Thursday, November 6, 2008

Getting to Know Pentatonic Scales

To get the full use out of pentatonic scales, you should be comfortable with them in all 5 positions. So, using Am as an example again, here are the positions:

1st Position
Starts on A on the 5th fret of the Low "E" string, played by your first finger:


2nd Position
Starts on C on the 8th fret of the Low "E" string, played by your second finger


3rd Position
Starts on D on the 10th fret of the Low "E" string, played by your first finger


4th Position
Starts on E on the 12th fret of the Low "E" string, played by your first finger


5th Position
Starts on G on the 15th fret of the Low "E" string, played by your second finger


Note: Where "3rd" finger and "4th" fingers are noted, those fingers are often interchangeable. You'd play with one or the other, depending on what you were doing. For bends, or aggressive attack, you'll use the 3rd finger. For fast runs, you'll often use the 4th.

Good luck!

Pentatonic Scales

These scales (called "pentatonic," meaning 5 note) are the most popular scales for guitar players -- bar none. Why? Several reasons:

1) They sound good. The "skipped" notes add an open, interesting sound that makes them pleasing to the ear.

2) They're versatile. Blues, rock, jazz, country . . . pentatonic scales work for so many different styles of music that it's ridiculous. They may be used in different ways, but it's the same 5 notes!

3) They're familiar. Guitarists as different as Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra, jazz rock), Jimi Hendrix, Slash (Guns & Roses), Kenny Burrell (jazz), Vince Gill (country), Neal Schon (Journey), Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck. The list goes on. They all use pentatonic scales for an enormous amount of their playing.

4) You can put your stamp on them. The way that Jeff Beck (one of the most unique players around, in my opinion) uses those 5 notes is totally different from the way the guitar players in Lynyrd Skynyrd did, and thus they sound totally different.

So, let's talk about the Pentatonic a little. There are generally two "modes" of Pentatonic: major and minor. (They're the same scale, but based around a different tonic chord, or "home" chord). Let's use Am as an example. The notes are:

A - C - D - E - G

If the harmony (chord progression) is in Am, then that scale works perfectly. Here are two different progressions you could try:

1) Am - C - D - D

2) Am - G - F - E7

(You could also use a 12-bar blues, in A)

If the harmony is in C (major), then the scale still works perfectly, although it sounds totally different. Here's a progression to try:

C - F - G - C

There are other keys this will work in, but those are the two most common.

Introduction to Guitar Info Bytes

Welcome to Guitar Info Bytes. Whenever I get a chance, I'll add some interesting info for guitar players. But first, you're probably wondering who I am, and why I am writing about the guitar.

My name is Michael Caroff. I've been playing guitar for more than 38 years. During that time I've written hundreds of songs, played in dozens of Top 40 bands in numerous styles, and a number of original bands (most were both). I also attended UC Santa Barbara where I studied music, and was a professional guitar teacher -- in two different stores -- for 7 years.

Currently, I play in a Santana Tribute Band called Savor. We've played all over southern California for the last 5 years. Pretty much everyone that has seen the band says that I sound more like Carlos Santana than anyone they've ever heard. What that means to me is not that I'm the best player in the world, it's just that I know how to get the job done.

So, in this blog I'll be sharing some of what I've learned about playing guitar in the last few decades. Hope you enjoy it!