Lead Guitar


E Minor Pentatonic Scale sequence rotation rock lick. Helps to develop speed in all 5 positions on the 3 high strings on the guitar fret board. Practice with a metronome slow with control then increase the speed faster up to your fastest control limit. This will create finger dexterity muscle memory for speed on demand. In the tab and manuscript the first measure is staccato with alternate picking of every notes. The second measure has legato with hammers on and pull offs. Work on each and try to match the tempo. 

The square note in the guitar diagram is the Minor Pentatonic root note. The Minor Scale formula is 1, b3, 4, 5, b7. The Number inside the white border notes show which fret fingers to use. 0 for open string, 1 for Index finger, 2 for middle finger, 3 for ring finger, 4 (not used) pinky finger. In blues and rock the majority of guitar players omit the 4 pinky finger. They dominantly use the 3 ring finger because it has more strength for bending strings and applying vibrato. Refer to the article Guitar Fret Finger Placement.
Practice in other Minor Pentatonic Keys like a A, D, G, B, C, F. There is a great parallel exercise where you pick one shape from the open string position and go up the neck incrementing a half step of each fret all the way to the highest fret. 

E Minor Pentatonic Open Position 1

E Minor Pentatonic Position 2

E Minor Pentatonic Pos 2

E Minor Pentatonic Position 3

E Minor Pentatonic Position 4

E Minor Pentatonic Position 5

E Minor Pentatonic Position 1 2nd Octave

The 3 Note / String 6 Note Shape is a great way to learn the Major Scale. This is a technique of breaking something down to smaller chunks to make it easier to learn. The examples below are analyzing the G Major Scale on the two lowest strings E (6th) & A (5th). A lot of people have to find a way visualize something before they can put it into their total recall memory. To also help people remember something is they have to physically apply and do something. The numbers in the notes are the finger placement (Refer to Fret Finger Placement Post) so you can try it.. This scale is made up of half steps (no frets between 2 notes) and whole steps (1 fret between 2 notes).

We now have seven – six note groups, notice that two shapes are the same (Fret 3 & Fret 10- whole step-whole step, whole step-whole step). The five unique shapes is (Fret 5 – whole step-half step, whole step-whole step). (Fret 7- half step-whole step, whole step-half step), (Fret 8 – whole step-whole step, half step-whole step). (Fret 12 – whole step-half step, whole step-half step), (Fret 14 – half step-whole step, half step-whole step).

When you try playing these shapes (Fret 3) you are going to play them on two strings only up the neck in a straight sequence (1-2-3-4-5-6) Tablature – ( 6th E -3–5–7-) (5th A – 3 –5–7-). The top 5% best players practice scales this way up and down the neck on all the pairs of strings.(Paul Gilbert, Gregg Howe, Vinnie Moore).

One warning the shapes are going to be different between the (3rd G string & 2nd B string). The notes on the 2nd B String have to shift up a half step making the shapes offset.

When you start getting the hang of practicing scales like this you can also apply sequences to these six note groups. Sequences are a repetitive order of a group of notes. Here is an example (instead of 1-2-3-4-5-6 try 1-2-3-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6) this is a sequence that Paul Gilbert teaches a lot. Practicing scales like this can build great dexterity in your fingers, building your chops and speed. It especially helps if you use a metronome set to straight clicks, triplets and quadruplet, building from slow to fast.

Here is a final note, playing scales up and down and practicing sequences is only one part of the practice equation to becoming a great player. There is speed and chops, but there also is melodic control. Melodic phrasing is a small group of notes played in an unique expressive order crafted from the rhythm and harmony that can hook the listener.. The best solos have a hook melody interwoven in them (usually at he start and end and somewhere in the middles in different octaves) along with the fast ripping runs of notes. Learning licks from all kinds of sources (Books, Software, Magazines, Tablature web sites and By Ear off CD’s and MP 3’s). This article builds on my Major Scale 3 Note / String Fingerings Post.

Guitar Analyzer Software has a 3 shape fingering selection category to explore this area in more depth for each scale.

