THE MINOR PENTATONIC SCALE:
Blues and rock musicians from Howling Wolf to Jimi Hendrix use this very simple scale for soloing.
Here is a recording of a C Minor Pentatonic Scale:
Play the recording a few times and get the sound of the scale in your head. Sing along with the recording. Try to sing the scale without the recording. Generally, make friends with the scale.
NOTE: It’s called a pentatonic scale because it only has five notes as opposed to most scales which have 7 notes.
OKAY here’s what I would want you to do next:
Try to find the notes of the C Minor Pentatonic Scale on the C string. Don’t use any other strings. Just go up the C string and see if you can find the notes of the scale by ear. Start on the open C and find the rest of the notes. Take your time with this. You can refer back to the recording as many times as you like. Just go one note at a time. The answer in below.
The C Minor Pentatonic Scale on one string
Okay practice this scale going up and going down (ascending and descending). Try to do it without looking at the tablature so you can play it by ear.
Okay, now let’s play the same scale “in position”. That means we use the open strings so that we don’t have to shift up the neck to find the note. We still play the C and Eb notes on the C string but now we use the E string for the F and G notes and the A string for the Bb and C notes.
I’ve written the suggested left hand fingering. 1=index finger 2=middle finger 3=ring finger 4=pinky
Notice that the fret number matches the number of the finger that we use. This is generally the case when we play melodies or scales in the first four frets of the uke (open position). Each finger of the left hand is responsible for its’ own fret.
Practice the scale ascending and descending a few times on your own and then try to play along with the recording.
HOW DO I PLAY A SOLO WITH THIS SCALE?
The C minor pentatonic will work to play solos on a blues in the key of C. Here’s a blues in C. Kansas City by Fats Domino:
The minor pentatonic will also work on a minor blues. Here’s Thrill is Gone by B.B. King:
The nice thing is that there are no wrong notes in the scale. This means that any note in the scale can be played at any point in the song and it will sound pretty much fine.
However some find this kind of freedom a little daunting. So, practicing playing the scale ascending and descending over the song is a nice way to get comfortable. It sounds cool too.
Here I play the C minor pentatonic ascending and descending over the chords of The Thrill is Gone:
I play twice through the form of the song and then I do it a third time and make up a melody of my own. Practice along with this recording a few times and then you can practice along with the B.B. King version here:
Once you’ve done this structured practice for a while you may feel comfortable enough to explore creating some little melodies and riffs of your own. Try improvising with the scale over-top of the chords from The Thrill is Gone:
See you next week,