Want to learn scales on guitar but not sure where to start? Guitar teacher Joey I. explains why pentatonic is the way to go…
The title of this article says it all: Why pentaonic scales are essential for guitarists. Learning these scales is an absolute necessity.
Now is it really necessary to know pentatonic scales to be able to play the guitar? No! A lot of guitarists go their whole career learning riffs, songs, and making up licks based off of the knowledge that they have while enjoying every minute of it. However, a lot of these guitarists know in the back of their mind that they should learn their scales.
If you have been a guitarist for a little while, you have probably heard about it from other guitarists, musicians, teachers, and Internet articles that you should know your scales. And most guitarists have the desire to learn scales, but become overwhelmed because of how many scales there are to learn, and let’s be frank: there are a lot to learn and when you learn them, they are not easy to immediately apply to your playing.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the pentatonic scale is the easiest and most useful scale to learn. The pentatonic scale can be used in almost every single song. Even if the song you are playing to uses a scale other than the pentatonic, you can play pentatonic over it and it will sound amazing.
The pentatonic scale gets more miles per gallon than any other scale, and the fuel is recyclable. You can just keep using it and using it, and it never gets old. It is truly the bread and butter of guitar soloing, and song writing. Most songs that you love that sound “complicated” are actually using pentatonic guitar scales.
Let’s look at what makes the pentatonic scale so easy:
- To start, the pentatonic scale has fewer notes than other scales. The word pentatonic literally translates to 5 tones. Pent, meaning five. And tonic, meaning tone.
- “Our brains are inherently wired to know the pentatonic scale,” says famous musician Bobby McFerrin. Check out this Ted Talk video where Bobby uses the audience to show how we all naturally know the pentatonic scale:
- Finally, you can play this scale over virtually every song, so this makes practicing a lot easier.
Now, here are a few tips when practicing this scale:
- Practice slowly.
- When you’re ready, try out these pentatonic scale exercises for guitarists.
- Make sure each note rings out and sounds good.
The benefits of learning the pentatonic guitar scales:
- Learning the scale shapes allows you to improvise over virtually any song or backing track. Once you unlock this ability, practicing becomes easier and far more enjoyable. Not sure what we mean? Watch the video below.
- The pentatonic scale is the foundation for almost every other scale there is. Learning this foundation will set you up to easily play the other scales. Especially the blues scale, natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, and the melodic minor scale.
- It will increase your confidence in playing dramatically. No more feelings of being overwhelmed by scales or the guitar. Your skill level will increase two fold because of this.
- Finally, it will allow you to seamlessly improvise with other musicians in a real live setting. Your friends will be thoroughly impressed and your confidence will soar.
Once you have become comfortable with the pentatonic scales, try applying them by improvising over a backing track or your favorite song. Change the speed and rhythm, but most importantly, HAVE FUN! For a visual reminder of the G Major pentatonic scale, see the infographic below.
Do you have any more questions about how the pentatonic scales work, or how to play them? Leave a comment and let us know.
Joey I. teaches guitar, bass guitar, and drum lessons in Aurora, CO. He studied music production and recording arts at Berklee School of Music and he has been teaching music lessons for seven years. Learn more about Joey!
Photo by Dan Cox