Improvise All Over The Fretboard Using The Minor Pentatonic Scale

Improvise All Over The Fretboard Using The Minor Pentatonic Scale

It's commonly said that knowledge is power, but in reality, knowledge alone is not enough. The true power lies in the ability to apply that knowledge effectively.

Take the minor pentatonic scale, for instance. After learning all your minor pentatonic shapes and memorizing them by heart, you can confidently jam with others using the first minor pentatonic shape, but what's next?

You want to expand your horizons and explore different areas of your fretboard. The best way to achieve this is to force yourself out of the first box shape; there are infinite ways to do so. 

Today's lesson will help you think of new ways to use your pentatonic knowledge to:
• Propel your soloing forward using chord progressions.
• Gain freedom of mobility on the guitar fretboard.
• Access voicings you've never tried before.
• Open an array of creative possibilities.
• Help you hit chord tones more consistently.
• Make your sound more melodic when improvising.

The principle of today's lesson:  The principle is to play any progressions in different areas of the fretboard and then switch to the closest pentatonic shape for soloing! This will train you to easily use whatever shape is under your fingers instead of always jumping back to the comfort zone of the first pentatonic shape.

Disclaimer: Yes, this requires knowing your chord shapes, but even if you don't, this exercise will still hold its value.

The 5 Shapes of the Minor Pentatonic Scale

Minor Pentatonic Scale Position 1.
Starting on the first note of the scale.
Minor Pentatonic Scale Position 2.
Starting on the second note of the scale (the C).
Minor Pentatonic Scale Position 3.
Starting on the third note of the scale (the D)
Minor Pentatonic Scale Position 4.
Starting on the fourth note of the scale (the E)
Minor Pentatonic Scale Position 5.
Starting on the fourth note of the scale (the G)

Pentatonic Improvisation Over A Backing Track

If you don't know how to play the chords, then all you need to do is force yourself to solo using the different shapes over a backing track.

Notice how difficult it is at first; your fingers are so used to improvising on the same pentatonic shape so that now that we've changed the context:
• You'll get lost at first. You just lost your usual reference points.
• This forces you to think about what you are playing and to think differently.
• You must listen and use your ears/feelings to guide you.

Take any backing track and practice improvising using every pentatonic shape. For the sake of today's lesson, let's assume the backing track we're playing over is in A minor. (Progression: Am-F-C-G)

The training process you must go through is as follows:
• Stick to each position for at least 5-10 minutes before switching.
• When comfortable, start switching every couple of measures and so on
Check out @5:24 for a quick demonstration.

• Eventually, we want to be comfortable switching and improvising in all positions on command.
Go to minute @6:19 to check out the end result.

Playing Lead + Rhythm When Improvising

For those of you who are familiar with different chord shapes around the fretboard, let's practice switching between rhythm guitar and lead guitar.
This is way easier said than done, give it a try and you'll understand what I mean.

Every time we switch from chords to improvisation we want to land on the closest pentatonic position. This allows you to improvise without having to rely on a backing track, you essentially become your own backing track.

Playing everything in the same area of the fretboard also allows you to insert some small licks in between chords taking your improvisation to the next level.

For the sake of today's lesson, let's stick to the same chord progression we were improvision over before: Am-F-C-G.

We want to:
• Choose an area on the fretboard.
• Find/practice playing the progression in that area.
• Then practice switching between playing chords and improvising in the respective pentatonic shape in that area.

Example 1: if we're playing the progression and the chords inside the area between frets 2 and 5:
• You would find your chords within that area.
• The corresponding pentatonic shape would be position 5
Check @2:18 for a quick demonstration.

Example 2: and now between frets 7 and 11:
• Again, you find your chords within that area.
• However, The corresponding pentatonic shape here would be position 2
Check @7:27 of the video lesson for a demonstration

From here on out, it's just rinse and repeat:
• Follow that same process on different areas of the neck
• Make sure you spend 10 to 15 minutes at least on each pentatonic shape
• Once you get comfortable, you can move around the different pentatonic positions.
• This will allow you to switch between lead and rhythm guitar seamlessly anywhere on the neck.

You can even take things a step further:
• Find your root note in this case, it's A
• Build the chord around that
• Deduce the relevant pentatonic shape
If you look at the chord shapes.

Notice how every barre chord shape is outlining a pentatonic position:

• Root on six barre chord outlines pentatonic position 1

• Root on five barre chord outlines pentatonic position 4
• Root on four barre chord outlines pentatonic position 2
This is true for all other chord shapes! Check @9:17 for a quick demonstation.
Final Words
This concept could also be used to modulate on command while improvising (change keys), if you experiment using the corresponding pentatonic shape for every chord in your progression it will do wonders for you.

You can also check out this lesson where you will learn the importance of ''soloing using chord tones''.

This exercise is evergreen, which means you can continuously practice it, and it's always beneficial. There is no limit to how much you can improve, regardless of your skill level, and that's the beauty of it!

Of course, you don't have to stick to the key of Am, you can apply the same concepts to any other key.

If you want to take your soloing to the next level, want to dominate the guitar fretboard, and get more freedom when improvising. Then you need to check out our premium guitar training program "guitar elevation'', it might be just the thing you've been missing!


Author: Jack Haddad
Jack Haddad is an expert Guitar educator and teacher and has been helping guitarists, through his innovative methods, get incredible results on the guitar, whether they want to jam with friends or rock out on the big stage.

You can find out more about Jack Haddad's teaching here:
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