Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

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Michimicd
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Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Michimicd » Thu May 04, 2017 11:59 pm

I guess this falls under the "if I had to do over knowing what I know now" category.

I really believe that mindlessly memorizing and connecting these patterns well, turns you into a mindless pattern player. If I know the key and I follow the progression, I can noodle along with just about anything and sound in tune just adhering to this system. I know that it gets you going on soloing quickly and becomes the backbone of your arsenal, but is it really music(al)? Should I call myself a musician if I can do this really well?

I've been blessed to dust off my Strat and play with my churches Praise Band over the past few years. In an attempt to change some old habits (barre chords for instance), I started using triad voicing instead. It keeps me away from the bass guitarist and puts me in between the rhythm guitarist and pianist, my own space in the mix. I was quite pleased that removing some of my notes created a wider pallet of sound. My next step (huge hurdle for me) is to not rely on the box patterns for soloing anymore.

Early attempts have me looping a simple chord progression and playing chord tones over it with connecting diatonic notes. Which of course falls back to using shapes to guide my playing. Now, I try to resist the urge to use these and focus on the notes of the scale to focus my playing. Has anyone else tried to change their approach to playing and what luck have you had in doing so?

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Contreras
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Contreras » Fri May 05, 2017 2:41 pm

I'd love to know what all this means ... no, seriously.
It never seemed to come up in my classical guitar lessons, but I'm sure any and all musicianship is a plus.
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stevel
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by stevel » Fri May 05, 2017 11:42 pm

Contreras wrote:
Fri May 05, 2017 2:41 pm
I'd love to know what all this means ... no, seriously.
It never seemed to come up in my classical guitar lessons, but I'm sure any and all musicianship is a plus.
Most non-classical guitarists learn guitar by ear, without learning to read music, and part of that is also learning by "shape".

Ultimately, they learn a "shape" (or pattern) for a Major Scale and move that up or down the neck to play a Major scale. Same for various barre chords - you learn the shape for Major, and you put it on the fret that gives you the right now, and voila, A major, or Bb Major, etc.

Pentatonic Scales, if you don't know, are 5 note subsets of Major and Minor scales.

Many "unschooled" guitarists learn these as a tool for "soloing" and improvising becuase by eliminating two notes from the scale (the tritone, and it also takes out the half steps causing it to be what academics call an "anhemitonic scale") it sort of increases your odds of playing "good-sounding notes" without really knowing what you're doing.

You're in A Major, so you simply play the A Major Pentatonic Scale, and everything sounds OK.

I should add that this strategy has been used so much by this point that it's now basically "acceptable" and in fact many songs that a person might want to learn already contain much pentatonic melodies, riffs, scales, solos, etc. etc. etc.

Because the Pentatonic Scale can be played in a single position, it's seen as being in a "box" and one of the major problems with it is while it makes for an easy way to get people making music with a minimum of knowledge, it also becomes a crutch.

If you visit any non-classical guitar forum you'll see the threads over and over again "how do I get out of the pentatonic rut" and so on.

For the OP, honestly, knowledge is power, and learning your chord tones, key notes, and neighbor and passing tones, diatonic and chromatic notes and so on will all help break out of the box.

However, I will add that pattern playing is not inherently bad and is in many situations, entirely appropriate. Like any tool, you have to pick the right tool for the job - and that's all it is a means to an end - a means to make music - but it's like a Crowbar - hard to tighten a nut with it. But when you need to pry off a board...

For the OP also, I would say the first step if you know your pentatonic postions (all 5) VERTICALLY (in a box) then the obvious solution is to learn them HORIZONTALLY - up a single string, up a pair of strings, up a set of 3 strings, and so on.

Then the next step is to CONNECT your vertical boxes to each other with those horizontal patterns.

While it's still all Pentatonic, it opens up the pentatonic in a logical way so you can use those tools for more tasks (more like a Swiss Army Knife - still doesn't come with a hammer, but it does a lot).

But the absolute primary thing to do is PLAY MELODY.

That's the biggest issue pattern players have. IOW, it's not the fact they're playing "in boxes" or certain patterns that is causing the problem.

It's that they're not playing melodically.

Don't worry if something's in a pentatonic box or not. Just make sure it's a sing-able, memorable melody. A melodius melody full of melodiousness!

Michimicd
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Michimicd » Sat May 06, 2017 4:26 am

Excellent and elegantly stated Steve. Thanks for fielding the question. Melodic playing, how true.

Today I took a simple I IV V minor progression in the key of d min (think Black Magic Woman) and applied different variations of the above to it. After fumbling in an out of different approaches and not wanting to be drawn into boxes, it dawned on me to think about the white keys on the piano (D- Dorian). Everything became connected, free and melodic, I just had to create good phrasings. Melody!

