Pentatonic scales work wonderfully in blues music as well as for other genres like rock ‘n’ roll, country, R&B and heavy metal. Guitarists Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan used these scales when performing their iconic songs on guitar.
All five patterns can be moved up and down the fretboard, so once you master one you’ll keep using it throughout your guitar playing career.
Pentatonic scales can be found across many musical genres, such as folk, country and rock music. Pentatonic scales can often be seen being utilized to form chords such as major, minor and diminished due to having five notes per octave compared with seven (heptatonic) in diatonic scales.
Pentatonic scales can also be used to generate augmented and sus2 chords, formed by stacking minor thirds or perfect fourths over a major third. Augmented chords produce major sounds characteristic of major pentatonic scales while sus2 chords produce diminished tones associated with minor pentatonic scales.
As a beginner guitarist, it is highly advised that you practice the eb minor pentatonic scale across all five positions of any guitar. This will build speed and confidence playing it on any guitar. Once you’ve mastered one pattern, move onto another until you can comfortably play each pattern – eventually you should be able to play all five positions without consulting a fretboard chart!
The eb minor pentatonic scale contains five notes in its octave, each one drawn from one of the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh notes from an eb natural minor scale – excepting only 2nd and 6th notes which do not appear.
Each position in the Eb minor pentatonic has its own set of notes that can be played on guitar. Memorizing all these notes will make connecting these with your picking hand easier; starting one position at a time and working your way to all will do this effectively; or you could experiment creating different licks with all positions!
One way of learning the Eb Minor Pentatonic scale is through fretboard charts. These will show how the notes form an outline and will serve as a handy reminder of where your fingers should go on the fretboard. Search online for “guitar neck charts”.
Pentatonic scales are defined by their interval pattern: five notes in an octave. This pattern is universal among pentatonics and plays an essential part of their sound. “Pentatonic” is actually a Greek term meaning five per octave and refers to any scale with five notes instead of seven as in a heptatonic (see below). Pentatonics have long been part of musical culture worldwide for millennia.
Pentatonic scales fall into two main categories – major and minor. Of these two varieties, minor is more widely used due to being employed in Blues music; and its influences have even spread beyond this genre into Rock and Metal genres like Metal music and Rock music.
Minor pentatonic scale is composed of the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh notes from a natural minor scale with only its first three being played at any one time; two notes (second and sixth) are dropped and repeated an octave higher to form its pattern across all frets of a guitar fretboard.
As with other scales, the minor pentatonic scale should be studied one position at a time in order to fully grasp its patterns and intervals before moving onto more difficult concepts. This approach will enable you to make melodies using each note from this scale and accelerate your development as a guitarist faster.
Once you understand all of the positions of the minor pentatonic scale, take some time to look at examples of songs and riffs that utilize it. AC/DC’s “Beating Around the Bush” for instance contains an opening riff based on this scale, while it has also been utilized in heavy metal, funk and even folk styles.
The Eb Minor Pentatonic Scale contains five scale shapes with distinct note patterns. You must learn each scale shape’s workings and locations on the fretboard before practicing them ascending or descending until you become fluent with them both auraly as well as mechanically. Doing this will hone both your ear as well as developing mechanical skill when fretting or picking individual notes.
The box shape is an easy one to remember due to being symmetrical and can cover half of your fretboard – perfect as an entryway into learning Eb minor pentatonic scales!
Shape 2 can be challenging to memorize due to its constant shifting. However, once it’s under your belt it becomes very straightforward for fretboard movement and playing blues licks with this shape can create some unique sounds!
Shape 3 can be the hardest of shapes to learn and it may initially seem impossible. However, persevering will pay off because having this versatile shape under your belt opens up new avenues of improvisational potential.
Once you have mastered shapes 1-3, you should be able to play an Eb Minor Pentatonic in any key. Simply look up jam tracks in that key on YouTube and dedicate some practice time every day playing along to them; this will build your confidence using the scale in any key while giving you opportunities for experimentation with techniques like bends and slides.
Once you’ve mastered the 5 CAGED positions, it’s time to move onto more advanced exercises. One way is to find backing tracks in any key of interest (for instance ‘C major blues backing track’ or ‘E minor rock backing track’) and spend some time playing along to them, trying out various positions of the scale and creating unique licks.
The rhythm of an Eb Minor Pentatonic Scale follows a repeating cycle of 3/2. Each octave of this scale contains five repetitions of this pattern 3/2 – 2 – 1 – 2. When viewing fretboard diagram above, shape 1 will easily reveal this rhythmic cycle.
Take note of the first and last notes in this pattern; they correspond with chord tones in Gb Major (add2) and Abm7 chords. This indicates that the Eb Minor Pentatonic Scale closely relates to Gb Pentatonic Major Scale, and can be utilized together.
Pentatonic scales are great starting points for new musicians because they require no advanced knowledge of music theory to play well. Furthermore, pentatonics can help improvising or soloing beginners develop the necessary skill of dissonance management when playing over certain chord progressions, adding tension and spice to solo performances while learning patience to master this art form.
Blues musicians frequently opt for the minor pentatonic scale when writing songs and improvising on guitar, since its black keys make learning it simple and are less complex than those found in major scales.
To use the minor pentatonic scale, first identify the root note of your key on the 6th string – this will become box pattern 1’s note – then follow its shape throughout your scale. It is important to keep in mind when changing keys that all scale shapes must shift by one fret in their templates.
Once you understand how the minor pentatonic scale works, it can be applied to any chord progression in either minor or major keys. Just make sure you stay within its tonal context – such as not using it over major chords since that can create tension and dissonance in the music.