Bent Out of Shape: Back to Basics with Pentatonics, Part 2

I recently shared some simple pentatonic licks that are ideal for beginners or even advanced players.

I want to continue that theme and share some ideas I use in my own playing. As with my previous lesson, all of these licks can be learned and practiced in as little as five to 10 minutes and are great for players with limited time. Think of these as a "quick fix" for busy musicians.

This lesson is based around playing the pentatonic scale in "fourths." A fourth is an interval usually associated with diatonic scales. When applied to the pentatonic scale, you will find it instantly makes the scale sound less generic.

It may also give you some new ideas. Note that although I say we are playing the scale in fourths, as you will see, these are not all "perfect fourths." There is a major third interval included as well.

To begin, here is a G minor pentatonic scale played ascending and descending in fourths. This, in itself, is a good picking exercise. If you want to challenge yourself further, play every shape of the pentatonic scale in this way with a metronome.

This is an example of using pentatonic fourths to create a simple lick that sounds more musical than just going up and down the scale. Practice this to get you started, but then try to come up with your own licks and ideas. You should try playing these in a musical setting to see how they sound in a full band arrangement. Why not start off with a simple 12 bar blues backing track?

This is an exercise I sometimes use based off the major pentatonic scale. As we are in the key of G minor, the relative major scale would be Bb major. You might know this as simply "shape 2" of the minor pentatonic but it's also the major pentatonic scale. So shape 2 of G minor pentatonic is also the root position of Bb major pentatonic.

For this exercise, I just descend across the top three strings starting with an up-stroke to create a short loop, which I practice with a metronome. It utilizes all four fingers and will develop your "outside picking" technique. You can woodshed this to see how fast you can get it if you want a challenge.

This final idea uses my exercise to create a musical sequence combining the Bb major and G minor pentatonic shapes. Again use these ideas to come up with your own licks. Sometimes by just changing a single note, you can create a completely different-sounding phrase and claim it as your own. Cheers!

Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.

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