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Guitar lesson: The pentatonic scale made easy with three chord shapes

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Guitar skills: Scales don’t have to be hard to remember. These three easy shapes are almost identical to open chords you’ve probably already worked out.

1. C major pentatonic scale 

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You hopefully already know the C chord Just press down on the strings with your first, second and third fingers where the dots show you, then strum the top five strings!

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Unlike chords, scales are played one note at a time. You should be able to see that the C major pentatonic scale uses all the notes from a C chord, plus a couple of extras.

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Play through the chord and scale before attempting this Keith Richards-inspired C major pentatonic line. After that, try making up your own lick using notes taken from the scale.


E minor pentatonic scale 

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Em is another common chord that any beginner will know. Just press down on the relevant strings with your second and third fingers, then strum all six strings.

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Just as with the C chord, Em is almost identical to a scale, this time the E minor pentatonic scale. The notes of the scale always sound good over an Em chord.

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The challenge with any scale-based lick is the quick note to note changes. Use your second finger for all of the 2nd fret notes in this lick. It’ll help you keep position shifts to a minimum.


A minor pentatonic scale 

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This is an Am barre chord – it’s more advanced than what we’ve looked at so far. Use your first finger to press down on all six strings. Third and fourth fingers are also used.

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Again, see if you can spot the chord shape ‘hidden’ within the notes of the scale. It’s because the chord and scale share so many notes they always sound good played together.

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There’s a classic rock vibe here – think AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and so on. Unlike our previous backing tracks, the music doesn’t stick to one chord, so there’s a more sophisticated sound.

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