1) Fret 3 & Fret 10 (whole step-whole step, whole step-whole step)

2) Fret 5 (whole step-half step, whole step-whole step)

3) Fret 7 (half step-whole step, whole step-half step)

4) Fret 8 (whole step-whole step, half step-whole step)

5) Fret 12 (whole step-half step, whole step-half step)

6) Fret 14 (half step-whole step, half step-whole step)

G Major 3 Note / String on String 5 & 6



                                            3 ( N/S) Shape Fret 3 Phrygian 3 Note/String Shape G Major 3 Note/String Fret 10 G Major 3 Note/String Fret 14

                                                              Dorian 3 Note/String Shape G Major 3 Note/String Fret 8 G Major 3 Note/String Fret !2

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A big confusion plaguing so many beginning guitar players in leaning scales is:

What fingers do I use when playing scales? How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t? Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky? How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all? How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

What fingers do I use when playing scales? How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t? Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky? How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all? How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

What fingers do I use when playing scales? How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t? Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky? How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all? How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

  • What fingers do I use when playing scales?
  • How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t?
  • Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky?
  • How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all?
  • How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

First lets get to know the four fingers of the left hand (opposite if your a left hand player) palm up left to right (1st - Index Finger, 2nd - Middle Finger, 3rd - Ring Finger, 4th - Pinky). The pinky-4 of the four fingers is the weakest finger of the hand and it seems to always want to mimic every movement of the (ring - 3 finger), caused by a shared ligament. Because of this it’s kind of natural to have a resistance to not use the pinky. In the schools of thought in guitar teaching mostly in the styles of Classical and Jazz. There are hard set rules that the fingers must set (90 degree vertical) to the frets and the pinky must be used and developed. This is known as the Finger Per Fret Rule and it has a sound mechanical logic when you analyze wasted motion to the leased amount of movement.

This works great and it is something to strive for but not all hands are the same, especially if you have to span you hand wider than a one or more frets. There are a lot of fingerings in the Major, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor - Scales that require fingerings wider than one fret, some two and three frets wide between two finger digits. If you analyze the guitar fret board the lower frets are wider than the higher frets. Due to the garden variety of the human hand big - small hand, long - short fingers, wide - skinny fingers. short - wide span between digits, limber - stiff, sensitive - callous, working hands, boxing hands ect. All of these factors come into play and we have to except them it’s the way god made us and there has to be work around’s. Not all fingerings can be achieved but they sometimes can through dedicated practice of dexterity exercise development and stretching. The nice thing is there’s always another way to do them on the guitar fret board.

For those guitar player who just don’t use their pinky while playing scales whatever you call it - (Omit Pinky Rule, Hi-3rd Rule, Mod3 Rule, Bending Finger Rule). There is a logic to the madness even through some schooled guitar players and teachers say they are bad habits that must be broken and make it purest rule to be set in stone. All rules can be broken with a meaningful logic and explanation to that rule.

When we look into the blues and rock styles of guitar (using the pentatonic and blues scales) there are some dynamics that come into play which is vibrato and bending. Vibrato is a subtle vibration of the fretting hand that gives a note a fluttering vocal quality, watch BB King he is the master of the blues vibrato style. Bending of a string increases pitch bleeding a lower note to a higher note. The more tension the higher the pitch usually bending upward on the string and sometime down increasing the pitch up to (1/2 Step), (1 whole step), (1 1/2 steps) the string braking point. Both vibrato and bending can happen at the same time and a lot of players do both (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, BB King, Eric Clapton). If we try to do this with our pinky it’s almost physically impossible so we have to use (3rd Ring Finger) to accomplish the task.

As an exception to this there are some great blues-jazz guitar players that can do this using their pinky, one I know of is Robin Ford. Below I’m going to give some fingering examples for scale fingerings for both with and without the pinky. As a final note, not all of these fingering hold up in a real time playing situation depending on what you are trying to accomplish and where you are going on the guitar fret board during a solo. It also never hurts to practice both types of fingerings to develop dexterity and chops. Guitar Analyzer Software shows guitar fret finger placement for every fingering as to the examples below.


                          A Minor Pentatonic - Finger/Fret C MajorPentatonic Finger/Fret A Blues Finger / Fret A Dorian Finger/Fret

                          A Minor Pentatonic Modified Fingering C Major Pentatonic Modified Fingering A Blues Modified Fingering A Dorian Modified Fingering

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The guitar scales fret-board diagrams below are the (3 Note / String Fingerings) for the G Major Scale. The numbers in the guitar scales fret-board diagrams represent the fretting finger placement. This article builds off of my last post (Major Scale – 3 Note / String – 6 Note Shapes). This fingering is very popular for guitar players who have goals to play very fast major scale runs.These fingering are used by Classical, Jazz and Neo-Classical Metal Guitar Players or Shredding. If you want to cover a lot of notes and a lot of range these fingerings give your hand positioning and fingers easy mobility. When your first index finger is traveling to the next string it does not have to be repositioned a fret backward. It either moves to the next inline fret or forward up a half or whole step, saving re-position time on your index finger.

