Unlocking The Pentatonic Scale Across The Entire Neck
You will be able to play the pentatonic scale across the entire neck, and work towards breaking out of boxes to help your lead playing sound more organic.
- Pentatonic Shapes Tab (.pdf)
As we learned in the previous lecture, there are 5 notes in the pentatonic scale. This means that there are 5 shapes/patterns that we can play across the neck to help us cover more of the fretboard. We will continue to stay in the key of Am/C for these coming examples. Conveniently, they all interlink with each other. The 5 shapes can be referred to as “forms”, which are independently numbered for both major (C) and minor (Am) keys. The diagrams are in order of low pitch to high pitch, however it’s more important that you can relate these shapes to a form 1 position. I suggest that you choose either major form 1 (green/left) or minor form 1 (blue/right), and expand from there:
Spend some time getting familiar with these shapes. There’s no shortcut here other than to memorise the patterns to your best ability. Something that might help you with this is to break it down and memorise just two shapes at a time. Perhaps start with just forms 1 and 2 (choose either major or minor). Once you’re comfortable with two forms, add one of the surrounding forms (5 or 3), and build up from here.
BLENDING THE SHAPES TOGETHER
Once you’re comfortable with these shapes, you might eventually find that you still feel restricted to boxes and want to break free from them. The ultimate goal is for you to play the pentatonic scale across the neck in any direction you choose rather than feel confined to boxes. To help you achieve this, there are a couple of things that you can do.
Currently, you’ll probably find that you’re good at playing guitar in a vertical fashion, down and up, but your weakness will be playing horizontally. Your goal is to be just as comfortable playing horizontally as you can vertically.
The first thing you should try is to play 4 note sequences across two strings, essentially creating smaller more digestible box shapes, but will become much simpler for you to blend together in a horizontal fashion:
Once you’re comfortable with this string set, you can try the same on the next string set:
Below is the pentatonic scale over the entire fretboard which will help you to figure out the remaining string sets:
Everything that you have played so far is relevant to the key of Am/C. If you would like to change the key, all you would need to do is shift the entire scale (all 5 shapes) to your desired root note, which is the beginning note of form 1. Form 1 will always be your reference position for the other shapes across the neck. It’s not easy to visualise form 3 for example without knowing where form 1 is.
It’s really that simple! It’s worth spending a little bit of time on this so that you are prepared to play in any key that you choose, at any time.
I recommend that you try to play over some suitable backing tracks in a mixture of keys to get used to the sound of these shapes in context. Don’t worry too much about phrasing or fast picking just yet, take it at an easy pace for now until you’re comfortable enough to add in extra flavours!