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Pentatonic Licks

This month I’m doing my last video on the pentatonic scales (we’ll be moving on to the Major scale and it’s modes next month). So, I thought it’s about time that we uploaded some good ol’ pentatonic licks for you guys – some classic phrases that will sound fantastic over blues, rock, and pop tunes.

Let’s be honest and say that these kind of licks are the bread and butter of many guitarists’ playing styles, from modern guys like John Mayer, back through Eric Clapton in the 60s, and even back to the original blues recordings, not too long after 1900! There’s a reason these kind of licks have stuck around – they sound good.

Before we start I will say briefly that there is a whole other world of beautiful, wonderful and weird sounds that can be made with a guitar, so while pentatonic playing can sound great and is really easy to get into, don’t be discouraged from trying other harder stuff – even if it doesn’t sound as good at first!

But equally, these licks are a fantastic way to really improve your intonation – the tone and feel of your guitar playing. If you can use timing, subtle bends, vibrato, and all that stuff to turn just 5 notes (of the pentatonic scale) into a beautiful solo, this will give you a huge step up to playing music naturally. In the future you can learn all kinds of weird scales and possible note choices, and directly get something beautiful out of them, without being too overwhelmed with the theory (in my humble opinion).

So, here’s my take on a few pentatonic licks in the key of A minor:

pentatonic-licks-1

Starting with a bend up to the 5th degree, finishing with a vibrato on the root note A (but if you change the last note, you get the first part of the Stairway to Heaven solo…).

pentatonic-licks-2

Slide up quickly from the grace notes (small notes) to the main notes. The “3” represents a triplet – three notes per beat.

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This lick would work over an A7 chord – the second bend goes to the minor 3rd, while the third bend goes to the major 3rd – a bluesy sound!

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Another triplet lick, with a little extra turnaround at the end – what classical musicians would call an “ornament” – getting you back on to the root on the first beat of the bar.

In fact, while all these licks end on the root, to give a sense of resolution, you should mess around and experiment with them. For example, they can be used in the C major key, where they will work but sound distinctly different – as the root has moved from A to C.

Cheers and enjoy,

Euan

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