In this lesson I will be introducing you to a concept that has a surprising lack of coverage on YouTube. A lot of blues players pride themselves on being able to create different moods on the guitar – Being able to switch between light, melodic and sweet sounds to aggressive, quick and hard hitting sounds. Now, a lot of this comes from a players character and feel towards the music, but we can work towards this style of playing by simply switching between major and minor pentatonics.
So, if you began life as a rock player like me, then you’ll have spent a lot of time tackling your minor pentatonics. This is great, and I highly recommend a thorough knowledge of the 5 pentatonic shapes, but we also need to understand the major pentatonic. For this lesson we will need the pentatonic shape 1 and 2. The concept I want you to get into your heads is being able to combine the pentatonic shape 1 and the pentatonic shape 2 on top of each other. This sounds crazy, but if you are playing over a blues backing track in the key of C (not C minor or C major… just C blues), then you can play your C minor pentatonic scale as follows:
You can also play your C major pentatonic scale (shape 2) as follows:
Put the two together, and you have an instant way to create different ‘shades’ within your improvising. The major pentatonic over the track sounds sweet, melodic and is often played with a lot more space than the minor, purely because it is easier to create melodies. The minor pentatonic has a much more aggressive feel, especially when used to counter the sweet sound of the major. You will often hear great blues players sing a phrase and respond using one of these sounds on the guitar. Known as ‘call and response’, understanding how the scale sounds is a key part to responding well to a vocal line.
Below I have written out two lick examples that you can use within your solo’s, or as a response to a vocal line. The first has a major feel to it, and is played using mostly the major pentatonic shape 2, with touches of the minor shape 1. The second example is a much more aggressive line which sticks more to the minor pentatonic whilst nodding to the major briefly.
EXAMPLE 1 - Major ‘sweet’ sounding lick
EXAMPLE 2 - Minor ‘aggressive’ sounding lick
Notice also how, within the two licks, I pick a little softer or a little harder depending on the sound I am trying to make. The dynamics that I am using really play to the sound of the scale, further accentuating the affect. So there you have, a quick look at one of the ways the great blues players achieve shades of sound within their improvising.
Owner of Brighton Guitar Academy – providing the best guitar lessons in brighton for all ages and all abilities.
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