Mutant Blues! How to Modify the Minor Pentatonic Scale to Create Something New, Exotic and Twisted

(Image credit: Adam Gasson/Total Guitar)

Push any rock guitar player into a corner, and it’ll be their command over killer minor pentatonic licks that’ll aid them in their fight to break free. In almost any modern musical situation, licks and melodies based on the minor pentatonic scale will fit unquestionably over any minor-key harmony and blend in with ease. When we play with these scales that we learned early on (they’re also played by many of our heroes when they’re at their most “real” and guttural), listeners feel comfortable with their simplistic construction (the scale is made of all of the “strongest” notes in the key) and their two-notes-per-string fingerings make patterns, riffs and licks relatively easy to play.

But what if you were to shift a note or two and come up with an innovative, uncharted, exotic, yet somehow familiar framework for untapped creative musical endeavors using basic ideas you’re already very familiar and comfortable with, but in an entirely new way? And what if each of those new frameworks had a unique, individual personality and musical power that could act on its own or be combined as a team to create a guitar-playing superpower? Enter the world of mutant pentatonics.

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Scott Marano has dedicated his life to the study of the guitar, honing his chops at the Berklee College of Music under the tutelage of Jon Finn and Joe Stump and working as an accomplished guitarist, performer, songwriter and in-demand instructor. In 2007, Scott developed the Guitar Strength program to inspire and provide accelerated education to guitarists of all ages and in all styles through state-of-the-art private guitar lessons in his home state of Rhode Island and globally via Skype.