Contreras, just for kicks, if you are by a keyboard/piano and you don't know this trick, play anything that you can think of (both hands, a foot maybe) on just the "black keys". This is an example of pentatonic pattern playing, you can't miss! The notes will gel with each other, it is up to you to make it sound interesting (musical).

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Contreras
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Contreras » Sat May 06, 2017 2:05 pm

Thanks to you both ... I'm heading for the piano 🎹 👍
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... and no one gets hurt.

razz
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by razz » Sat May 13, 2017 11:11 am

I'm working on this issue also. A few things that help are:
Consciously move to the chord tones on some other part of the neck.
Making sure that I can pick up the melody from any point in the song (while the loop is playing).
Learning the melody at several places on the neck and at least 2 different octaves.

Possibly, I'm just learning different patterns, but I'm adding variety.

Your white key analogy kind of pulls my strategy all together.

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Andrew Fryer » Sat May 13, 2017 1:38 pm

If you like triads and need a change, then think about getting a tenor guitar tuned in fifths. Here's a youtube video about triads. I like it: I think it's cute

Youtube

Problem is, you'll just be using mindless I,IV,V progressions all over again. You can use any method mindlessly - it's not the method's fault, it's the user's. If it were the method's fault, there wouldn't be any feeling in blues music. There's no difference between mindless memorisation of a pentatonic scale and mindless memorisation of a diatonic scale.

If you are going to make a Youtube video, a) drink your coffee before you turn the camera on; b) learn to sing!
...........
Or if you prefer voice-leading tenor guitar:

Youtube
Last edited by Andrew Fryer on Sat May 13, 2017 2:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

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Frousse
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Frousse » Sat May 13, 2017 2:09 pm

I find this thread and Stevel's eloquent explanation fascinating. I am just starting to learn the pentatonic scales (major). One of my major goals is to avoid playing boxy patterns. I am going through the CAGED system in a deliberately slow fashion, trying to learn the root locations primarily then the other notes. I follow this method: I learn the vertical pattern of the form first; then, I link the E and D forms (through the root on the D string; could it be the horizontal method Stevel mentioned?). I will follow the same method with the other forms: e.g. to learn the vertical patten of the C form and then link it to the preceding D form through the root on the second string. Thus I hope to learn a way to move horizontally across the fingerboard, from one shape to another. In the course of this self-teaching journey, I am sure I will, through reading and experimentation, find ways to accelerate the learning process.
By the way, I became more convinced about learning other genres beside the classical one after watching (on youtube) Joe Pass accompany John Williams just by ear. Years of work and practice behind that kind of mastery, that's certain!

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Andrew Fryer » Sat May 13, 2017 2:29 pm

All I know of the pentatonic scales is that in the major you ignore the 4th and 7th, and in the minor you ignore the 2nd and 6th.
That's simpler than it sounds. Both in C major and in its relative A minor you ignore the F and the B.
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stevel
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by stevel » Tue May 30, 2017 12:39 am

Frousse wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 2:09 pm
I find this thread and Stevel's eloquent explanation fascinating. I am just starting to learn the pentatonic scales (major).


Frousse, though this forum isn't strictly for Classical Guitar, I find it kind of odd that you would make this statement.

Why the heck are you learning the Pentatonic Scales?

I can't think of any of my guitar methods that even talks about the subject.

Classical Guitar music, for the most part (at least beginning) is about KEYS, not "scales".

When you make music, think about the "key" like your Dictionary - the words that are available for you to use to make sentences out of.

A "scale" is simply a listing of the letters - A B C D E F G H I J K, etc.

A Pentatonic Scale is like, a listing of only some of the letters - maybe like the 5 point and above letters in Scrabble.

Someone who learns to play Classical Guitar through actual works for Classical Guitar would never really even need to know what a scale is - they play the notes written on the page. Now, granted we do typically encounter scale usage in method books, but for practical purposes of fingering and execution, and then for reinforcement of the concept of KEYS.
One of my major goals is to avoid playing boxy patterns. I am going through the CAGED system in a deliberately slow fashion,


Uh oh.

Pentatonics, CAGED - you're already falling prey to it. These are just "boxes" (cages???) of another sort.

trying to learn the root locations primarily then the other notes. I follow this method: I learn the vertical pattern of the form first; then, I link the E and D forms (through the root on the D string; could it be the horizontal method Stevel mentioned?). I will follow the same method with the other forms: e.g. to learn the vertical patten of the C form and then link it to the preceding D form through the root on the second string. Thus I hope to learn a way to move horizontally across the fingerboard, from one shape to another. In the course of this self-teaching journey, I am sure I will, through reading and experimentation, find ways to accelerate the learning process.
OK, this works, but please consider this:

1. Learn what notes are in each Key.
2. Learn where every note is on the fingerboard.

Now you've got it. Ultimate "pattern eliminator" right there.

Now let me say a caveat - OK, yes, there is a lot of music out there based on these principles, so they're good to know so you can tackle that kind of approach with the right tools.

But "music", while it may contain scalar passages, is not about playing scales. Again, fine for technique, fine for "muscle memory" for your fingers, fine for reinforcing keys, but in many ways, scales should be (depending on how strongly you feel about it) relegated to "exercises" and not "music" per se.

What notes are in the key of C Major?

A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

Do you know where those notes are on the fretboard? If not, learn them. But now all you have to do is, play those notes.

If you can take it further and know what the harmony is and what notes it consists of, you can focus on the notes of the harmony by playing the chord tones.

But you have to know what they are and where they are.

What a "scale pattern" does for you is eliminate the thinking. Again - sometimes that is in fact a useful tool - I use it all the time. But it's a heck of a lot different than playing C up to C, then B G A B C, then C A G (do you recognize it?).

You're not going to come up with music like that "Playing scales". (now, you might come up with C B A G F E D C G A A B B C C C B A A G F - Joy to the World) which is more scalar in nature, but G D G D G D G B D - Eine Kleine Nacht Musik) which is more chordal in nature will escape you.

Melodies do in fact run the gamut from Scalar, to Chordal, with a fair dose of "best of both worlds" in between.

But only knowing your scales (and chord tones as I advocate as an extension but not sole tool) only keeps you on the fringes of those two extremes rather than being able to come up with all the cool stuff in the middle!
By the way, I became more convinced about learning other genres beside the classical one after watching (on youtube) Joe Pass accompany John Williams just by ear. Years of work and practice behind that kind of mastery, that's certain!
OK. Yes, Jazz Improv has a "specialty set of tools" to learn. I think what's happened is, over the decades, more and more people have tried to distill their approach and CAGED is one good example. It's talked a lot about on the internet now, and things like this and Pentatonic spread like wildfire.

But honestly, they are vast oversimplifications of what's actually going on in music - which, the best resource to learn from is, the music itself!

Learn your notes, where they are on the guitar, and then Keys (key signatures) and Chords, and what notes are in them. That's far more important than "Playing scales" (though again, I'm not saying don't learn your scales, just simply don't place so much emphasis on them - it's like 10% of what music making is about, just like, how many times did Shakespeare just list a run of letters in the alphabet in order?).

stevel
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by stevel » Tue May 30, 2017 1:13 am

For those that are interested, let me include this. I do so as a TOOL for music making - a RESEOURCE. It should not be seen as an "end" in itself, but merely a means to an end. Ultimately, one should not "play scales" but instead "play melodically" - you can use scales, and scalar segments to do that, but if you rely solely on scales your playing becomes rather one-dimensional and is no better than being stuck in a "box" pattern.

That said, I'm going to show those of you who would be interested, a "connector" for your "boxes".

The Pentatonic Scale has 5 notes.
As I mentioned a couple of posts above, it is arranged as an "Anhemitonic" scale, meaning there are no half-steps.

It so happens that you can arrange the Pentatonic Scale over 2 strings with nothing but whole steps, which involves one position shift, which contains all 5 notes and creates both a moveable and "transposable" pattern you can use to connect the other "boxes" with.

Here is your "typical" A Minor Pentatonic Scale:

E - 5 - 8
B - 5 - 8
G - 5 - 7
D - 5 - 7
A - 5 - 7
E - 5 - 8

This begins on A on the 6th string (fret 5), moves to C (fret 8 ) on the same string, then to D on the 5th string (fret 5) on to E (fret 7) on the same string, etc.

For those of you that don't know, this Am Pentatonic Pattern is probably the one that is most commonly learned first because it's fairly easy to remember, the lower note on each string is always on the same fret, it starts on the tonic on the the string (making it, like the root of a barre chord, easy to find) and it's a "two note per string" scale which is also easy to play and memorize.

Finally, it's fairly practical because knowing that Am and C are relative, this also gives you the exact notes necessary for C Major Pentatonic (starting on the C note on string 6 fret 8 ).

What I'm going to do is take that C note on string 6 fret 8, and move it to the 5th string. This gives us:

D - 5 -7
A - 3 - 5 - 7
E - 5

But I'm going to further refine that to just 5 notes:

D - 5 - 7
A - 3 - 5 -7

This gives you the notes C-D-E-G-A - this will be the relative key for now of C Major - and thus a C Major Pentatonic until otherwise stated.

BTW, play this pattern in the right rhythm and you have the opening to "My Girl" if you add the octave C on top (which is the next note in the original pattern).

So, play this pattern straight through - start with finger 1 then 3, then slide up to the 7th fret note with your 3rd finger to play it, then onto 5 and 7 on the next string (you could slide finger 1 from fret 3 to 5 as well). Basically you're starting in 3rd position then moving up to 5th position.

