!


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Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 5 2007, 04:19 PM
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QUOTE (Ryan @ Jul 5 2007, 03:04 AM) *
Ive always wanted to learn the minor penta. scale, but I have a really big question. Ok, the major scale. has the same boxes. With a few extra added notes. Correct??


Almost - you need to compare the Minor Penta with the Minor scale and the Major Penta with the Major scale.

QUOTE (Ryan @ Jul 5 2007, 03:04 AM) *
Well if so. Whats the point, of just using the minor penta. scale when you have less notes than the major scale??
I think its just that they have different root notes. So it makes the minor, feel more differnet than the major. Correct??


No, the root notes would be the same if ytou stick to the rule I mentioned above. I can see where your confusion comes from though, because if you move up one pattern in the Minor Pentatonic boxes, you are actually playing Major pentatonic if you shift the root note to the E string - this is because Major Pentatonic is a mode of Minor Pentatonic smile.gif

Basically a scale is a list of notes you use for playing. If you change the list, the song will sound different, and that's about it. Pentatonic has some advantages - it is simpler (less notes) and is playable 2 notes per string. Its sparse note set means you can get away with playing what is essentially a minor scale over majoe chords (as in the Blues).

Major Pentatonic if you make a tune out of it can sound almost Japanese - its all about the notes you use and scales control that.


Regards,

Andrew


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kahall
post Jul 5 2007, 11:43 PM
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Andrew, your lessons are always very detailed, so much so that I will only check them out when my brain is in full college mode. They're great. That said they (Kris) really should give you your own area to post them. The forum is not the right place to get the proper formating. Horizontal scrolling is just a pet peeve of mine. When do you have time to play the guitar anyway?


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Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 6 2007, 12:05 AM
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QUOTE (kahall @ Jul 5 2007, 06:43 PM) *
Andrew, your lessons are always very detailed, so much so that I will only check them out when my brain is in full college mode. They're great. That said they (Kris) really should give you your own area to post them. The forum is not the right place to get the proper formating. Horizontal scrolling is just a pet peeve of mine. When do you have time to play the guitar anyway?


LOL - I sometimes wonder if this theory stuff is inhibiting my development, I certainly could use the practice!

Regarding formatting and moving lesons out of the Forum - I totally agree, it has been on my mind for a while now - I want these lessons to be the best they can.

Fortunately, Kris agrees (he's not such a bad chap!) and we are working on a scheme to move the lessons lock stock and barrel to a new area of the site similar to the video lessons, along with some extra stuff from Kaneda. Stay tuned, the only way is up!


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Ryan
post Jul 7 2007, 08:44 AM
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QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Jul 5 2007, 06:05 PM) *
LOL - I sometimes wonder if this theory stuff is inhibiting my development, I certainly could use the practice!

Regarding formatting and moving lesons out of the Forum - I totally agree, it has been on my mind for a while now - I want these lessons to be the best they can.

Fortunately, Kris agrees (he's not such a bad chap!) and we are working on a scheme to move the lessons lock stock and barrel to a new area of the site similar to the video lessons, along with some extra stuff from Kaneda. Stay tuned, the only way is up!

Hey sounds like fun, and seems like it would help with theory a lot better!!. I can always learn better when someone talks to me about it, and show me. Rather than just reading it!!


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Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 7 2007, 12:56 PM
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QUOTE (Ryan @ Jul 7 2007, 03:44 AM) *
Hey sounds like fun, and seems like it would help with theory a lot better!!. I can always learn better when someone talks to me about it, and show me. Rather than just reading it!!


Well they'll still be text lessons initially, but I do plan to start on some vide lessons eventually, seems like they would be popular.


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Ryan
post Jul 9 2007, 04:02 AM
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QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Jul 7 2007, 06:56 AM) *
Well they'll still be text lessons initially, but I do plan to start on some vide lessons eventually, seems like they would be popular.

Yeah, very popluar tongue.gif. I suggest maybe on the video lessons. Hit the bigger theory lessons. That people have more harder of a time understanding!! Just a suggestion!!


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Eat-Sleep-andJam
post Jul 14 2007, 07:40 AM
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Omg andrew I couldnt be happier I understand theory , Well the basics at least ! The formula of the scale has me stuck at one point. So the formula is
QUOTE
: 3 2 2 3 2
and well that applies to making up the notes of a scale. And at first I was thinking " Well that cant be, there is 12 notes in a scale", but is that because some notes in the scale are the same ?


Omg this is just great I cant thank you enough


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post Jul 14 2007, 12:24 PM
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Which roughly translates as:
"Screw sympathy I've got theory" laugh.gif

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Kaneda
post Jul 14 2007, 01:20 PM
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QUOTE (Eat-Sleep-andJam @ Jul 14 2007, 08:40 AM) *
Omg andrew I couldnt be happier I understand theory , Well the basics at least ! The formula of the scale has me stuck at one point. So the formula is and well that applies to making up the notes of a scale. And at first I was thinking " Well that cant be, there is 12 notes in a scale", but is that because some notes in the scale are the same ?


Not quite sure if you mean you do understand it now... If not, here's a thorough explanation...