This is great for legato (smooth rapid succession of notes or slurs) hammer ons or pull offs. The timing is (Pick-Hammer-Hammer) foreward or (Pick-Pull-Pull) backward and it is a very easy way to play fast sounding runs. This is also great for staccato picking all the notes. You can develop your alternate picking speed because of three picking directions per string. (down-up-down) (up-down -up). Your guitar fretting fingers start getting a spidery feeling traversing the strings.

The guitar players that use these 3 note / string fingerings a lot are Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore and Tony McAlpine. Depending of the size of your hand. The whole-step whole-step patterns per string are played more commonly with the (1st index finger), (2nd Middle), (4th Pinky). Players with larger hands are more comfortable with using their ring finger (1st index finger), (3nd Ring), (4th Pinky) as the guitar scales fret-board diagrams below. All the guitar fret-board diagrams below can be created with Guitar Analyzer Software for all the scale roots.

                          G Ionian (Major) (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering A Dorian (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering B Phyrgian (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering C Lydian (3 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering

                          G MixoLydian (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering E Aeolian (Nat. Minor) (2 Ocatave +2) 3 Note/String Fingering F# Locrian (2 Octave +2) 3 Note/String Fingering

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Note: Please read article post Understanding Scale Modes to help prepare for Pentatonic Scale Inside The Major Scale On Guitar

This article post is about the scale myth and confusion of how the Pentatonic Scale relates to the Major Scale. The biggest confusion is what key am I really playing in when I am working with two types of scales (Major Scale Versus Pentatonic Scales) and how do they interact and relate to each other? In a live improvisation playing situations where your not sure of what key your playing in. The first thing your usually going to do by ear is find that common Minor Pentatonic Scale Box and see what chord changes are being played. You usually are not going to try playing any major scale 1/2 step notes until you are absolutely sure what major scale key your playing in.

If your playing with Blues and Rock Players unto Jazz and Classical Players. The scale key that is called out may be very different unto the class and school of musicians that your playing with. Jazz and Classical players are usually more schooled in music theory and they relate the key to the key signature of the Major Scale. A lot of Jazz players are more concerned with modes and the tonal center. Blues and Rock players on the other hand relate the key to the Minor Pentatonic Scale (The bordered notes shown in the fingering on the first row). Blues players usually stay in Pentatonic and Blues Scales (Major scales are a taboo). The I of the I , IV, V chord progression dictates were the Minor Pentatonic Key lies and that is how they relate the key. Rock players use both but more in the pentatonic and blues scales.

Here is the big kicker, three different Pentatonic Scale Keys can be super imposed on the major scale. The Minor Pentatonic Scale can be super imposed on the three minor modes of the major scale – (vi) Aeolian Scale or Natural Minor Scale, (ii) Dorian Scale, (iii) Phrygian Scale (1st row of the fingering diagrams). The chord progression order of the chords being played is what’s going to rule this relationship. The (G Major Triad Chord Scale Chart) shown below shows the major chord scale order and what relates to the scale fingerings below.

The (Diagram – Fret 5 A Dorian Scale/ A Minor Pentatonic Scale) is the most common relationship found and it’s usually when the IV chord is Major. This one is common in a lot of I, IV, V. Blues & Rock Progressions. The next commonly found relationship is the Aeolian Scale/ Minor Pentatonic Scale. This usually is when the IV chord is minor.

The least common relationship is the (Diagram- Fret 7 B Phrygian Scale / B Minor Pentatonic Scale). This can happen if the II Chord is Major. The simplest overview of all of this technical jargon is to analyze the chords that are being played within the Minor Pentatonic Scale fingering. This gives you a clue to the notes of the major scale mode and what major scale key your playing in.

