The Secret to Great Guitar Solos

By. Sebastian Gomez

The Pentatonic Scale.

The most revered and treasured pattern to all guitarists. Many of us know it… but few really know it’s power.

On the guitar, the pentatonic positions are easy to memorize, but too often they lead to robotic and lifeless playing.

Today all that changes!

There are a lot of hidden secrets to the Pentatonic scale, but many guitarists never learn them. We’re content just noodling around the pentatonic.

My response to that: Don’t be content with “good”. Strive for “BETTER!”

Whenever I feel this “musical laziness” hit, I motivate myself and my students with this phrase:

Today we’ll unlock the Pentatonics first secret: you can learn the notes on the fretboard using the pentatonic scales

So grab your guitar, (acoustic, electric, or classical are all welcome) and let’s start with one of the most used musical scales:

First position A minor Pentatonic.

You know this one well. You might even know all the other positions around the neck, but probably didn’t know any note other than “A”. Since it’s a pentatonic scale it only has 5 notes:

Say these outloud as you play up the A Pentatonic, you’ll notice these repeate once you get to the treble strings (g, b, and high e). Once you’re comfortable with the order of the notes, find new places to say and play them.

Here’s an extra trick. If you read my Addams Family post you’ll quickly recognize this next diagram as the Octaves of A. Like this you can easily find all the A’s around the fretboard:

Ok, we’ve got those figured out. But you’re probably thinking “how does this help ME? I still sound good just playing the pentatonic shape”

Let’s unbox it further.

Say you’re learning Spanish and all you know the phrases Hola, El caballo esta loco, and ¿Cómo estás? If you only ever use these three phrases, and blurt them out without order or thought, no one will understand you or want to talk with you. Instead, you need to string together an idea. Music is no different.

Remember: Music is Language!

These next bullets will help stop playing just patterns, and start playing ideas:

  • Play a short melody, 2 – 5 notes long, using our red pentatonic shape.
    Try E – G – A – C.
  • Find the notes higher up the pentatonic shape.
  • Last step, using the diagram, find those notes around the fret board.
    • For an extra challenge, play them backwards (C – A – G – E) around the fretboard.

The best thing about the A minor pentatonic notes is they are all natural notes, no sharps and no flats; what on the piano would be the white keys. Just like that you’ve started memorizing the notes on the guitar. But a pentatonic scale is only 5 notes, and the musical alphabet has 7

So to get all 7 under you belt, try these 2 other minor pentatonic. Follow the same steps we took with the A minor Penta, and your collection will be complete!

Need extra help learning this concept? I’m your guy! Sign up for a free lesson today.

The E minor Pentatonic:

and the D minor Pentatonic: