The BEST way to learn Pentatonic Scales | How to Connect Pentatonic Patterns

What is the best way to learn pentatonic scales on the guitar? And how can we connect pentatonic scale patterns across the fretboard? Simples…learn them up and down a single string!

First up, we need to establish the key/Root note. In this guitar lesson, I'm playing in the key of E minor, using the E minor pentatonic scale.

Side note : Make sure you give the scale some musical context as you learn it. That can be laying down a bass note of the root, a power chord, a minor chord, minor 7th or even a full progression in the key of the scale. You want to hear each interval of the scale against a chord to work out what sounds good to your ear.

We're working scales on one string, but we're going to want to work on each of the six strings individually, so we need to be able to easily locate the root note (E) on each of the strings.

The root note is the first note (of 5...pentatonic = penta-tonic = five-note). The second note of the minor pentatonic scale is the minor 3rd (or 'b3') (G). From any root note, the minor 3rd is always found 3 frets higher on the guitar fretboard.

The minor 3rd is a chord tone (found within a minor chord (R-b3-5)) so it's a very important note to be able to locate as it'll sound good over the minor chord.

The BEST way to learn pentatonic scales.png

The third note of the minor pentatonic scale is a perfect 4th ('4') (A) found a whole step (2 frets) above the minor 3rd. It's not in the minor chord so not the best note to sit on when soloing, but it's a whole step away from a better note, the perfect 5th.

The fourth note is a perfect 5th ('5') (B) which is another chord tone, so great for soloing. Being a whole step above the 4, you can slide in or, better still, bend into the 5 from the 4 with a whole step (or full) bend.

The fifth and final note of the minor pentatonic scale is a minor 7th (b7) (D) always found 3 frets above the 5. This is another strong note as it is a chord tone of a minor 7th chord (R-b3-5-b7), and will bring the minor 7th sound over a minor chord (e.g. Em).

From the b7 we have another whole step (2 frets) back to the root note at the octave. Again, being a whole step you can always bend from the b7 into the root note.

Say as you play. As you learn the position and the sounds of each note in the scale, say the intervals. To practise pentatonic scales, choose a root note then spend a couple of minutes playing up and down each string.

You can run from the root note or (if you scale and fretboard knowledge is up to it) work from the lowest note of the scale on the given string.

Spending some time with the scale horizontally will enable you to connect pentatonic patterns and move effortlessly in and out of the pentatonic boxes and all those licks that you've learnt!

To help you in your practice, I have a scales chart PDF available to all my supporters on Patreon.

Don’t forget to check out my free eBook ‘Fretboard Mastery’ and, if you’re looking to go deeper into guitar music theory, you should definitely check out my premium video course ‘Guitar Rut Busters: Essential Theory’.

How to Write a Riff on Guitar | Metal Guitar Lesson

We’re firmly in my rock/metal roots again this week with a lesson on how to write a riff.

Riffs can often come to us when we're noodling around with ideas, but I wanted to film a lesson on how you can approach writing riffs using some scale patterns if this is entirely new to you.

I wanted to just film myself with a couple of scales in mind and see what I could produce. It ended up being a metal riff very much in the style of Metallica.

How to Write a Riff on Guitar | Metal Guitar Lesson

We first establish a tonal centre, a note around which we are basing the riff. In the Metallica style, I'm basing my ideas in E minor. Doing this allows me to pedal the open string 6(E) with a heavy palm mute. To that, I want to add some more notes.

A great starting point for writing a guitar riff is using the minor pentatonic scale. The scale can be found on any string but for writing riffs, we're focusing on the low string 6(E) and 5(A). E minor pentatonic is the notes E-G-A-B-D.

To add a little more colour to note possibilities, we can extend to a 7-note diatonic scale. The two that immediately spring to mind for me are the E Phrygian mode (the Metallica scale) and E Aeolian mode (or natural minor scale). I also add in the b5 interval in the descending part of the riff in a minor blues scale. The b5 interval sounds particularly menacing and metal!

