Use the pentatonic scale in a whole new way with this hack employed by Plini and Steve Vai

Instructor Juan Antonio recently demonstrated Joe Bonamassa’s blazing pentatonics, and now he’s back with another lesson that will help you spice up your pentatonic playing.

This new “hack,” as he says, is used by electric guitar players like Plini and Steve Vai.

“It’s a very simple type of concept,” Antonio says. “You just play the pentatonic scale but use it in a different manner.”

Antonio’s first example involves playing a major chord and then employing the corresponding minor pentatonic scale up a third. In this case, playing the G#m pentatonic scale over an Emaj7 chord.

(Image credit: Juan Antonio)

“The reason it sounds a little bit different is because of the way the notes actually relate to that chord,” he explains.

“It doesn’t relate as a normal major pentatonic would. It has different types of extensions and so it’s going to give a different type of sound.”

A second substitution involves playing a minor pentatonic scale up a fifth from its corresponding chord, in this case a D#m scale over a G#m7.

“Just like before, this has a very peculiar type of sound,” Antonio says.

“In both cases you have some very distinctive type of sounds,” he concludes. “Something a little bit different than your normal pentatonic scale but it feels just as normal and comfortable.”

Plini himself gave us a lesson on his pentatonic repurposing a couple of years back - you can check out his fully tabbed lesson here.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.