Now, let's take this pattern, but drop it a pair of strings, still starting on C. So we need to move it down to begin on the 8th fret 6th string, so will look like this:

A - 10 - 12
E - 8 - 10 / 12

Now you're going to run out of frets on a Classical here, but the point is, now that you've completed this 5 note pattern across 2 strings, you are in position to do it again on the next two strings! So it looks like:

G - 14 - 16
D - 12 - 14 / 16

OK, that's getting high on the neck so let's change this to the key of G.

All you have to do is take this pattern down to fret 3:

A - 5 - 7
E - 3 - 5 / 7

(notice also this is the same as the C pattern we started with, just down a string set).

So now, let's extend this across all 6 strings:

E - 10 - 12 ( - 15)
B - 8 - 10 / 12

G - 7 - 9
D - 5 - 7 / 9

A - 5 - 7
E - 3 - 5 / 7

So again, start with the 3 on the the low E string, play 5 slide to 7, then 5 to 7 on the A string, then the pattern repeats, 2 frets higher, on the D/G string pair - SAME PATTERN.

The pattern repeats again on the B/E string pair but because G to B is tuned as a 3rd rather than 4th, the pattern has to move up an additional fret for its starting point.

Now, for an added bonus, we're going to take the upper notes of the C-D-E-G-A pattern and drop them an octave so we can put on these same string pairs. So now, from our original C Pattern:

D - 5 - 7
A - 3 - 5 -7

We're going to take the D string notes, drop them an octave (so we're back to SEE Major Pentatonic now, not GEE Major!):

A - 3 - 5 / 7
E - 3 - 5

Now THIS pattern can two be done across pairs of strings. Rather than starting on the tonic note (C), you're starting on the dominant note (or 5th scale degree, G). I'll let you figure out how to work it up the neck, but it does the same thing again - repeats at the octave, and, the position shift puts you closer to your next starting point (either on the fret or 1 fret away).

Finally, get this - you can actually do either of these patterns on any string pair. The only reason I moved them around was so they started on the 6th/5th pair each time, so that the complete 5 notes go over two adjacent strings AND create a repeating pattern form that can be simply "moved up two strings and two or three frets".

If you start either of these patterns so you cross from the 3rd to 3nd string within the pair of strings, you'll have to adjust by 1 fret (because G to B is tuned a 3rd apart rather than a 4th like the rest of the strings). This means the pattern may look kind of "not like the same pattern" over that pari of strings - but you can absolutely play it that way.

While there are other ways to connect the 5 penatonic positions (plus their repeats) linearly, this is probably the most common form used (and really, it's the putting 3 notes on 1 string and doing the position shift that's the key) for that purpose.

Many people don't conceptualize of it this way, but if you think about what I did with the G scale version, it took you from fret 3 to fret 12 (and then could easily jump up to the box at fret 15 which is the octave duplication of where you started) sort of "diagonally" across the neck and "through" the other positions.

So while a simple shift in position or 1 connector note can get you from "Box 1" to "Box 2" for example, this pattern can get you from fret 3 to fret 12 in 3 5 note groups. If you want to stop along the way and noodle around in one particular box, you can.

Furthermore, in some positions, you can actually use the OTHER 5 note connector pattern as a launch point for getting between other positions using different string sets (it alternates).

If you've got your 5 boxes down, use this pattern to get between the boxes.

But, please, play melodically, not "scalar-ly".

Just use this as a tool to get to various melody notes.

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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by riffmeister » Tue May 30, 2017 1:37 pm

Knowing pentatonic scales is a good thing. Why? Because it's another tool in the toolbox. And filling the toolbox can only help you as a guitarist and musician in the long run.

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Frousse
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Re: Pentatonic scale pattern memorization

Post by Frousse » Tue Jul 04, 2017 3:58 pm

Stevel, thank you for your elaborate response. I do not have the opportunity to log onto the site as often as I wish. This explains my belated response for which I apologize.

I appreciate all the info you have given me. I will heed it and use it as I continue learning.

I disagree strongly with you as to why one should learn the pentatonic scales or as to why someone learning to play classical guitar should never even need to learn what a scale is. I believe there is a reason why scales, more specifically pentatonic scales, exist and have been used by composers and musicians for decades and decades.

My perspective is to look at the fingerboard at a giant box. The CAGED system and its patterns are smaller boxes within the larger box (fingerboard), subsets of a set. What I mean by freeing myself is finding a way to link the smaller boxes (CAGED) and navigating freely from one to another within the fingerboard. I compare it to leaving one's street and navigating through one's neighborhood. I cannot ever leave the fingerboard, but I have to find a way out of its smaller boxes.

I appreciate your response. There is much for me to take from it.

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