Become great at improvisation Pt 1 – Pentatonic Scales

27 Nov

Hi everyone,

Thanks for reading my blogs so far – feel good about asking any questions you may have in the comments section.

I get lots of guitar students asking me questions like

1.’how long will it take me to become a good lead player’

2. I want to get better at improvising but don’t know how to make up solos/riffs

3. How do I know what scales to use over what chords?


1. It all depends on how much proper practicing you put in. If you practice all the things in the upcoming blogs regularly you can get to where you want to be faster.

2. In the next series of blogs I will explain a lot of the techniques and exercises that will help you to achieve question 1. There are hundreds of examples out there but I will just keep it simple and list the most essential.

3. Learning how the harmonized major/minor scales work and how they link to scales is essential, I will provide examples in this series of blogs.

So firstly learn your shapes of the major + minor pentatonic scales + major and minor scales. These are the most widely used scales and the most essential. The blue dots are the ‘Root’ or ‘Key’ notes of the scale. These become very important for phrasing your riffs and solo’s.


Key points:

1. The Pentatonic scales only contain 5 notes! they are just repeated.

2. There are 12 keys in music (A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab) and each key contains the 5 shapes so there are 60 possible shapes for the Major and Minor pentatonics (120 in total)

3. They link together like a jigsaw. The 2nd note of each shape becomes the first note of the next shape.

For examples F Minor pentatonic, Shape 1 starts on Fret 1 (F), Shape 2 on Fret 4 (Ab), Shape 3 on Fret 6 (Bb), Shape 4 on Fret 8 (C) and Shape 5 on Fret 11 (Eb)

As you can see from the patterns the major pentatonic shapes are actually the same as the minor pentatonic but shape 2 now becomes shape 1 and the root notes change. This may seem a little weird but it will all makes sense later!

So for F major pentatonic shape 1 starts on Fret 1 (F) , Shape 2 starts on Fret 3 (G) , shape 3 starts on Fret 5 (A) , shape 4 starts on Fret 8 (C), shape 5 starts on Fret 10 (D)

Practice the scale shapes going up and down and finish on one of the root notes. You’ll start to hear how the shapes function.

So before moving on to the next step (learning the shapes is only the start of being able to use them) get cracking with all these in every key

Hope you’ve found this blog useful – in the next blog i’ll lay out the major and minor shapes

Rock ‘n’ roll

Many thanks


You can find Js Music School on twitter @jsmusicschool @harvey_jsmusic


Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Improvisation


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “Become great at improvisation Pt 1 – Pentatonic Scales

  1. James D (@editjames)

    November 28, 2013 at 7:25 am

    This has been taught to me a couple times. But now it just clicked. Thank you for laying it out.

    • jsmusicschool

      November 28, 2013 at 10:36 am

      Thanks for your comment James, glad you find the blog useful , my next blog will do a similar thing with the major and minor scales


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