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The Minor Pentatonic Scale

When you’re looking for online guitar lessons you will probably see a lot of lessons teaching the Minor Pentatonic Scale.

That’s because this is the easiest scale to learn, the most versatile scale to learn and also the most fun scale to learn!

99% of all the famous lead guitarists that you can think of started off with the Minor Pentatonic Scale.

This is a fun scale that really easy to get under your fingers and even though this scale has a minor tonality, you can use it over major keys too. It’s very versatile.

For online guitar lessons to work they must be practical, so let’s get stuck in and look at this scale.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale pattern looks like this:

free online guitar lessons Minor Pentatonic Scale

It’s important that you play the scale with one finger per fret, like this:

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Understanding the Minor Pentatonic Scale video

Watch this video to learn more about the Minor Pentatonic Scale:

It’s very important that you understand this scale pattern is movable

You can play it anywhere on the fretboard. The pattern never changes. What dictates the tonality of the scale is WHERE you begin playing it.

  • If you start playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale on the 5th fret, you will be playing the A Minor Pentatonic Scale.
  • If you start playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale on the 7th fret you will be playing the B Minor Pentatonic Scale.

The pattern of the scale never changes the only thing that changes is where you begin playing it on the fretboard.

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Minor Pentatonic Scale pro tricks

It’s very important that you understand where the root notes are in this scale. These are your hero notes. These are the notes that will always sound great.

You should aim to finish most of your licks, riffs and phrases on a root note.

If you don’t finish them on the root note things will sound ‘unfinished’. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

Play around with the scale starting on the fifth fret and you will be playing in the A Minor Pentatonic Scale.

Before you begin playing the scale, strum an A minor chord and listen to how it sounds. This will give you an anchor for the tonality.

Can you hear how the root notes (the three ‘A’ notes) sound ‘right’ and harmonious?

Root notes are your hero notes. Use them often.

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Bending strings

One of the coolest things about playing lead guitar is bending strings. This raises the pitch of the note, but it does so smoothly and in a gradual way which can make the note really wail. This sounds so cool!

But not all notes sound good when you bend them. Try bending a few notes and see which sound good and which don’t.

The note I bend the most is this one:

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Bending this note sounds very bluesy and this is used a lot in rock, country, folk and indie genres.

Try bending it and then dropping back to the note behind it on the 3rd string and then finish on the root on the 4th string. It should sound like this:

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You can thicken this wail by holding this extra red note while you bend the first one.

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If you hold the new red note with your first finger and bend the original red note with your third finger, you get a classic blues rock guitar wail.

End on the root and you get a classic riff pattern you can use in dozens of different ways and at different speeds.

Listen to these examples to get a flavour of how playing around with these 3 notes can sound:

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The 1 simple shape for rocking out and chilling out: Fifths (AKA ‘Powerchords’)

Powerchords are a cool subject of a lot of online guitar lessons because they are easy to understand and they sound awesome.

The correct name for a powerchord is a ‘fifth’.

This is because a powerchord only contains two notes: a root note and the fifth note from that note’s major scale.

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Let’s look at a G powerchord as an example…

The G major scale looks like this:

online guitar lessons major scale

We take the first and fifth notes and hey presto we have a powerchord!

It looks like this:

online guitar lessons powerchords

The name of this chord is G5.

Sometimes we add on the eighth note of the major scale to thicken it out. (The eighth note of the major scale is the same note as the first note of the major scale, but one octave higher.)

It looks like this:

online guitar lessons power chords

So even though we play three notes here, two of them are G notes. (The same note just in different octaves.)

Powerchords are a staple of rock music, but they can be used in any genre where we need to add some low-end.

Powerchords are a very pure form of chord, which means they are brilliant for clearly defining chord progressions.

Powerchords are neither major nor minor

One of the coolest things of all about power cords is that they are neither major nor minor. (There is no 3rd note, so they can’t be one or the other.)

This makes them very easy-to-use and incredibly versatile.

The powerchord pattern can seem very strange at first and putting your fingers into the position will feel foreign.

However in my experience people get used to this shape very quickly and it feels comfortable much more quickly than you initially expect it to.

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Powerchord examples: Rocking and Chilled

Here are two examples of powerchords in action. This first example is quite rock-focused, and gives you a good idea of how ‘chunky’ these chords can sound.

Powerchords sound great when you really drive the amp. Add some gain or distortion and these chords can really growl.

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Sometimes with a high gain sound full chords can become messy and a lot less articulate. But because powerchords only have two notes (or three if you choose to add the octave root), they are much more focused. This means that you can drive them more before they break up. It can sound awesome.

Powerchords can also sound very gentle

We don’t only use powerchords for hard-rocking moments. This next example is more relaxed and haunting. Check it out:

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Can you hear the simplicity of the chords here? Powerchords can have a very innocent sound if you use a clean channel and a little reverb. They are very ‘pure’ chords.

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