We can create a rhythmically interesting riff with some syncopation. That is when we play notes on the upbeats, or between the beats.

You can get guitar tabs for the examples by supporting me on Patreon.

Below are some scale ideas taken from the video lesson that I shared on Instagram.

Don’t forget to check out my free eBook ‘Fretboard Mastery’ and, if you’re looking to go deeper into guitar music theory, you should definitely check out my premium video course ‘Guitar Rut Busters: Essential Theory’.

How to Tap | Beginner Guitar Tapping Exercises | Rock Guitar Lesson

How to Tap Rock Guitar Lesson

I am BACK on YouTube with a new lesson introducing guitar tapping. This was inspired by listening to a lot of Paul Gilbert recently. He likes a good tapping lick or three!

What is guitar tapping? It's an articulation technique popularised by Eddie Van Halen (check out ‘Eruption’ on Van Halen’s debut album) which allows us to play arpeggio and other scale patterns across wide areas of the neck.

Arpeggios on one string go beyond the reach of the fretting hand, so we can add in the picking hand to activate notes higher up the neck by tapping the fretboard. You can use the index or middle finger to do this.

After we tap the fretboard we then need to pull and flick off the string to activate a lower note. In the tapping exercises here we start with flicking off to the open string, but we can fret any note below the fret we are tapping and flick off to hear it.

Things get really fun when we start to add a third (and even fourth) note. In this lesson we are working with triplet rhythms (in the style of Eruption). The fretting hand will hammer onto a higher fret to give us a third note (tap-flick-tap).

The key to master guitar tapping is developing the hammer and pull off techniques is both the picking hand and the fretting hand. I've provided exercises that will help to develop the strength in both hands for accurate, clean tapping technique.

You can get guitar tabs for the tapping exercises and the backing track for the study by supporting me on my Patreon page.

Having some fun with the Mixolydian Mode

The latest scale chart on my Instagram feed was the D mixolydian mode (see below).

I’m often asked what chords work well together to really get the sound of the mode, so I wrote and recorded a little example for Instagram:

Keeping the tonic in the bass of a chord progression really helps to establish the sound of the mode so I wrote a basic progression of D-Am-G-D but played them as triads over the open D string. This then creates a series of slash chords. They were embellished a little with some sus chords and a little bonus C/D in the Am measure.

The improvised solo was trying to hit the chord tones, especially the C note over the Am chord to further establish us clearly in D mixolydian, the C note (the b7) being the characteristic colour tone of the mixolydian mode.

Chord of the Day - Eadd9 (and Aadd9)

I was playing through some progressions in preparation for the next module of TRIADS: Inside Out, and this chord just came out. Had to share!

There’s also the bonus Add9 that can be played by dropping the shape down one string set and adjusting for string 2(B).

Aadd9 Chord of the Day.png
Aadd9 Chord of the Day (LH).png

You can download all the chord shapes that I show in the breakdown here.

Defining the Key of G Major (and an introduction to modes)

Below is a summary of the key of G major. A key is defined when we create chords from a scale by stacking thirds on top of one another. A third spans three alphabet letters (e.g. G to B, or B to D).

The G major scale is diatonic, in that each of the seven letters of the musical alphabet appear in order, and the scale formula (the distances from one note to the next) will contain five whole steps (two frets) and two half steps (one fret). The F# in the scale is to ensure there is a whole step between the 6th and 7th scale degrees (the numbers written above the notes) and a half step from the 7th back to the tonic, G. The sound of the major scale is created by the whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half sequence.

We commonly use Roman numerals to define the triad chord qualities in a key. Upper case numerals representing major triads, lower case for minor triads and the degree symbol (°) is added to the lower case numeral to denote a diminished triad (found on the 7th scale degree of the major scale).

Triads contain three notes, and we add an additional third above the fifth of the triad for a seventh chord. Note how not all the major triads are major 7th chords. The seventh chord created from the fifth scale degree (which can be named the ‘dominant’) will be a dominant 7th (R-3-5-b7).

