Minor Pentatonic Scale: Free Yourself From The Five Boxes

The minor pentatonic scale is one of the most used scales in the history of popular music. Guitarists of all genres, ranging from blues, to funk, to rock, to fusion and metal, tend to use it a lot in their phrasing.

As the name suggests, the minor pentatonic is a five note scale (Root- Minor 3d- Perfect 4th- Perfect 5th- Minor 7th) and everybody can easily learn how to play the five basic positions (also referred to as the five boxes), two notes per string starting from each of the five scale degrees.

But, having spent almost 15 years now teaching guitar, I’ve noticed that most of the beginner and intermediate students often struggle with applying all the five position in a fluid and cohesive way in their phrasing. Although they know where the notes of the scale are, they just can’t use more than one or two positions within the same musical phrase. The result is that they become “slaves” of every single box, the range of their licks is usually limited, the phrasing is too predictable and their creativity is somewhat inhibited.

For these reasons, in this lesson I’d like to help those of you who need to deepen their knowledge of the Minor Pentatonic scale, free themselves from the “5 boxes slavery”, expand their phrasing vocabulary and stimulate their own creativity.

The five licks I’ve created and transcribed for you are all strictly based on the A Minor Pentatonic scale.






As you might notice, I use the slide tecnique in every lick to create a bond beetween the 5 boxes and come up with phrases which have a wide register (i.e. licks number 3 and 5 go from the lowest to the highest “A” note on the fretboard) and a diagonal development, both from left to right and from right to left on the neck.

After having learned the licks, create your own as soon as possible using the same approach. This way, within a few days or weeks, you’ll start feeling more confortable using the Minor Pentatonic scale in your solos and improvisations and your playing in general will sound fluid and fresh and less stale and predictable than before.

Notice: I intentionally used only sixteenth notes in the lick to keep your attention on the notes and not so much on time. Of course, when you feel ready, try to vary the value of the notes within your licks to create rhythmic interest.

If you have questions, please write me to my email address in the sidebar. I’d be happy to help you.

Enjoy your practice time and keep on loving music!

Luca Sellitto is a professional guitar instructor who has been teaching guitar for nearly 14 years.

He has two degrees at Conservatory, and has also recorded four albums, toured Europe with his band Stamina, and worked with ex-Yngwie Malmsteens singer Goran Edman.

Luca Sellitto