The Minor Pentatonic Box 1 was probably one of the first things you learned when you started improvising on guitar, and it’s probably the most used shape/pattern in rock and blues improvisation. It feels like home, it’s a safe, controllable place that can provide a sturdy backbone to our blues and rock soloing, but it can get a little stale if you don’t make an effort to liven it up once in a while. In a previous blog post we looked at how to always land on the right note in this pentatonic box; in this one we’ll look at another easy-to-implement soloing trick that will breathe new life into a well-worn pattern.
Here’s the most famous scale pattern on earth (E minor pentatonic):
As you probably know, over a 12 bar blues you can pretty much blow over it with this scale pattern, throwing in the flat 5, and some tasty bends to the major third here and there.
What you can also do is take the chords from the progression (E7, A7 and B7), and wail on those. A lot of players tend to overlook this as you don’t usually play barre-type chords up at the twelfth fret and beyond but they’re there, and within easy reach of our scale pattern.
Here’s an E7 chord superimposed over the pattern:
As you can see, we’re only really adding one note to the scale, but don’t play these chords in scalar fashion, use them as double stops, play two notes off of each other, or chug on them Chuck Berry style.
Here’s the A7 chord superimposed over the pattern:
In this one you might just want to use the top three notes of the chord to help with fingering. Remember to superimpose these chords as the chords change for a greater effect.
Here’s the B7 chord superimposed over the pattern:
Again, you might want to just use the top three notes of this superimposed chord to bring out the Chuck Berry type stuff.
A Little Theory
What’s really going on here is that you’re adding the major third to the scale, which creates a different sound that it would if you bent up to it from the minor third, or used it as a passing tone.
Once you can locate the chords within the pattern well, whip on your favorite backing track and try them out.