3 Pentatonic Scale Exercises You Never Played

It is incredible how wide the range of sounds you can pull from a minor pentatonic scale is! This video is on 3 exercises and some licks showing how to make some great modern sounds with a simple A minor pentatonic scale.

The lesson goal

The material I cover is going to give you some new ideas for what you can play with a pentatonic scale. It will also give you some solid exercises that you can use to get a better overview of the fretboard and help you connect the different scale positions 

I also discuss how I come up with the exercises, This should give you some tips on how you can make your own exercises and develop this material further.


Know your Pentatonic scale

All the examples that  in this lesson are using an A minor pentatonic. You want to know this scale in positions but it is also very practical to know it along the neck on each string. If you want to have an overview of the scale then check out these Downloadable PDF scale and chord charts

The examples that are using a chord progression are all on this II V I in G major:

The first exercise and lick

The first line, that I also play in the beginning of the video is shown in example 1 here below:

The Am exercise that I am using here is a quite random construction. The idea was to take 2 notes on one string and one on the next.

If I do this on the middle string set and the 1st Pentatonic box we get example 3:

This is a great example of how we can take a random pattern and still make it into music. The pattern turns out to be a set of triads, major, minor and sus4.

The way I am using it in the line is in position so that is shown in the last bar of example 3.

The II V I line is using this pattern in box 2 on the Am7 chord. On the D7alt I use an Fm pentatonic scale and play a line consisting of two quartal arpeggios.

The concept behind using Fm over D7alt is covered in this lesson: Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales.

Exercise 2 – Quartal arpeggios 

Another great aspect of the pentatonic scale is that it is very closely related to quartal harmony. One way this is clear is that if you try to build “diatonic thirds” in the scale you get a lot of quartal chords.

The quartal chords are great arpeggios that you can use to get a more open soundin you lines. In example 4 is a simple Am7 line using only the pentatonic scale and one of the quartal arpeggios found in it

The way I play the quartal arpeggio in the first bar of example 4 is using a string skip and two stretches. This is easier way to play it than the one note per string version that we use for chords.

In example 5 I have written out this exercise up the neck

This exercise is great since you are basically playing two different scale positions for each arpeggio in the scale. In that way you are creating a better overview and linking the two positions. 

Since the exercise also requires some stretches you have to make sure you are warmed up playing it it. If you find it hard to play then start higher on the neck to relieve your left hand.

Example 6 here above is a II V I line using a quartal arpeggio from A. On the Am7 I run down to an Am7 arpeggio and then make a simple D7alt line. This resolves to the Gmaj7.

Exercise 3 More ideas from pentatonic chords

Another way to find material and exercises in a scale is to approach it from chord voicings. The last exercise is coming out of playing the minor pentatonic scale as chords. You can think of this as playing the scale on 3 strings at the same time. This is shown in example 7.

If you arpeggiate these chords and add an extra note you get the exercise shown in example 3.

Using this exercise we can easily make some Am7 lines that move around the scale in a new way:

If I take this exercise and use it in a II V I lick we can get something like this:

Here I am chaining together the exercise by using 4 notes from one string set and 4 notes from the next. On the D7alt I am using the triad pair Ab and F#aug. This is a great triad pair for the altered sound. If you want to check out more about triad pairs in the altered scale you can check out this lesson: Triad pairs in the altered scale  on this topic!

Check out how I solo on a standard

If you want to investigate the way I play solos you can check out this lesson on a 4 chorus transcription of my improvisation over the jazz standard There Is No Greater Love

There is no greater love – solo transcription


If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here:

3 Pentatonic Exercises You Never Played

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