Week 3 – 12 Notes: Pentatonic Scales/ A Happy Riff


This was originally posted on ”12 notes”, a page on this website dedicated to guitar music and lessons.  So, for the more musically inclined, here is my third guitar lesson to you.   A pentatonic scale primer, and a happy riff.  If you run into any problems, drop me a line and let me know, and thanks for reading!

Enjoy!

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Lesson three:  Pentatonic scales/ A happy riff. 

Most of the time, when playing the pentatonic scale we usually have a pretty static idea of exactly what that is, and usually that is the minor pentatonic scale.  We are going to go through those and toss a happy riff out there after we go over the basics.

To begin with we will cover perhaps the most simple scale, the first, maybe second one you learned. 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 -9 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 -9 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – -6 -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – -6 -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-6 -9 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Version 2, same notes as the previous scale, just moved up one position.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -9 -11 – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -9 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -8 -10 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – -8 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – -8 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-9 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The first six notes of the aforementioned pentatonic scale, played with the right rhythm, is the signature riff from the song “My Girl” by the temptations.  

Version 3, again, the same notes as before, but now we’ve moved up yet another position.  

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -11 -13 – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -11 -14 – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -10 -13 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – -11 -13 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – -11 -13 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-11 -13 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Version 4:  This one is has almost the same shape as the first.  It differs only in the sharpened 5th. I’m moving this back down the fretboard, but the notes regardless, are identical, The same Bb,Db, Eb, F, and Ab that we have had in the previous 3 scales.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -1 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -2 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – -1 -3 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – 1-3 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – -1 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-1 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Version 5:  Having seen the previous three, you probably have an idea where this is going

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -4 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -4 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -3 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – -3 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – -4 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-4 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Easy stuff right? Memorize these shapes, play them in every key, run them all over the fingerboard until you can do it in your sleep. Let’s work with them now.

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Work here is play.  So let’s take what we know, playing just those 5 notes, and make some music.  Shall we? Let’s begin by riffing around, just to pick a shape at random, version number 3 above, and work our way around the fretboard in Bb Pentatonic minor.  This is a fairly easy riff, but it is a lot of fun once you get the rhythm worked out.  And since there is no way to notate rhythm here, I’ll just tell you that the beat feels kind of like “Moondance” by Van Morrison.  Work the rhythm the way you like though, whatever works for you.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – -10 -13 -10 – – – – – – – – – – -10 -8 – – – – – – – – – -8 – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – -11 – – – -13 -11 – – – – – – – – -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – -8 – – – -11 – – – – – –
13- 13- – – – – – – – – – – – – -8 -8 -11 – – – – – – – – -8 -8 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -9 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 -6 -3 -1 -3 – – – – – – -8 -6 -8 -6- – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 -6 -3 -1 -3 – – – – – – – – – – -8-6 -8 -6 -8 – – – – – – –
– – – – – -1 -1 -4 -1 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 8 -6 -8 – – – –
1-1 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – -10- -13 – -8 -8 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-8 -11 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 – -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – -8 – -11- – -6 -6 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-6 -9- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -4 – -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A short but happy riff blues riff in using nothing but Bb pentatonic minor.    Slide into those double stops when and wherever possible, there is a lot of fun in these simple riffs.  That’s about it for this week. 

Until next week, Jam on!

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