How to expand the pentatonic scale in two minutes

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More freedom and choices

I’ve been looking forward to writing this series about how to master the blues rock sound in all it’s different manifestations. This is by far the most used sound in all of rock music so mastering it is crucial. But most people often feel a bit limited by the measly five or six notes that you have at your disposal in the traditional pentatonic blues scale. I use to feel that way for sure. But as I started investigating other ways to approach this style of playing I found tons of ways to expand the pentatonic scale. So much so, I ended up having more options and greater freedom here, than in the Minor / Major realm of Melodic rock.

Cover the entire fretboard

My two primary outcomes for this series is to 1. Give you the tools you need to go from playing in one or two shapes of the pentatonic scale to mastering all of the shapes. I’ll show you how I learned to use the entire neck of the guitar in an easy and fun way. My second outcome is to give you tons of cool licks and ideas to how you can expand your musical vocabulary massively. I can’t wait to get started so I’ll just dive right into it and give you the first idea.

A simple but effective idea

I’m going to assume that you know your basic minor pentatonic shape:

- and that you’ve expanded that by adding the classic blue note to it:

As you probably know there are four other shapes that you can use and that covers the entire neck:

Shape 01

Shape 02

Shape 03

Shape 04

Shape 05

From now on, I'll be referring to these shapes by their respective numbers in the videos.

Expanding the basic shapes

The problem with these shapes is that they’re not half as comfortable to operate in as the first one. But as you progress through these articles you’ll find that each and everyone of these less comfortable shapes will start to feel more and more attractive to use. In fact I’m going to give you a specific method that you can use to master all of them equally. But we’ll get to that later. For now let’s focus on how to expand these shapes instantly. It’s a very simple but extremely effective idea that goes like this:

The four patterns of the blues scale

If you break the patterns of the blues scale down you’ll find only three one string patterns that repeats themselves over and over again on each string. They look like this:

Pattern 01

Pattern 02

Pattern 03

Pattern 04

Here’s the idea:

When ever you the shape looks like pattern number 1 - you add a note to it so it looks like this:

So you now have three notes instead of two. When ever your shape looks like pattern number 2 you add a note in between the two like this:

And when ever you have a shape that looks like pattern number 3 or 4 you do nothing.

Five new, easy to learn, shapes

This will give you five 3 notes per string patterns that look like this:

Shape 01

Shape 02

Shape 03

Shape 04

Shape 05

Please note that you don't have to learn any new shapes other than the five basic blues scales shapes. the only thing you have to do is add the notes according to the simple rules I've described.

Two important advantages

Now please take a minute to play through all of them. This idea instantly gives you two advantages:

1. It’s easier for you to play 3 notes per string than two and it gives you more speed and makes your phrasing more fluent and even.

2. It gives you more notes to play with. And you don’t have to learn any new complicated shapes!

It takes you two minutes to learn to expand any blues scale shape you know. Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about. I’ve created one example in each of the five shapes. Try them out! In my next article I’ll show you another very, very simple way to expand your blues scale even further. Here are five examples of how to utilize this. One for every scale shape:

Two Minute Blues Scale Expansion Examples