In lesson five we discussed the importance of the Minor Pentatonic scale in blues music. The form of the scale we discussed in that lesson is commonly known as shape 1, or the first shape. The minor pentatonic scale exists in five shapes across the fretboard. Let’s look at shape number two.
A Major Scale:
As with the first shape, the second shape uses the same intervals pulled from the major scale. We will stick in the key of A for this.
A Minor Pentatonic:
For the first shape, we start on the root note of A but as we are now shifting this into it’s second shape, we will be starting on the bIII (This will be a C note in the key of A). This will give us the same notes but in a slightly higher register and shape:
And again, but descending:
As with shape one, it is good practise to play the scales in ascending and descending four note groupings just to help your fingers start to gain some speed when playing through unfamiliar patterns. The risk of practising this, and any other scale, in just its standard scalic form is that when you come to use it in an improvisational sense, you will only have visualised the scale running in a straight ascending or descending manner. Breaking it up into smaller groups allows you to start to flow between notes easier.
When it comes to seeing how this scale fits, you can imagine is as an extension of the first shape. You would not play it in this manner as a “scale” but for the purpose of visualising this, here is how it would look:
You can see how the first shape and the second shape share some common notes. This principle will be true of every other shape across the pentatonic scale. It’s also useful, although initially trickier, to attempt to combine the two shapes. This is something that comes with practise but at this early stage it could be useful as another way of helping you visualise how this second shape connects to the first:
You can see with this idea that the ascending run and the descending run are both phrased differently but you will hear a lot of the notes are the same. For instance, the 10th fret on the A string is the same as the 5th fret on the D string. Playing the same notes in different positions can inform how you phrase that segment of what you are doing. This principle will become very useful when we dig into more in-depth improvisational techniques.
Try it yourself
The layout of the guitar fretboard allows scale shapes to be transposed around the guitar at will. The shape in this lesson is in A minor but this can be moved to any other key around the fretboard. When transposing the second shape, don’t forget that it’s relative to the root note of the first shape. This means when moving it into another key you will be starting from the second note of the initial shape.
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About the Author
Leigh Fuge is a guitar teacher and professional musician from Swansea in the UK. He has taught hundreds of students face to face and via the MGR Music platform. He has over 10 years’ experience working in the industry as a touring musician, session guitarist and teacher.