Extended Pentatonic Fingerings
Most guitarists learn Pentatonic scale fingerings very early in their
careers. These are usually based around the minor pentatonic forms and
typically span 3 or 4 frets. The basic fingering that every guitarist
starts with is this:
Standard A Minor Pentatonic
5 6 7 8
and its inversions. That makes for 5 different pentatonic positions
for each pentatonic scale. You need to master these 5 fingerings
as they are the foundation and they relate to the underlying major
and minor mode fingerings. However, you might want to supplement these
5 fingerings with what I call Extended Pentatonic fingerings.
Some of the problems I have found with the standard fingerings are:
1. They don’t lend themselves to hammer-ons and pull-offs, which makes
it hard to control the dynamics. This causes the phrasing to become very
guitaristic and very different from how saxophone and piano players
phrase pentatonic licks.
2. It’s hard in this position to jump from the G below the root (b7)
on the sixth string to the C (b3) above it. This is a very common
device used by many sax and piano players. For example, Michael Brecker
often uses G-C-G-A as a way to end an Am pentatonic pharse.
All of these problems can be solved by observing that pentatonic
scales on the guitar can always be played on two consecutive strings
as a 2-3 or 3-2 combination. The 2-3 combination means two notes (one
step apart), then move up a minor 3rd, and 3 more tones on the next
string (one note apart).
The 2-3 combination always starts on the b7th degree of the minor
pentatonic. The notes are: (b7 1) (b3 4 5).
The 3-2 combination is an inversion of this which starts with the 3
notes on one string. Therefore it starts on the b3 of the minor
Extended A Minor Pentatonic (2-3 Formula starting on b7 degree)
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
The 3-2 combination always starts on the b3rd degree of the minor
pentatonic. The notes are: (b3 4 5) (b7 1)
Extended A Minor Pentatonic (3-2 Formula starting on m3 degree)
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
It’s easy to see that these two fingerings overlap, so you can easily
hop from one to the next. So, at any point, if you want to apply a
minor pentatonic, you just locate the b3 and start with 3 notes or
locate the b7 and start with 2 notes on that string.
Also, notice that rock guitarist sometimes achieve a similar effect
by bending strings. If you bend are playing the standard Am pentatonic
at the 5th fret and you bend the D on the 3rd string to an E you are
basically using the 3 notes (b3 4 5) on the 3rd string.
Minor 6th Pentatonics
The Minor 6th pentatonic replaces the b7 degree with the 6th degree
in the minor pentatonic. This gives the scale a sound which is derived
more from the melodic minor scale. This scale was extensively used by
John Coltrane over Dominant 7th chords in the following inversion. The
Am6 pentatonic scale is: A C D E F#. When played from D, over a D7 chord
you get: D E F# A C, which relates to D as: 1-2-3-5-7, so you can
interpret it as a D9 arpeggio, or as a D mixolydian which is missing
the 4th and 6th degrees.
Extended pentatonic fingerings can also be used for the m6 pentatonic
scale. The formulas still remain 2-3 and 3-2, but now, whenever you
have 2 notes per string – there is a minor third interval between them
(3 frets) instead of 2, since the b7 is replaced by the 6th.
Extended A Minor 6th Pentatonic (2-3 Formula starting on 6 degree)
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Extended A Minor 6th Pentatonic (3-2 Formula starting on m3 degree)
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
If you really want to master Pentatonic scale usage in Jazz check
out Jerry Bergonzi’s book (Volume 2):