Minor Pentatonic Scale
A pentatonic scale consists of 5 notes (instead of 7 notes like a major scale). The fact that there are less notes gives it a more open sound. It’s also great to sometimes only pick a few notes from a scale and try to make some interesting melodies using that subset of notes. The restricted number of notes is a nice way to focus on a smaller idea, rather than being overwhelmed with too many note choices.
For the blues I will focus on the minor pentatonic scale. This name refers to how the scale is constructed, which is based on the following intervals: minor 3rd, whole step, whole step, minor third. For E minor pentatonic this gives us E, G, A, B, and D.
So for an E blues progression this would give us the root (E), minor 3rd(G), 4th (A), 5th (B), and minor 7th (D) over an E7 chord. For the IV chord which is A7, this gives us (relative to A), the root (A), 2nd (B), 4th (D), 5th (E) and minor 7th (G), and for the V chord which is B7, it gives us the root (B), minor 3rd, 4th, minor 6th and minor 7th.
In the accompanying diagram, I show the E minor pentatonic in 12 position. You can see that this is one pattern for a minor pentatonic. These patterns will make playing in other keys a little easier (For example move this down to 5th position and you now have the A minor pentatonic. In this case, your index finger on the 6th string dictates which minor pentatonic you are playing).
I play the scale ascending and descending. Try playing with this scale and making up your own solo – don’t worry if it doesn’t sound right at first. Keep at it and you will see improvement. One tip is to try to play a note that will ‘work’ over the current chord in the progression. For example over E you could try to emphasize the E, G, B or even D (the minor 7th) while that E chord is playing. For A, try to hit the A or E for starters – at least emphasize that a bit more by holding those notes or repeating them for example. Most of all, have fun!
Keep in mind that the E minor pentatonic is the relative minor of G major. So you can use the G major shapes to locate your minor pentatonics within each shape.
Okay now for some inspiration (I hope!). Here’s a sample of me playing for 2 choruses over an E blues progression from my other lesson using only the E minor pentatonic in 12 position. Listen to me play.