You’ve probably seen guitarists play solos all over the guitar neck and have wondered how do they know where all the right notes are to play? The key to this is to learn the patterns that these players have memorised all over the fret board. Most rock and blues solos use the minor pentatonic scale with players who use this scale almost exclusively include:
- Angus young
- Eric Clapton
- Jimi Hendrix
- Joe Bonnamassa
- Buddy Guy
- BB King
- Jimmy Page
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Tony Iommi
- Zakk Wylde
Minor Pentatonic Pattern 1
The minor pentatonic scale has 5 patterns along the guitar neck that act as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and provide a fret board path of what notes to play in a song or key. Most guitar players learn pattern 1 first as it’s an easy pattern to learn.
Many famous guitar solos use this pattern including:
- Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix using E minor pentatonic
- Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin using E minor pentatonic
- Enter Sandman by Metallica using E minor pentatonic
- You Shook Me All Night Long by AC DC using G minor pentatonic
Minor Pentatonic Pattern 2
E minor pentatonic is an often used scale by guitarists as it includes all the open strings making it easy to play. Pattern 1 includes all these open strings. Pattern 2 overlaps with pattern 1 so that the bottom notes of pattern 2 are the same as the top notes of pattern 1.
Minor Pentatonic – The 5 Patterns
All of the 5 pentatonic scale patterns overlap in the same way with some being easier shapes to play than others. Practice each pattern and memorise the fingering required to play them. After pattern 5 the sequence starts again with pattern 1 at the 12th fret for the E minor pentatonic scale. This is where some of the solos mentioned above are played.
Shifting The Pentatonic Patterns
The next step is to be able play these 5 patterns in different keys. This is done by simply shifting the patterns around. Play pattern 1 starting at the root note of the key for the song. For example to play the 5 patterns for A minor pentatonic play pattern 1 at the 5th fret which is the note A on the 6th string. Going down in pitch with A minor pentatonic you can play pattern 5 and pattern 4 before you hit the nut.
The 3 Octave Pentatonic Path
The final piece of the puzzle is how to connect these patterns together. Generally in a solo you won’t use all of a pattern but parts of each one. To show you how to play 3 octaves from the bottom of pattern 1 to the top of pattern 5 use the following fret board diagram showing you a “3 Octave Pentatonic Path”. It’s been highlighted in yellow just like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz!
Also try this 3 Octave Pentatonic Path to play from pattern 1 to pattern 5 using the A minor pentatonic scale. This fret board pattern is shiftable for other keys such as G B and C etc.