The modes at the bottom are also all diatonic scales in that they will contain the same notes as the G major scale, but the tonic is a note other than G. For example, the C lydian scale would be the notes:



The mode contains the same notes as the G major scale (which is often termed the ‘parent major scale’ of the mode) and so it will also contain the same chords, but the order will be different:



My theory course ‘Guitar Rut Busters: Essential Theory’ goes through major scale theory in detail and shows you how the chords (triads) in a key are defined. Seventh chords and modes will be coming in the next instalment!

G Major Key Chart.png

Amazing work (as always) from Mateus Asato

Mateus Asato always floors me with his ability on the instrument. Everything that comes out of his fingers is gold, so musical and full of emotion. He always reminds me that there is still a lot to learn and that I really do need to practise some more!

A recent post entitled ‘the breakup song’ had me reaching for Transcribe! to work it out and I shared the opening/closing progression with followers on Instagram.

Thanks Mateus for the inspiration.

Asato Chords RH@4x.png
Asato Chords LH@4x.png

TRIADS: Inside Out - Module 2 Sneak Peek - Using the major scale as a blueprint for Triads in a Major Key

In module 2 of ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’ we are taking the triad inversions that were learnt in the first module and applying them to the chords in a key to be able to play through any diatonic major chord progression.

Chords scales (playing up through the diatonic chords in the scale) is a super useful exercise to learn chord shapes and how they relate to one another. You can do this with triads, barre chords, seventh chords etc. We are, of course, focusing upon triads at the moment. Rather than climbing up the neck horizontally with the chord scale (which is the most common approach, keeping the triads in the same inversion) we are playing through the chord scale within one particular area of the fretboard. I like to call these ‘segments’, so here is an example playing through the first segment in the key of G major, keeping it all between the 2nd and 5th fret of the guitar.

Module 2 goes through these chord scales in all the different segments of the fretboard and demonstrates how you can use that to quickly add a guitar part to a chord progression. You can find out more about the course and sign up by hitting the button below:

Part 1 of TRIADS: Inside Out - Learning your Closed Voicing Triad Inversions

The first thing you need to learn about triads is the intervals that make up the four different types (major, minor, diminished and augmented) and how to play their different ‘inversions’ up the neck.

The graphic below summarises the content of the first module of my latest video course release ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’. You can sign up and join us inside right now if you want to find out more (which you really should. Triads are SO useful).

Closed voicings find the three notes of the triads as close as they possibly can be within one octave. With the triad containing three notes (a Root, third and fifth), there are three different combinations of these three intervals, known as the inversions.

We have (in order of pitch)

  • Root - Third - Fifth (a root position triad)

  • Third - Fifth - Root (a first inversion triad)

  • Fifth - Root - Third (a second inversion triad)

Closed Voicing Triads String Set 1.png

The examples shown are the four different triad shapes rooted in C on (what I call) string set 1 (the high E, B and G strings).

There are a couple of great exercises within the course to help you memorise the shapes so definitely check it out and I hope to see you inside!

New Slice: A great exercise from TRIADS: Inside Out to help master your Major Triad Inversions

Major Triad Inversions Exercise.png

Here is a sneak peek of an exercise from the first module of my latest video course release, ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’.

After taking you through the theory of the major triad and the different ways it can be played, this exercise will help you to memorise all the major triad inversions from all 12 possible root notes on (what I like to call) string set 1 (the high E, B and G strings).

As a little bonus, I uploaded this exercise to my Soundslice profile, so you can try and learn the exercise along to the interactive tab that syncs to the video. Very cool! I hope to be using Soundslice a lot more in the near future.

You can also download the tab for the exercise by clicking the links below:

Tab .pdf

Tab .gp (Guitar Pro 7)

Tab .gpx (Guitar Pro 6 and earlier)

I will be releasing a new module in the course every Friday until the curriculum is complete. I hope you’ll consider joining us inside.