I'm also not sure where you got "there is 12 notes in a scale" from. wink.gif Well, there are - in one single type of scale (pretty much) - the chromatic, which includes every single note on the fretboard. As a formula, that would be written:

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (1)

One semitone step between each note. (I put the last number in parantheses, because it just tells the interval back to the starting note/root note/tonic of the scale - more on that a bit further down).

In other words, you have 12 different notes to pick from, but you'll mostly pick out a set (a scale), which can be any number of notes. The pentatonic scales have 5 (which gives them their name), most of the other scales used in 98% of western music, from classical to metal (major, minor and their modes) have 7. The (variety of the) blues scale (that Andrew goes through here) has 6.

The notes of the scale can be repeated (theoretically) infinitely up and down through different pitches (they repeat at the interval of an octave, which is... 12 semitones).

I.e., you don't just have one E - a normal human being can hear 9-10 different notes that are all called E. Two of them are heard when you pick the 1st and 6th open strings in standard tuning on the guitar wink.gif

Therefore, the notes in a scale are also called "pitch classes" (i.e., "E" is not one pitch of sound, it's a class of pitches that are all called "E"). While they're different pitches, they have the same function, and sound to our ears roughly the same (except brighter into the treble or deeper into the bass).

So, your formula - 3 2 2 3 (2) - describes 5 pitch classes. The tonic/root note of the scale + 4 notes, for which the formula describes the intervals - the last number describes the interval to get "back" to the next tonic/root note, where the formula starts over.

But the formula describes a lot more actual notes than that - in different octaves. Which is why you can build up patterns of boxes with many more notes than just the 5.

If you start from E for a minor pentatonic scale, for example, and give each octave a number:

E0 (that's about as deep as a human being can hear - approximately 20.6 Hz)
G0
A0
B0
D1

E1 (this is the note of the deepest string on an electric bass or double bass - approximately 41.2 Hz)
G1
A1
B1
D2

E2 (this is the note of the 6th guitar string played open - approximately 82.4 Hz)
G2
A2
B2
D3

E3 (this is the note of the 4th (D) guitar string played at the 2nd fret - approximately 164.8 Hz)
G3
A3
B3
D4

E4 (this is the note of the 1st guitar string played open - approximately 329.6 Hz)
G4
A4
B4
D5

E5 (this is the note of the 1st guitar string played at the 12th fret - approximately 698.4 Hz)
G5
A5
B5
D6

E6 (this is the highest note you can play - not counting harmonics - on a 24 fret guitar - approx. 1396.9 Hz)
G6
A6
B6
D7

E7 (approx. 2793.8 Hz)
G7
A7
B7
D7

etc.

Note how the frequency of the sound of each note doubles for each octave (20.6 x 2 = 41.2 etc.) - that's what makes them sound "equal" to us smile.gif

In other words, while the pentatonic scale has 5 "notes" (pitch classes, really), a 24 fret standard tuned guitar can play 21 notes belonging to that scale - from E2 to E6. And many of those notes can be played in different ways - for example, A2 can be played on the 6th string 5th fret, or on the 5th open string - they're the same note, same pitch (that's how we tune the guitar after all wink.gif).

QUOTE
Omg this is just great I cant thank you enough
If only my sister wasnt crying after the tragic break-up with her boyfriend tongue.gif.....

Girls laugh.gif


Sisters are a mess - even when you're 29 and they're 34 rolleyes.gif

This post has been edited by Kaneda: Jul 14 2007, 01:27 PM
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Hemlok
post Jul 14 2007, 01:35 PM
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Very good explanation Kaneda. I think you should join forces with the Andrewmeister and then we can pump out these theory lessons even faster biggrin.gif

Or possibly do you plan on doing a guitar lesson? I'm sure you have some great things to offer us! That we can soak up and learn. smile.gif

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Kaneda
post Jul 14 2007, 02:03 PM
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QUOTE (Hemlok @ Jul 14 2007, 02:35 PM) *
Very good explanation Kaneda. I think you should join forces with the Andrewmeister and then we can pump out these theory lessons even faster biggrin.gif

Or possibly do you plan on doing a guitar lesson? I'm sure you have some great things to offer us! That we can soak up and learn. smile.gif

- Hemlok


Guitar lesson? As in practical? Maybe in 2 years - or 5 smile.gif All stuff I write here is based on 20 years of playing classical piano - on guitar, I'm barely past the first pentatonic box - if it weren't for the fact that I don't use boxes wink.gif Only started out on guitar when I joined here less than three months ago. Because at some point, our band will want a second guitarist, and so that I can make myself more useful than playing piano when we need it - and singing.

Working with Andrew and Kris on some visual/interactive aids for learning theory, though - but that will be a while, since it has to be stuffed in between a rather demanding day job, gigs, lady friend and the plethora of other interests that I seem to pick up every week smile.gif

This post has been edited by Kaneda: Jul 14 2007, 02:06 PM
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post Jul 14 2007, 04:53 PM
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Eat-Sleep-andJam
post Jul 14 2007, 06:28 PM
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QUOTE (Kaneda @ Jul 14 2007, 04:20 AM) *
Not quite sure if you mean you do understand it now... If not, here's a thorough explanation...

I'm also not sure where you got "there is 12 notes in a scale" from. wink.gif Well, there are - in one single type of scale (pretty much) - the chromatic, which includes every single note on the fretboard. As a formula, that would be written:

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (1)

One semitone step between each note. (I put the last number in parantheses, because it just tells the interval back to the starting note/root note/tonic of the scale - more on that a bit further down).

In other words, you have 12 different notes to pick from, but you'll mostly pick out a set (a scale), which can be any number of notes. The pentatonic scales have 5 (which gives them their name), most of the other scales used in 98% of western music, from classical to metal (major, minor and their modes) have 7. The (variety of the) blues scale (that Andrew goes through here) has 6.

The notes of the scale can be repeated (theoretically) infinitely up and down through different pitches (they repeat at the interval of an octave, which is... 12 semitones).

I.e., you don't just have one E - a normal human being can hear 9-10 different notes that are all called E. Two of them are heard when you pick the 1st and 6th open strings in standard tuning on the guitar wink.gif

Therefore, the notes in a scale are also called "pitch classes" (i.e., "E" is not one pitch of sound, it's a class of pitches that are all called "E"). While they're different pitches, they have the same function, and sound to our ears roughly the same (except brighter into the treble or deeper into the bass).

So, your formula - 3 2 2 3 (2) - describes 5 pitch classes. The tonic/root note of the scale + 4 notes, for which the formula describes the intervals - the last number describes the interval to get "back" to the next tonic/root note, where the formula starts over.

But the formula describes a lot more actual notes than that - in different octaves. Which is why you can build up patterns of boxes with many more notes than just the 5.

If you start from E for a minor pentatonic scale, for example, and give each octave a number:

E0 (that's about as deep as a human being can hear - approximately 20.6 Hz)
G0
A0
B0
D1

E1 (this is the note of the deepest string on an electric bass or double bass - approximately 41.2 Hz)
G1
A1
B1
D2

E2 (this is the note of the 6th guitar string played open - approximately 82.4 Hz)
G2
A2
B2
D3

E3 (this is the note of the 4th (D) guitar string played at the 2nd fret - approximately 164.8 Hz)
G3
A3
B3
D4

E4 (this is the note of the 1st guitar string played open - approximately 329.6 Hz)
G4
A4
B4
D5

E5 (this is the note of the 1st guitar string played at the 12th fret - approximately 698.4 Hz)
G5
A5
B5
D6

E6 (this is the highest note you can play - not counting harmonics - on a 24 fret guitar - approx. 1396.9 Hz)
G6
A6
B6
D7

E7 (approx. 2793.8 Hz)
G7
A7
B7
D7

etc.

Note how the frequency of the sound of each note doubles for each octave (20.6 x 2 = 41.2 etc.) - that's what makes them sound "equal" to us smile.gif

In other words, while the pentatonic scale has 5 "notes" (pitch classes, really), a 24 fret standard tuned guitar can play 21 notes belonging to that scale - from E2 to E6. And many of those notes can be played in different ways - for example, A2 can be played on the 6th string 5th fret, or on the 5th open string - they're the same note, same pitch (that's how we tune the guitar after all wink.gif).
Sisters are a mess - even when you're 29 and they're 34 rolleyes.gif



I see what your saying. There are lots of different notes all over the fretboard that would correspond with what your playing in the scale. But just because it sounds the same to are ears, doesnt mean its the same notes that we played in are orignal scale , is that right ?

And also what I was asking about the formula of a scale is that lets take the G Minor Pentatonic

Does the formula apply to finding all the notes of the scale. Ex. 3rd fret ,6th fret etc. etc. Or is it just a bases of tones used in the scale ? Thats kind of what Im trying to understand. And great post that helped SOOO MUCH. Ive learned more theory in 2 days then I ever have before!.


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Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 14 2007, 06:42 PM
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QUOTE (Eat-Sleep-andJam @ Jul 14 2007, 01:28 PM) *
I see what your saying. There are lots of different notes all over the fretboard that would correspond with what your playing in the scale. But just because it sounds the same to are ears, doesnt mean its the same notes that we played in are orignal scale , is that right ?

And also what I was asking about the formula of a scale is that lets take the G Minor Pentatonic

Does the formula apply to finding all the notes of the scale. Ex. 3rd fret ,6th fret etc. etc. Or is it just a bases of tones used in the scale ? Thats kind of what Im trying to understand. And great post that helped SOOO MUCH. Ive learned more theory in 2 days then I ever have before!.
- John


Don't confuse patterns on the guitar with notes in the scale - they are very different.

The scale gives you a list of possible notes, and bear in mind as Kaneda says you can use those notes in any octave the guitar can play. The next step is to move those notes to a physical realization by mapping them onto the guitar so you can play them, this is where patterns come in, and boxes (although ultimately its better to think in terms of all the possible notes on the entire fretboard so you dont 'box' yourself in.

So, the scale is a list of notes, then you can play those notes in any octave anywhere on the guitar and they will be in the scale.

This post has been edited by Andrew Cockburn: Jul 14 2007, 06:43 PM


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