Pentatonic Scales in Fourths Tuning

pentatonic scales in fourths tuning

This is an excerpt from, ‘Fourths Tuning: Scales and Arpeggios‘, which looks extensively at scale systems in fourths tuning from a number of different perspectives. In this section, we look at how the minor pentatonic scale transitions to fourths tuning.

The usefulness of pentatonic scales can’t be denied, especially the minor pentatonic, and it’s a good place to start in fourths tuning if you’re fond of those patterns from standard tuning. I must admit, I do still think of the minor pentatonic scale as a pattern in fourths, but I know what intervals I’m playing and how to play through the patterns, rather than within the confines of them.


Where would we be as guitarists without this little box of notes?

In Box 1, the notes fall perfectly under our fingers, which is why it has been, and always will be, used to death by blues and rock guitarists alike.

Here’s Box 1 of F Minor Pentatonic in fourths tuning:

I chose F because in fourths tuning, F is the new E. Remember, we now have an open C and an open F string which function pretty much the same way the open B and E strings did for E-based stuff in standard tuning. All this means that any blues tunes in the key of F will work better in fourths tuning because it’s like playing in E in standard tuning. You can still play all your old blues licks too, just shift your hand position slightly.

Here’s Box 1 down at the nut:

The combination of the top two open strings and the fretted notes make for hours of fun and you’ll get less cliché licks than you do from the old E minor pentatonic pattern in standard tuning.

Here’s Box 2 of F Minor Pentatonic:

I don’t know about you but I find box 2 more usable in fourths tuning. Notice that it’s the top half of box 1 only starting on the D string – this is the beauty of fourths tuning!

Here’s Box 3:

Are you noticing the vertical symmetry of these patterns? If you stacked them on top of each other, you’d have a symmetrical cascading pattern.

Here’s Box 4:

Lay this pattern over box 3 and you should see how these patterns stack vertically, or if you’re working through this book with an 8 or 9 string guitar, you’ve probably already realized this.

Here’s Box 5:

If you’re transitioning from standard tuning, you’ll probably have a conflict of patterns in your head. It will be easier to shift the notes on the top two strings down a fret for the time being, which you’ll soon get used to; then in the next section we’ll look at a scale system that is far more suited to fourths tuning for you to make the transition to ‘fourths thinking’.

This lesson continues in Fourths Tuning: Scales and Arpeggios where we look at the blues scale, plus combining major and minor pentatonic scales in fourths tuning.

About Graham Tippett 301 Articles
Compulsive guitar blogger and writer of many innovative guitar books.

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