Horizontal Pentatonic Movement

We're thrilled to have a second Progressive Arts Music recording artist, Jimmy Williams, as guest columnist at CFH!

Hello everyone, thanks for checking out the column.  First I want to say thanks to Chops From Hell, Steel Prophet and Progressive Arts Music for letting me share some ideas with you. You can check out my playing on Steel Prophet's "Book of the Dead" and Progressive Arts Music will release my debut instrumental CD "Guitar Concepts" early 2002.

This column will deal with an easy and efficient way to play the pentatonic scale.  It only uses 2 strings so it allows for quick execution and also an ability to move horizontally around the fingerboard (something that the "box" pentatonic doesn't easily allow you to do). It uses an unorthodoxed fingering, but this allows you to play the scale much faster than the traditional fingering. I play it legato with hammer ons and pull offs, but if you want to try it with alternate or economy picking go for it.  The hardest part about playing the pattern is playing a 5 note subdivision of the beat, it isn't a very natural division. Try to get it to sound like an even group of 5 notes, not a group of two 16th notes and group of three 16th note triplets.

If you apply this idea to all 6 strings starting on the low E string the pattern would look like this:

Starting on the 5th fret of the low E string, an Am pentatonic scale will give this fingering:

If this pattern is started on the A string, there is a fingering problem on the the B string:

I don't change the fingering pattern, I just move my hand up one fret.  If this fingering doesn't work for you, try another fingering choice on the B string.  Here is the fingering of the Am pentatonic scale starting on the 12th fret of the A string:

This is a pattern that combines both the Am (A, C, D, E, G) pentatonic and the Em (E, G, A, B, D) pentatonic scales.  If you combine these 2 scales you get the Am hexatonic scale (A, B, C, D, E, G) which is worthy of an entirely new column, more on that at another time. You'll notice that you get from the 5th fret all the way up to the 22nd fret in no time flat:

Until next time...Jim