Practise well

Chord of the Day - How to play a Dmaj7

I had requests on Instagram to add audio/video of me playing my ‘Chord of the Day’ so I thought it best to create a video when I post a new chord with some additional insight, and add it here on my blog.

Today’s chord is the open position D major seventh (Dmaj7). Adding the major seventh to a major triad instantly gives it that dreamy, jazzy quality and this is no exception.

It’s a great little workout for your barre finger 1 if you’re just getting started out with barre chords too.

When harmonising the major scale, the maj7 chord is found upon the 1st and 4th scale degrees, so you can safely replace a I or IV chord with a Imaj7 or IVmaj7 (as long as it sounds good!). In a minor key, it would be a b IIImaj7 and b VImaj7.

This Dmaj7 could then be used in the key of D major (or its relative minor, B minor) or A major (F# minor). Always use your ears though when trying different chords in a progression.

What’s particularly of interest is that any maj7 chord can be thought of as a Root note plus a minor triad formed upon the major 3rd (3) of the maj7 chord. In this example, the 3 is the note F#. Therefore, you can play a Dmaj7 chord by playing an F# minor triad over a D bass note (thinking in slash chords - F#m/D).

With that knowledge you can quickly play three different voicings of the Dmaj7 by playing up the three inversions of the F#m triad on string set 1 (EBG).

My newest course ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’ is now open for enrolment and will going into much more detail of triad substitution for seventh chords. The first module will teach you all the triad inversions on string set 1. You can get more details here or in the sidebar.

If this is a little over your head right now then definitely check out my other course 'Guitar Rut Busters: Essential Theory’.

Practise well.

P.S. Can you think of any other ways we can use triads to create seventh chords?

How to play 'Man Like You' as performed by Tom Misch

One of my followers over on Instagram recommended the music of Tom Misch. I duly had a listen to his 2018 release “Geography”, and then fell deep into a neo soul guitar hole!

Not one of the neo soul cuts on the album, I particularly liked his version of Patrick Watson’s ‘Man Like You’. I liked it so much, I felt compelled to bring a lesson on it to my YouTube channel.

Both the original and Misch’s version use tenths (essentially thirds raised an octave). A beautiful sound that really grabbed me.

You can find the song lesson and a live performance by Tom Misch below. My TABs are also available on my Patreon page.

Learning the fretboard is a cinch with the CAGED System

I'm often asked about how to learn the fretboard and what my approach is when it comes to soloing and improvising.  For me, the best approach is the CAGED system, in which we compartmentalise the fretboard according to a series of octave shapes around which we can form chord shapes, arpeggios, triads, pentatonics, and diatonic scales. 

I have a new series of posts on my Instagram feed named CAGED Clarity to explain this approach in more detail and how I like to progressively present it to my students.  All of the examples that you can find below take the 'C-shape' in the key of D major.

Octave Shape

The starting point for this 'C-shape' approach is the 5-2 octave shape.  Any note found on String 5(A) can be played an octave higher by going back (towards the nut) two frets on string 2(B).

Major Chord

Around the octave shape we can superimpose the shape of an open position C major chord.  Hence the ‘C-shape’ name.   When doing so there is a barre finger required to fret strings 1(E) and 3(G) which are open strings in the open position C major.  Finger two will grab the root note on string 2(B).  Finger 3 will fret the major 3rd on string 4(D) and finger 4 will fret the root note on string 5(A).  It is as if we are playing a C chord with a capo at the 2nd fret.  The root note is now a D at the 5th fret of string 5(A) so this is a D major chord (but in the C-shape). 

