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Insane Pentatonics

Hope you enjoyed my last column, and now, as a full timer, I´ll bring you more cool stuff. Yeah, the title says ROCK N´ ROLL but it works if you play Heavy Metal, Death Metal or Whatever Metal… it’s all rock n´ roll, so don’t be lazy!!!

I’d like to start with Pentatonics. Ok, now you probably saw a gazillion columns talking about pentatonics before, and they all look the same, showing different kinds of shapes, licks, and blah blah blah, right? I wanna do something different this time. Most of shredding guitarists use what they call “Harmonic Minor” scale (thanx to Yngwie) using alternated picking, three notes per string and all. In my opinion, Pentatonic scales sound much more soulful! For me, that´s the difference between shredders and artists… SOUL!! GUTS!! POWER!! Even when two guitarists are technically equal. I mean, who’s man enough to say that Paul Gilbert, Zakk Wylde or Kee Marcello aren’t good when it comes to shredding? Hell, they are!! Ok, you MUST use all the scales you know, in order to enrich your music, but most people forget about our dear pentatonics nowadays.

First of all, you have to learn WHAT IS a Pentatonic Scale. I’m not Mr. Know-It-All, but usually my point of view is different from 99% of the guitarists out there. Let’s begin by learning WHAT IS a Pentatonic:

T II III V VI

There ya go! Shapes like “A C D E G” and others are different ways of playing the same scale. Remember when I was talking about modes in my first column? If you don’t, then check it out. (please add a link to it).

What I’m trying to say is that you better know THE NOTES then THE SHAPES. I wouldn’t feel comfortable by improvising using 2 ou 3 memorized shapes… I’d rather think of the notes I’m playing, or even better, just follow my heart and play whatever I feel like. That always helps us developing our own style.

Here’s a quick curiosity: Can you tell me HOW the pentatonics were created?

Let’s get a Major Scale… C for instance:

C D E F G A B

Since there are 7 notes, 5 are missing, right? Yeah… you guessed!!

C# D# F# G# A#

Ladies and Gentleman: THE F# PENTATONIC! Interesting, huh?

Now, you can add one more note (the minor third) which is called the “blue note”. For me, it sounds way cooler when playing fast, but you can either use it or not.
Let’s take C pentatonic as an example:

C D E G A

If you add the blue note, it’s gonna be:

C D D# E G A

Ok… ´nuff talking… let’s PLAY. I’ll show you some cool ideas using pentatonics.

Example 1:
These are the last 3 bars of one of my solos. Notice the odd groups of notes in the last bar. That’s because I never wrote the score for this solo. It’s just CLOSE to what I’m actually playing.

listen

Example 2:
Another of my solos. The first section is a little bit fast but this is more about power than technique. The last part isn’t a pentatonic, though. That’s why it isn’t transcribed.

listen

Example 3:
How about mixing both techniques in a single lick? This one is way harder than
the previous two. It’s a simple G pentatonic (some might call it Em7 but..oh,
well…). I’m using sextuplets during the whole lick and you can start practicing
at about 72 bpm (once again, don’t be so fackin´ lazy! lol!).

Cool thing is that it´s also a great alternated picking exercise, since it has no patterns like 2 or 3 notes per string AND there’s some string skipping.

I’d like to make something clear here. I’m not saying that the way you used to play pentatonics so far is wrong. But for me, that way makes everything more complicated. So, instead of studying different shapes and memorizing different names, it’s easier if you just know it’s intervals.

That’s all for now, folks. It’ll keep you busy ´till next month. If you have any questions, comments, or anything else concerning this column, drop me a line. I’ll be glad to reply and answer all yer questions!

ROCK ON!!

BILL HUDSON

Bill Hudson is the guitarist in The Supremacy (heavy metal/hard rock), teaches music and make clinics all around the world. Are you interested in lessons in Los Angeles? Let me know. Contacts: bill@insaneguitar.net

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