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Lewis Turner - Back To Basics Part 8: Practising And Linking Pentatonic Shapes Together

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 32 **

Last lesson we looked at the five scale shapes for the good old minor pentatonic scale as well as the equally important parent chord. Hopefully, you will be starting to get them under your fingers and ingrained into your muscle memory. A common thing I hear is; “I know the shapes but I don’t know how to use them/what to do with them” Think back to when you learnt that first pentatonic scale shape, that was all you knew and used, so you became really familiar with it. That's partly because you didn’t know any different or know about any other shapes and so ignorance was bliss! Then one day along comes some smart Alec who tells you about all these other shapes, and boom a can of worms is opened, back to square one with a thud! As discussed previously, guitarists tend to get in the habit of trying to learn more and more before really making the best out of what they already know before moving on. It's great to know more shapes and will make you a better player, but knowing how to use them and practice them is just as important, and that's what we are looking at here. Be sure to check out the accompanying video where I demonstrate some different ideas.

To recap on the last lesson, the best method for learning a single position shape is to play the chord then the scale based around it, this will help in the long term with fretboard visualisation and playing over a specific chord. With the new shapes you can now take that a step further, play the chord, play the shape around it, then make music with only that shape. As I have kept on a great deal about in this series, the most important thing with anything you learn is to turn it into musical use. Limit yourself to just improvising with one new shape as you did with good old shape 1 all that time ago, explore all its possibility (go back to my first column to recap these ideas), before moving onto the next shape. It's then a good idea to link shape 1 with the new shape you have learnt and try combining the two. Find different paths between them, don’t just start from the highest or lowest note. Move onto the next shape and do the same thing, until you are confident with all five positions, can improvise well with each one and link them together musically. I demonstrate on the video a good exercise to practice linking your shapes together, which is also on the downloadable TAB.

Currently we have been looking at playing in the key of A as it’s a friendly position place on the guitar. The great thing about guitar is that you don’t have to learn new shapes for new keys. The five shapes in the key of A are exactly the same in the key of G you just need to transpose (move) the shape to a new place on the fretboard. Shape 1 of A minor pentatonic is thus because it starts on an A root note and the intervals make up a minor pentatonic shape. Therefore, to play G minor Pentatonic all you would need to do is move the same shape down two frets and there you have your new key, simple! All your other pentatonic shapes will then be exactly the same just shifted to a new position of the fretboard, same theory applies to the chord shapes. If you have spent a long time practising and playing in A then suddenly moving to a new Key will feel strange and it may take you a while to re familiarise yourself with the shapes. I think this is because our muscle memory remembers certain road maps such as fretboard markings, move these or take them away and it can seem a bit of a struggle. Practising scales chromatically up and down the board can be a good way of getting out of that, but probably the best thing is to just try improvising in different keys. Also remember the importance of the chord shapes, if you can find them then you should be able to visualise the scale shape built around it. Remember the most important thing as always is to make music from these shapes as soon as possible.

Next time I will take you through some licks and musical ideas that link the shapes together. Good luck!


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