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Mastering Pentatonic Scales – Part 2

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Welcome back. As we move into the second round of the "Mastering Pentatonic Scales" series, we're ramping things up. Last week (https://freteleven.com/blog/b/pentatonic1), we drilled down into the basic structure of major and minor pentatonic scales, exploring the individual patterns and how they mesh together. Now, we're ready to turn those individual box patterns into a full understanding of the pentatonic over the entire fretboard.

Getting the Patterns Underneath Your Fingers

It's not enough just to know the patterns of the pentatonic scales on paper or to be able to follow along by looking at the fretboard. The goal here is to deeply embed these patterns into your muscle memory, to the point where your fingers can find their way without you having to glance at the fretboard.

Ever noticed how the greats hardly ever look at their guitar while they're ripping out killer solos? That's because they've internalized the fretboard. They can picture it in their minds, note for note, pattern for pattern. They're not just moving their fingers; they're also listening. When they hear a melody, they instinctively know where it lives on the fretboard. There's a direct, visceral connection between what they hear, what they see in their mind's eye, and what their fingers do on the fretboard.

So, let's get down to business. Your first mission is to burn each individual pentatonic pattern into your brain. Aim to visualize them clearly, even with your eyes closed. This is a crucial stepping stone towards making the guitar an extension of yourself.

Connecting the Patterns

Imagine the process of assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Each individual piece is distinct, possessing its own shapes, colors, and contours. On their own, these pieces carry a portion of the picture, but the full image remains hidden, waiting to be revealed. It's only when we begin connecting these pieces together, guided by intuition and a grasp of the bigger picture, that the true image emerges in all its beauty and complexity.

In many ways, learning the guitar - and specifically the pentatonic scales - is akin to this process. The fretboard can seem like a jigsaw puzzle, one filled with countless possibilities and paths. Each pentatonic pattern we learn is a piece of this musical puzzle, holding within it the potential for melody, rhythm, and expression. They are the building blocks, each with its unique shape and contribution to the sonic landscape.

The goal, however, extends beyond simply mastering these individual patterns. It's about understanding how these patterns interconnect, how they flow from one to the other to form a unified musical language across the entire fretboard. Just as fitting the pieces of a puzzle together reveals the complete image, integrating the pentatonic patterns illuminates the fretboard, transforming it from an intimidating grid of notes to a cohesive canvas for our musical ideas.

Let's kickstart this process with an exercise that will not only get your fingers moving but also help you internalize the seamless transition from one pattern to the next. For those who've been playing pentatonic patterns for a while, don't pass up this opportunity. This isn't about retracing familiar paths - it's about exploring new connections, finding those gaps in your perception, and turning them into strengths.

Consider this exercise your warm-up. But it's more than just a simple routine - it's an integral step towards ingraining these connections deep within your muscle memory. The aim here isn't just to learn but to absorb these connections so instinctively that they become second nature, a part of your musical DNA.

Start off by setting a steady rhythm with your metronome. There's no need to rush - remember, this is about precision and familiarity, not speed. With each beat, each note, and each transition, you're building an intricate web of understanding that'll make navigating the fretboard feel like a natural extension of your creativity.

Remember, this isn't a race, it's a journey - and every note played is another step towards mastering the pentatonic scale.

Navigating the fretboard effectively requires not only understanding individual scale patterns but also discerning the 'doorways' that connect these patterns. An effective way to see all these 'doorways' is to use slides to move from one pattern to another.

Let's apply this concept using the first two patterns of the minor pentatonic scale as an example. When you're playing through the first pattern, there are key transition points - specific spots where you can smoothly slide either a minor third (three frets) or a major second (two frets) along the string. Each of these slides serves as a 'doorway', guiding you seamlessly from the first pattern directly into the next. Notably, you'll find one 'doorway' on each string.

When you consciously apply these slides or 'doorways',, the fretboard starts to unravel, connecting adjacent individual pentatonic patterns to the big picture. This technique encourages effortless mobility across the fretboard and fosters a sense of the pentatonic scale as a cohesive entity.

Here are six exercises you can use to learn the 'doorway' technique which will give you framework to apply to all the other adjacent pentatonic scale patterns.

6th String Slide

5th String Slide

4th String Slide

3rd String Slide

2nd String Slide

1st String Slide

Preparing for the Next Stage

By now, the fretboard should look less like a mysterious forest and more like a familiar map. But don't be complacent—familiarity breeds growth, not stagnation. As you continue practicing, you'll find new paths and shortcuts in your pentatonic map.

In our next post, we'll be diving even deeper into the world of pentatonic scales, and exploring how to connect these patterns to your ear and what you hear. Stay tuned, keep your hands on the fretboard, and always stay curious.

Until then, keep on exploring the limitless potential of your guitar.

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