Major Arpeggio

The C-shape chord is one of the easiest when it comes to playing arpeggios because the intervals of the chord (Root - major 3rd - perfect 5th) are found in order across the strings when we start from string 5(A).  The arpeggio falls nicely inside a 4-fret radius and we can reach for the 5th on string 1(E) at the 5th fret with finger 3 or 4.  Whilst the tonic is on string 5(A) the arpeggio can continue in the lower octave on string 6(E).  Notice how the notes on string 6(E) will always be the same as string 1(E).  Seems obvious but often overlooked when learning patterns on the fretboard.  Also, I don’t like to use the term ‘Root’ when it refers to melodic playing.  The Root is the starting point for a chord.  When we think about melody, this note (is these examples D) is called the 'tonic' and I will use the abbreviation ‘1’ instead of ‘R’. 

Major Triad Shapes

One of the immediate benefits of the CAGED approach for rhythm playing is the ease at which we can visualise triad shapes. The major triad consists of three (hence tri- ) elements: The Root note (D), a major third above the Root (F#) and a perfect 5th above the Root (A). There are four possible grips for these three notes across the 6 strings. With our Root note on String 5(A) this first shape has the 5th as the lowest note in what is called a ‘second inversion’ of the triad (or D/A - D chord over an A bass note). These triad shapes are known as closed voicings in that the notes will appear in order (5-R-3, R-3-5, 3-5-R, 5-R-3) and are as close as they possible can be to one another. 

Raising the 5th an octave from string 6(E) to string 3(G) gives us a closed voicing of a Root position major triad (I.e. the Root is the lowest note played).

Raising the Root an octave from String 5(A) to string 2(B) creates a great voicing of a ‘first inversion’ triad (D/F#) in which the third of the chord is the lowest note played. Remember to try and visualise the full chord shape as you play this to know where the other chord tones are. 

Raising the 3rd an octave from String 4(D) to string 1(E) creates the much-loved D major chord, except that without playing the open string 4(D) this is a moveable second inversion major triad shape (D/A).

Major Pentatonic

This is where things get interesting.  Let’s take it back to the major arpeggio pattern.  We have three notes, the tonic (1) major 3rd (3) and perfect 5th (5). Playing those three notes together gives us the sound of the major chord (major triad).  BUT if we add an additional two notes we will have a total of five notes…’penta’-tonic.  Adding the major 2nd and major 6th will give the five notes of the major pentatonic.  At each stage we’re building upon the octave shape and chord.  Therein lies the power of CAGED approach and why you should learn this stuff!

Diatonic Scales

From the five notes of the major pentatonic we add an additional two to give us a seven note diatonic scale (with each letter of the musical alphabet being present within one octave). The two notes we add are the perfect 4th and major 7th to give us the sound of the major scale (also known as the ionian mode).  The other major modes (lydian, mixolydian) can be created in the same way.  For lydian we would add an augmented 4th and major 7th, mixolydian has the perfect 4th and minor 7th.

I'd love to take any questions in the comments of this post.  If you're desperate to get learning the fretboard I have a free eBook available to all email subscribers.  You can get your copy of 'Fretboard Mastery' here.

How to play 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' by The Beatles

My adventures into The Beatles' back catalogue has gotten me and my family up to 'The Beatles' (more commonly known as 'The White Album').

I asked on social media which song I should bring to my YouTube channel.  This one proved popular and it's one of my favourites from the album so I really enjoyed putting this one together.

In this song lesson I will take you through all the chord progressions and strumming patterns.  I did transcribe the solo and might bring that to the channel at some point.

Awesome chord grips courtesy of The Police's Andy Summers

In a recent lesson with a student we began with some stretching exercises which led me into a discussion of add9 chord grips (which are awesome as a stretching exercise).  Discussions then went to the music of The Police and the chord choices of their guitarist, Andy Summers, in some of their most iconic songs.  

I can't claim to be any aficionado on The Police but I did know that Summers used sus2 and add9 grips in songs such as 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Every Breath You Take'.  Now, I love the sound of these chords and so I thought I'd bring it to my YouTube channel in this week's lesson.  

Below are chord boxes that I uploaded to my Instagram feed in support of the video lesson:

Learn how I like to transcribe songs

A recent song request of 'Coastline' by Hollow Coves inspired me to take you behind the scenes of how I work out songs and write out tabs. I'll show you exactly how I learn and transcribe all the music that I teach on my YouTube channel and with live students.

