2.3 The Five Positions of the Minor Pentatonic

It is vital to be able to traverse the neck without fear, and your first task is to familiarise yourself with the five positions - or boxes – of the Minor Pentatonic.

The Position One is the scale shape that almost everyone who has learnt how to play the electric guitar in the last 40 years or so – particularly in the rock world – first encountered. This has yielded more classic licks than any other shape, and falls very comfortably under the hands: also, by having its root as the lowest note on the E strings, it is the easiest shape to visualise for those still learning where the notes are on the fretboard…

All our examples are in the rock friendly key of Am…


Position Two is trickier to visualise as the first appearance of the root note is on the 4th string, and it’s more often used as an extension (particularly on the treble strings) to position one than a self- contained ‘priority’ scale shape: nevertheless internalise this as a single entity.


Position Three finds the root note first occurring on the 5th string, and as such is easier to find in the heat of the moment. Experiment with the fingering as this one spans five frets: Andy almost exclusively utilises the 1st and 3rd finger for his pentatonic shapes, but depending upon the musical situation you may find that using the pinky may suit you better for a couple of the upper notes.


Position Four shares the same root note’s first location on the 5th string, and can be easily viewed as a sister shape to Position Three. Much favoured by Clapton and Hendrix, the familiar root 5th string minor bar chord shape lies within this shape…


Position Five is another shape, like position two, whose primary function in the real world is often as an extension of position one rather than a self-contained unit – this time mainly on the 5th and 6th strings as an entry point ’below’ position one. It’s a fairly easy shape to locate, as it shares its first appearance of the root note on the E strings - so if you can find position one, you’ve automatically got position Five close at hand.


Now let’s looks at Exercise 1 which simply ascends and descends in each position:


Now try Exercise 2, which utilises a ‘leapfrog’ approach: ascending Position One, descending Position Three, ascending Position Two, descending through Position Four and so on.


Good solid workouts: and a good idea even now is to evaluate your core technique with a metronome using these as a starting point.

Keeping to strict alternate picking, monitor what tempos you can cleanly execute these two exercises without sloppiness or glitches playing both 8th notes and 16ths. Trying these after the Shred Fitness workout we looked at in Chapter One will set you up very well for the drills we’re about to encounter…

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