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As guitar players' tastes and abilities evolve, and they begin to gravitate

toward an appreciation for, and desire to learn, more technically demanding

music, the pentatonic scale often gets a bad rap.

It's often considered cliché and not as impressive as three-note-per string

(3NPS) diatonic scales.

But if you love loud, distorted guitar, somewhere early on in your development
as a player you were turned on to the minor pentatonic “box” shape, such as
the Am pentatonic in EXAMPLE 1A, and its adjacent shape, the C major (A
minor’s relative major) “box” in EXAMPLE 1B. Mindful of the redundant notes
shared between the shapes, EXAMPLE1C combines the two boxes into one
3NPS scale.

Unfortunately, while this 3NPS fingering immediately opens up a myriad of

technical possibilities for re-harmonizing any already perfected diatonic run,
there can sometimes be a problem with repeated “double” notes as you cross
from string to string.
EXAMPLE2 shows how this problem can be an asset by utilizing a fairly
popular 3NPS pattern with the new pentatonic fingering. As a coincidence of
the pattern’s contour, the lick emphasizes the repeated notes on adjacent
strings (three times in a row in beats 1 and 3, and 2x in beats 2 and 4 of each
measure). Play it hard, tight and rhythmic, and manipulate the dynamic
differences between the picked notes and the palm-muted legato hammers
and you’ll see the possibilities.

EXAMPLE3 combines tapping and legato and avoids any doubling/repeated

notes while creating a cool melodic sextuplet pattern of “down 5, up 1, restart
one higher." Be sure to note the “hammer-on-from-nowhere” that begins the
latter third of each sextuplet and the subsequent hammer-on to the next
higher note in the scale. Start slow and hit/pull every note hard and in rhythm
until you get the feel for the tapped “launch” of each sextuplet. I expect you’ll
immediately see how this same pattern can be re-purposed with notes from
diatonic 3NPS scales.
I recommend experimenting with combinations of this and the same pattern
using the related 3NPS diatonic scales. Explore different string
crossings/directions, string skipping, etc., while alternating and mixing
different permutations of the basic lick.

Emphasizing the "pentatonic-ness" of the fingering, EXAMPLE4A is an

extremely-easy-to-execute picking pattern that climbs the neck through the
remaining positions of the scale and demonstrates the visceral power of these
combined fingerings when they’re torn through appropriately. EXAMPLE4B is a
variation on the same pattern with an intelligently applied legato phrasing in
the second half of each beat (Rip into the upstroke that launches the pulls).
As always, I encourage you to use these examples as an inspiration to
explore the possibilities of this concept all over the fretboard, in other keys
and with your own variations. Happy shredding!

Scott Marano has dedicated his life to the study of the guitar, honing his chops
at the Berklee College of Music under the tutelage of Jon Finn and Joe Stump
and working as an accomplished guitarist, performer, songwriter and in-
demand instructor. In 2007, Scott developed the Guitar Strength program to
inspire and provide accelerated education to guitarists of all ages and in all
styles through state-of-the-art private guitar lessons in his home state of
Rhode Island and globally via Skype. Learn more at


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