Build Your Chops with a Harmonized Major Scale Pentatonic Workout

You'll start with a familiar-sounding major-pentatonic phrase and then move it up each step of the G major scale.

This week’s workout starts with a familiar-sounding major-pentatonic phrase in G major (measure 1). Each subsequent measure takes this phrase and moves it up a step in the G major scale from the previous measure in a mirror of the first measure. So measure two starts on an A, measure three on a B, etc. You may notice that these phrases outline the chords in the key of G: G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim, and G, again (measure 8). Since we started with a major-pentatonic sound we’re going to modify the order of intervals slightly on the minor chords to give them more of a pentatonic flavor, though minor instead of major. For example, in the middle of the measure, the initial idea moves down a third from the root to the sixth and then a second from the sixth to the fifth. But against the minor chords we’ll flop those and move down a second from the root to the seventh and then a third from the seventh to the fifth to give it more of a minor-pentatonic sound.


Musical example depicting standard notation and TAB for a harmonized major scale on guitar

I’ve included some slur possibilities here, but you might want to start by picking all the notes first and then adding some of the slurs as you like. You could also try playing some of the open-string B notes at the fourth fret (measures 3, 5, 6, and 8). In measure 8, you could even try sliding from the A note on the and of the first beat into a B note that follows it at the fourth fret and moving the whole phrase up into a partial F shape, with the D and G notes played at the third fret with the index finger.  

Excerpted From: Weekly Workout: Harmonized Major Scale Pentatonic Licks

weekly workout - get your fingers moving with a series of interesting technical exercises
Scott Nygaard
Scott Nygaard

Grammy-winning guitarist Scott Nygaard has decades of teaching, performing, and recording experience. He is a former editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine and the author of Fiddle Tunes and Folk Songs.

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