Looking for a challenge? Get a load of these insane pentatonic/diminished arpeggios

In this lick, I'm using the pentatonic blues scale and the diminished 7th scale in the key of E minor. These two scales are my absolute go to when it comes to soling over heavy music or hard rock/blues.

The reason they flow so well together is that the two scales cross over melodically. If you analyze the notes in the scales you can see the similarities.

  • Pentatonic blues - E, G, A, Bd, B, D, E
  • Diminished 7th - E, G, Bd, C#, E

Now the C# that appears in the diminished 7th is actually another note that guitarists will commonly use with the pentatonic, it is the major 6th, which gives us the Dorian sound.

This is the note that we will generally add when we go to the 2 chord of a blues progression, in the case of a blues in E the 2 chord would be A7, now C# is the major 3rd of A. This is why it works. 

It is always important to understand why certain notes work well together and their relationships to chords, even if you are soloing over heavy riffs you still must understand the chords that would lay underneath the riffs. This will enable you to select and hear the correct notes to play and create intensity in your playing.

The lick

(Image credit: Glenn Proudfoot)

I'm starting in the second box of the E blues scale, I'm incorporating three notes per string here which enables the legato pattern. By using three notes per string, you actually use two pentatonic boxes at once - this is a great way to break out of the traditional two-note-per-string approach.

This is not saying that you should throw away the two note per string style but this idea will really start to break the scale open for you and create a whole new sound for you.

From the legato pattern, I transition into a diminished style arpeggio section, this is a really fun section; it is important to take note of the slide between these arpeggios, this is the key to making it flow and creating speed with the transition. 

The next section is incorporating diminished 7 arpeggios with some left hand tapping to extend the arpeggios. My approach here is to try and hit the tapped notes as hard as possible to sound them evenly with the picked notes - this is a little tricky but just practice it slow in one position until you get the hang of it and then start to build up the speed.

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