Zakk Wylde on his affinity for the pentatonic scales: “They’re the most lyrical, so just stick with the pentatonic!”

Zakk Wylde
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Being able to break out of the pentatonic box and shake off the shackles of the entry-level scale is a power that every guitar player strives for in the quest for ultimate fretboard knowledge. It is a tiresome task that requires patience, as well as a keen eye – and ear – for detail. 

It will make for comforting reading, then, that electric guitar god Zakk Wylde isn’t afraid to embrace the basics, having recently voiced his admiration for everyone’s five-note scale and revealing he spends most of his time circumnavigating the pentatonic box.

In an appearance on The Guitar Villains podcast hosted by Music is Win’s Tyler Larson, Wylde took a deep-dive into his approach to playing and his take on theory.

When quizzed about the one thing he wished interviewers would ask him, Wylde revealed the ideal question would be (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar): “Zakk, do you play anything other than pentatonic scales?”

His answer? “No! Why? They’re the most lyrical, so therefore just stick with the pentatonic!”

Nevertheless, Wylde went on to stress the importance of music theory, saying, “The theory is awesome, and just understanding the fretboard, and having the knowledge. Music theory – it’s awesome. You should know your scales.

“It could never hurt,” he continued. “It can only help you, just knowing more. Having more crayons in your crayon box and I thought you’re going to need them all.

“Not that you’re going to need to use the harmonic minor or diminished, or anything like those scales, but you know them, just in case you want to use them, you have them.

“It’s like Batman; it’s not like he has to use everything in his belt, but if he needs it, it’s there.”

The seasoned six-string slinger also went on to offer up some advice for aspiring guitar players, commenting, “What I always tell all young players – make the band. You start small and then play in front of 10 people, then you play in front of 12 people, then we’re playing in front of 18 people…

“Make your band Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page oversees the whole thing. Here he is to this day, whether it’s the books that are coming out, remastering, whatever Led Zeppelin releases are coming out. It’s his passions and his obsession, so make the band that.”

There you have it folks – if the pentatonic scale is good enough for Wylde, it's good enough for anyone. Being able to turn just five notes into a formidable guitar solo, though, is an entirely different matter altogether.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.