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Learn your scales.

This means playing them enough to have them memorized. It doesn’t mean playing them from top to bottom over and over again. That’s robot work. Guitar players do it to be able to play as fast as possible. It’s ok to do that, but don’t make it the only thing you do with scales. Other things are possible.

Guitar scales and creativity

A scale is a set of possibilities. More specifically, it’s a set of possible patterns. As an adventurous creative type, you want to discover those patterns.

There are a lot. Approach this as play instead of work and it won’t feel so overwhelming. And remember that learning a little every day translates to a lot after only a few months. Be patient.

Finding patterns

If you’re a guitar player, chances are you know the minor pentatonic scale. If not, here it is.

minor pentatonic

There are 12 notes in the scale as I’ve presented it here. The pentatonic scale only has 5 pitches – A, C, D, E, G. I’ve repeated these in the second octave; then I added the C at the top.

You can create patterns with these notes in many ways. The simplest pattern you can make is 2 notes long. Once you have some, you can string them together in different ways to create a lot of variety.

Steps for making a two-note pattern

Every note that you use in this exercise has to be from the pentatonic scale above.

1. Choose a note. I’ll use A. Now choose a second note. Play the two notes sequentially.
2. Go back to the first note (the A). Choose a second note that is different than the second note that you chose in step 1
3. Continue until you have gone from the A to every other note in the scale. If you’re using the scale above, you’ll have eleven two-note patterns
4. Play them again and pay attention to the patterns you like the most. Write those ones down.
5. Now play the all the patterns that you wrote down in step 4 sequentially. This means that you’ll be going from the first note (the A) to another note, then back to the A, then to another note. Continue this until you’ve gone from the A to all the other notes in the patterns that you chose. You’ve just played one sequence of all the two-note patterns that you like. There are a lot more.

If my favorite choices are these…

2-note pattern1

Fig. 1


…then simply playing them in that order would be one sequence.

Here’s another:

2 note pattern2

Fig 2.


The two note patterns in figure 2 are the same as figure 1. I just re-ordered them. Find all the possible re-orderings.

I’ll explore ways of creating more patterns in the next post.

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