Before you get overwhelmed by the prospect of navigating the whole fingerboard, you should know that it’s much easier than you may think. All you have to do is learn five patterns. That’s it! Five patterns can unlock the fingerboard for both the minor- and major-pentatonic scale.
Play the lick in Example 1, which is similar to the classic opening lick in Eric Clapton’s original recording of “Layla” (with Derek and the Dominos), and you’ll instantly recognize the minor-pentatonic sound. Built from the root, flatted-third, fourth, fifth, and flatted-seventh degrees, the minor-pentatonic scale has a bluesy sound, which is often attributed to those flatted notes: the flatted third and flatted seventh. In any position on the fingerboard, you can play two octaves of this scale—Example 2 shows an extended A-minor-pentatonic pattern in this position. Many blues players use this position exclusively to play every solo!