If a guitar player with a good ear has practiced both types of scales, they can usually find their way around both scales relationships easier. You can never stop getting better at scales. The more you practice and apply yourself to play each of these scale relationships in your solos. The better your is ear is going to become in adapting playing to different types of chord progressions. Guitar Analyzer Software can instantly display how the three pentatonic scales can fit inside every major scale key as shown below.

                                                                         G Major Triad Chord Scale Chart

Pentatonic Inside The Major Scale

                                            A Dorian/Minor Pentatatonic Intervals B Phyrgian / Minor Pentatonic Interval E Aeolian / E Minor Pentatonic Intervals

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Here is the A Blues Scale on guitar showing all 6 fingering positions.The A Blues Scale is the Minor Pentatonic Scale with a passing tone (b5 or diminish 5th) note added to it. The A Blues Scale usually works with every position where you would play the pentatonic scale. The added (b5) note gives the sound a very interesting flavor while playing blues solos.

It never hurts to practice the scale and learn all the all fingering positions. This way you know the A Blues Scale all over the guitar fret board and are not just playing one fingering position all the time. Try playing the A Blues Scale at the fifth fret shown in the first scale fingerings below. The next octave scale fingering position is the same as the first one at fret (17) and starts over again after the last fingering.

Next try it in the key of E starting at the open string scale fingering position fret (0) instead of fret (5) and play all the scale fingering positions up & down. Find a blues song in the same key and experiment jamming along in all the these scale fingering positions to get a feel for it. Try it with a slow blues song to make it easier. The song by Stevie Ray Vaughan – Leave My Little Girl Alone is in A and it’s a good one to start with. As an exercise try bending notes with the Interval (5) one note below interval (b5) note up a half step to the (b5) note. The more you master playing the A Blues in all the fingering positions the better you will know your way around the guitar fret board and not get lost hitting a dissonant off note.

          A-Blues021  A Blues Position 2 A Blues Position 3 A Blues Position 4 A Blues Position 5 A Blues Position 6

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Understanding Major Scales Modes seems to be the most confusing area of learning scales on guitar for a lot of people. Now there’s guitar scales explained in an easy to understand way. The biggest problem is how to simplify it at a level where people can grasp the order and concept. I suggest that you read my post (Interval Theory) to help prepare you for this understanding major scale modes article.

I picked the key of C Major Scale to make it clearer to understand, because there are no (b- Flats, #-Sharps) accidentals. Every scale has modes if it’s a five note scale there’s five modes, six notes – six modes. The major scales has seven notes and seven modes, The first note to the first note is Ionian Major Scale, (2nd to 2nd – Dorian Scale), (3rd to 3rd – Phrygian Scale), (4th to 4th Lydian Scale), (5th to 5th -Mixolydian Scale), (6th to 6th – Aeolian Scale or Natural Minor Scale), (7th to 7th – Locrian Scale).

At this point you must be telling yourself these names are little Greek to me and it’s because they are. How are we suppose to learn and remember these weird names? Here is a mnemonic to help remember (If Dora Plays Like Me Alls Lost).

Each mode has a Interval Formula (Table-1)

Practice guitar scales by play one octave at a time (square to square) to hear the subtle sound of each mode. Singing each note out loud while playing can help you remember how each mode sounds. There is a great piece of software for ear training that I highly recommend called EarMaster5. It helps to better refine your ability to listen and recall the interval differences of each mode.

Let’s next look further into the scale formulas to help differentiate the relationships of scale modes. Every mode has the interval (3 – Major 3rd) or (b3 – Minor 3rd). The Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian are Major Modes because of the (Major 3rd) interval. They are from the (1st, 4th & 5th notes) of the major scale. The blues progression roman numerals ( I, IV, V) come from the degrees of these major modes.

Major is suppose to be a happy emotional up sound. The minor modes (b3) are Dorian Scale, Phrygian Scale, Aeolian Scale or (Natural Minor). They are from the (2nd, 3rd & 6th notes – ii, iii, vi) of the major scale. The Aeolian Mode (vi degree) is the natural minor scale. The minor is suppose to give a dark sad emotional sound. The Locrian (7th note – vii) is the diminished mode because of the (b3 – Minor 3rd ) and (b5 – Diminished 5th). The Locrian Mode is suppose to give an evil edgy dissonant sound.

