Pentatonic scales

This will be a fun lesson. Pentatonic scales are easy to learn, easy to play, and they sound like rock ‘n’ roll. If you want to start improvising or creating solos on guitar, chances are you’ll want to learn at least one or two pentatonic scale shapes. Most blues guitar parts are based around the pentatonic minor scale, or a close variation of it.

The best part about pentatonic scales is that if you know the major scale, you already know how to play the pentatonic major scale and the pentatonic minor scale. (If you don’t, don’t worry. I’ll teach you here, or you can read about major scales.)

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Melodic Minor Scales

Ok, stick with me for one more minor scale type, then it gets easier. I promise! This lesson builds on previous ones, so if you haven’t read my other scale lessons, now’s a good time:

And now the melodic minor scale. I think you’ll begin to understand why the natural minor is called the natural minor. It’s the one that’s based on the major scale, and is considered more pure. The other two, the harmonic and melodic minors, were reached by tweaking around with the natural minor. The harmonic minor raised the seventh note in the scale so we could have that strong major V chord (that is, the chord based on the fifth note of the scale). The melodic minor makes one more alteration.

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Harmonic Minor Scales

The natural minor scale, which I covered in the last lesson, is a nice alternative to the major scale when you want a sadder, mellower kind of sound. It has a weaker resolution to the tonic, which can be just what you’re going for. Some people though, back in the day, decided they liked the sound of the minor scale, but wanted a little bit more of a strong resolution. They played around a bit, and what they came up with was the harmonic minor scale. That’s what I’m going to cover today.

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Natural minor scales

Minor scales

I covered major scales in the last lesson. Today I go minor. It’s really not that much of a leap from major to minor, so this should be an easy lesson, or at least easier. I’ll cover three types of minor scales in total: natural minor, melodic minor, and harmonic minor. Today, I’ll start with the easiest one, the natural minor.

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Major scales and keys

I don’t know about you, but the word “scale” scares the crap out of me. I picture some white-wig-wearing little boy tinkling the same “do re mi” blah blah blah over and over on a piano as a stern-faced matron tells him to watch his posture.

Well, it’s not quite so bad as all that. Scales turn out to be enormously useful for coming up with melodies, soloing, and for practicing technique.

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