Whenever I do this I try and work from a live recording to see exactly how the part is being played. For this particular song the video showed me that the capo was placed at the 7th fret which then confirmed that the guitar wasn't in standard tuning.

The transcribing software I use is called Transcribe! and it's great because you can use video or audio files. Transcribing software allows you to slow down and loop particular sections. You can even manipulate the audio channels and EQ to make the part you're transcribing easier to hear.

Some players like to transcribe manually with pencil and paper, but I prefer to go straight into Guitar Pro. I'm using the latest version, Guitar Pro 7.  I find this is easier to change mistakes and it can help to be able to quickly play back what you've transcribed to check it sounds right.

I hope you find this informative and that it might encourage you to start transcribing guitar yourself.  I've added links to all the software that I use in the video under the 'Ry Recommends' section of the website.  You can find it here.

A beginner's approach to Travis Picking

I had a great song request from a Skype student recently that got me teaching some Travis picking patterns. The song was 'Just Breathe' by Pearl Jam and it uses a picking pattern heard in other songs like Kansas' 'Dust In The Wind' or Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide'.

A Travis picking pattern is one that has a constant alternating thumb pattern on the quarter note beat, with the index and middle fingers plucking in between the beats. It's a great way to bring driving, rhythmic feel to any chord progression.

In this video lesson I take you through how you should try and practise a Travis picking pattern progressively in stages to really get confident in the picking hand. The key things here are to build up the pattern gradually, always use a metronome and try to keep things musical and interesting for your practice sessions.

You can download a free .pdf of the TAB with all the examples demonstrated in the video by clicking here.

An Introduction to Open D Tuning

There inevitably comes a point in our playing where we tire of playing the same things in the same old standard tuning and we crave something different.

A great way to fuel creativity and reignite any waning interest in the instrument is to try a different tuning.  Anything that isn’t standard tuning is considered ‘altered tuning’.  A common first altered tuning is ‘Drop D’ in which string 6(E) is tuned down a tone to a D, giving a power chord under one finger across the three low strings.  It’s probably for that reason that it’s found favour with rock and metal players.  

My newest video lesson explores another altered tuning named ‘Open D’ or ‘D Vestapol’.  An open tuning is one in which the open strings are tuned to an easily recognisable chord, in this case a D major chord.  Open tunings are often used by slide guitar players, but I’m introducing the idea of playing some beautiful diatonic chords using a combination of two different chord shapes and the open strings. 

You can download the on-screen TAB that accompanies the video by clicking here.

As always I am available to take any feedback or questions you might have.

Practise well!


Going ‘In Deep’ with The Beatles’ ’Twist and Shout’

I never realised until very recently that The Beatles recorded a lot of cover versions in their early discography.  Did you know for example that ‘Twist and Shout’ was a cover?  And did you know that they recorded that and the entire ‘Please Please Me’  album in one single day?! 

I was always aware that The Beatles were a very important band but I’d never taken the time to really dig in and appreciate their music.  I’ve really relished discovering The Beatles properly for the first time this last year and sharing it with my children.  My new-found passion for their music is something I’m looking to bring to my YouTube channel in the coming months.  

My newest video lesson is in a format which most closely reflects how I like to teach my live students.  I teach predominantly through learning songs.  But more than just simply walking a student through chord progressions and a strumming pattern I love to delve a little deeper and consider thinks like how the chords relate to one another, how they can be moved to different keys, how chords are constructed or which scale was being used for that specific solo.

‘Twist and Shout’ was my first choice as I’ve found myself teaching it to a lot of students recently.  It’s a great song for a better understanding of I-IV-V progressions, specifically when played with barre chords.  There’s a great little guitar solo too that uses a C-shape major scale harmonised in diatonic 3rds.

You can download the on-screen TAB that accompanies the video by clicking here.