When you are ear training there are distinct interval sounds that help you narrow down which mode, like Phrygian and Locrian both have a (b2 – Minor 2nd) and to further distinct those apart is the (b5 – Diminished 5th) and (5 – Perfect 5th). Ionian and Mixolydian can sound the same and you have to hear the subtle difference between the (b7Minor 7th) and the (7 – Major 7th). The Lydian has a (3 -Major 3rd) and (#4 – Augmented 4th) which is the same as a (b5 – Diminished 5th confusing) this differentiates it from the Ionians (4 – Perfect 4th).

As your ear training gets better you’ll start to develop the ability to hear and pick out the modes from melodies and even chord progression in songs. As a final note and to rap things up some people have natural abilities to hear better than others. We all can achieve whatever we want with dedicated training, hard work and practice. Don’t compare yourself to others if they can and you can’t. This comes down to belief systems. If you think you can or can’t your right and there is no one else to change your mind but you.


C Major Mode Chart


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Exploring the A Harmonic Minor Scale On Guitar. The harmonic minor scale is created by changing the last note of the A Aeolian natural minor scale. If you raise the Minor 7th (b7) up a half step to the Major 7th (7) as shown in the scale fingering (Fret 5). This harmonic minor guitar scale has a Middle Eastern Egyptian scale type sound. The numbers in the notes in the guitar fingerings are the finger per fret placement of the fretting hand.

Play all the notes of  the harmonic minor scale in the guitar scale fret-board diagram ascending up and descending down. As you physically play the harmonic minor scale you will get a feel for the sound of the scale. The raised 7th interval of the harmonic minor scale it increases the interval space from (1 whole step) to (1 1/2 step) space between the 6th and the 7th note. This raised note also adds another (1/2 step) in the scale and now it has three (1/2 step).

The Harmonic Minor Scale can be explored with all of the modes and fingering positions with Guitar Analyzer Software.

                                                            A Harmonic Minor - Interva  A Harmonic Minor - Fingers

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The guitar fret-board scales diagram below display the E Phrygian Scale Mode. The Phrygian Scale Mode is the 3rd degree of Major Scale (Ionian Mode). The scale formula for the Phrygian mode is(1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7). The Phrygian Scale Mode is a minor mode because of the (1 b3, 5) triad intervals that are notes of the the E minor chord within the scale.

The interval that uniquely differentiates the phrygian scale mode from the other modes is the minor 2nd interval (b2). The minor 2nd interval is only 1/2 step higher from Phrygian root note. The only other scale mode in the major scale with a minor 2nd interval is the 7th degree Locrian scale mode. It has a diminished 5th interval (b5) while the Phrygian scale mode has a perfect 5th interval (5).

This scale has a dark sound and if you heard the phrygian scale mode in background music in a movie it might be a scene leading up to some kind of dramatic action. The guitar fret-board scales diagrams show the intervals, notes and finger placement for a 2 octave range on the E note on the 12th Fret. Try playing the scale on your guitar and listen carefully to the notes and try to hear the distinct intervals.

Related Posts > Understanding Major Scale Modes

                                          E Phrygian Scale Mode - Intervals E Phrygian Scale Mode - Notes E Phrygian Scale Mode - Fingers

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The guitar scales fret-board diagrams shown below display the D Dorian Scale Mode. The Dorian Scale Mode is the 2nd degree of the Major Scale (Ionian Mode). In playing scales on guitar the big confusion of understanding major scale modes is that people think your playing in another scale. It is the same scale of the major scale but your start note is the second note of the major scale and ends in the second note of the next octave. The D Dorian for example is still the C Major Scale. The root note is outlined by the note in the square of the guitar scales fretboard diagrams.

The scale formula of the Dorian Scale is (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7). The minor 3rd (b3) of the scale makes it a minor sounding scale. The only difference between Dorian Scale and The Natural Minor Scale (Aeolian Mode) is the raised Major 6 (6th) from a Minor 6 (b6).

The Dorian Scale has unique tonal personality which reminds me of the background music in a western movie like a cowboy riding off in the sunset. The guitar fret-board fingering diagrams below show the intervals, notes, and finger placement for 2 octave fingerings. Practice these fingering and carefully listen to the sound while you play the notes and really hear what the Dorian Scale sounds like. Related Post > Understand Major Scale Modes


D Dorian Formula


                                        D Dorian Scale - Intervals D Dorian Scale - Notes D Dorian Scale - Fingers

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