How To Compose Original Phrases On The Pentatonic Scale

There are only five notes in the pentatonic scale. How it is possible to even be original with this few elements to work from? If you are like the majority of guitar players, you might think that the pentatonic scale is just an easy scale but with no depth - well, you are wrong.

I used to think that the pentatonic scale was the "baby" scale to learn just to have something simple to play before tackling the modal scales. Boy, was I wrong. Even after years and years of playing I'm still finding new and original melodies on the pentatonic scale.

Now, of course, I do not want to sidetrack you from learning all your modal scales. I am not even saying that scales are the most important thing to learn (they are not). But sometimes it is important to know how to take a concept (like the pentatonic scale) that has been played and overplayed and STILL be able to take something original out of it.

How to be original on the pentatonic scale? As with every art, there are many ways and "tricks" one can apply. In the video below I share one of these tricks with you: how to "sequence" a short melody through a scale. As you will see, this will allow you to create a little new thing to play every time. Example TABs in the video.

If you implement this exercise into your practice routine, you will see that in a little time you will start to create new and original licks. This is due to a number of factors, that may not be apparent at first:

1. By doing this exercise you are forced to play a new thing every day. This will train your fingers to follow your orders in real time - something that they are not used to.

2. You are also forced to play the notes of the pentatonic in a different order than you are used to. You may not feel this limitation now, but give it a try and tell me if in a couple of weeks you don't feel much more free to "move" in the scale.

3. Finally you are also training your ear. By playing the melodic pattern throughout the scale as shown in the video your ear will learn to recognize the intervals inside the pentatonic scale, with no need of you knowing the names or anything. You will just associate the sound with the fretboard position. Even if you are not thinking consciously that you are training your ear, you will see an improvement when you need to pick up a phrase and play it on your guitar.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio