Monday, December 28, 2020

The Pentatonic Scale, pt.I

For many guitarists learning how to solo is a benchmark of their playing level and for others a scary proposition! When most guitarists begin learning to solo they utilize a pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale is a five (penta) tone (tonic) scale of which there are two types - major and minor. I would venture to say the vast majority of guitarists use a minor pentatonic scale as it often employed by blues and rock guitarists to great extent. 

A minor pentatonic scale can be extracted from it's parallel major scale using a simple number scheme: 1 b3 4 5 b7. For our current purposes we'll relate it back to an A major scale.

               A Major:      A   B  C# D  E  F# G# A
                                    1    2   3   4   5  6    7   8

A Minor Pentatonic    A        C   D  E       G   A
                                    1        b3   4  5       b7   8

So in order to "create" an A minor pentatonic scale (A C D E G A) the number scheme is applied. The 1st, 4th and 5th notes remain the same (as well as the 8th/octave) - while the 3rd and 7th notes are flatted (b3, b7) from the original sharps - C# becomes C natural and G# becomes G natural. 

Next month we'll talk about common fingering patterns that are used for these scales!

Sunday, November 29, 2020


A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a music workshop hosted by the renowned guitarist Jennifer Batten called "Self-Empowerment for the Modern Musician." It was a wonderful workshop where Jennifer discussed everything from building a personal brand to practical information on domestic and foreign touring.

It was during the workshop that Jennifer talked about the music software Transcribe! - the software that she herself uses to transcribe music. Transcribe! is an amazing powerful tool that can help you with your teaching; not only for transcribing songs but even slowing them down without changing pitch so that students can play along with faster songs or passages. If you are interested in Transcribe! check out Jennifer Batten's tutorial.

You can purchase Transcribe! at a cost of $39 for either Windows, Mac or Linux. Happy transcribing!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Moveable Power Chords, pt. VII – Examples in Music

In last month’s post I a shuffle rhythm to closed power on the 6th string. This technique is easily found in blues music, but can be readily found in rock music and is a must for students to master; whether actual shuffle feel or the straighter version that can be found in rock. 

For teachers wanting students to apply this technique, one must look no further than simply plugging the rhythm into basic 12 Bar Blues. There is no harm in having students work through a 12 Bar Blues using only chords on the sixth string; in fact it is extremely helpful for students to learn to the move vertically on a single string. Additionally, it will help students memorize notes on that particular string. Furthermore, with slow and consistent practice students will develop smooth shifting technique between small and large fret movements.

For practice using a straight shuffle rhythm, there are plenty of rock songs that incorporate the technique/rhythm into either whole or parts of the song. Plus, for more focused practice teachers should not be afraid to take “liberties” with the song and change all the chords to a single string (in this case all chords are on the 6th string). Below are some examples of rock songs by the Chuck Berry who some say “invented” the straight shuffle rhythm.

· Johnny B. Goode

· Deep Feeling

· Rock ‘n’ Roll Music

· No Particular Place to Go