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Lesson Series

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Rick Graham - Guitar Roadmaps Part 6: Creative Pentatonics Part 2

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 7 **

In this guitar lesson we'll continue with our exploration of the pentatonic scale by looking at the extended pentatonic scale.

The extended pentatonic scale is formed simply by taking two of the standard pentatonic 'box' shapes and applying a kind of 'cut and paste' approach so that we can play two adjacent scale shapes at the same time. For instance, rather than playing just the 1st position in A minor Pentatonic, we can take both the 1st and 2nd positions of the scale and play them together to form 1 position. We can then apply this to each position of the pentatonic scale so we would end up with the following:






The first thing that you will notice is that these new positions are a little demanding on the left hand, especially when we are in the lower area of the fingerboard. The most efficient way to tackle this is to have the left hand in an 'open' or 'extended' position. Generally, there are two hand positions that most guitarists use and they are the 'closed' or 'contracted' hand position or the 'open' or 'extended' hand position. The 'closed' or contracted' hand position is generally used when we have the thumb in an 'over the neck' position. 'Open  or 'extended' means the thumb is usually central or lower at the rear of the neck. This latter positioning enables a much greater span of frets for the left hand and is ideal for these type of extended scales. Be sure to take it steady if you are not used to such wide stretches and make sure you give yourself regular breaks when practising them.

I remember discovering this many years ago when I stumbled across it by doing it on the top e string only. I initially thought that I had discovered it but quickly realised that players had been doing this for years!

The second thing that you will notice is that the last note on every string is doubled on the adjacent higher string. Sometimes this can be a very useful and cool sounding effect if used in a creative way, however, it's a good idea not to tie yourself in to that.

By applying a few simple changes we can create a fingering that enables us to play the scale without the doubling effect. All we have to do is change the number of notes we play on each string to the following:

E = 2 notes

A = 3 notes

D = 1 note

G = 3 notes

B = 1 note

E = 3 notes

Et Voila! Now we have the scale with the correct sequence of notes. This shape also has an extra bonus in that the number of notes on each string lends itself perfectly to the use of economy picking.

Amazing players such as Frank Gambale and Derryl Gabel use this approach in their playing all the time. Now that we have the sequence of notes per string we can apply it to each of our new positions.

One of the most effective ways to incorporate this into your playing is to take smaller fragments of these new positions. I use these in my soloing all the time. For instance you could take the 1st position and just play the notes on the E and A strings. Or you could take the notes on the G, B and E strings. The possibilities really are limitless so be creative and try to come up with you own ideas with these shapes.

Have fun and see you next time!

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