Paul Gilbert on trying new pentatonic positions

Paul Gilbert
Paul Gilbert

This exercise is designed to help you break out of playing the same old A minor pentatonic scale at the 5th fret. Yes, it sounds great and it's easy to play but, as Paul explains, "after you've played it for a long time you'll start to sound like everybody else who uses the scale!"

The scale pattern Paul bases his lick on is still the A minor pentatonic scale, but it's played in a different position. Check out Example 1 on the next page if you're unfamiliar with the scale.

Playing scales in new positions like this is the perfect way to inject fresh ideas into your playing because you'll find new note combinations and fingerings that are difficult to play in other positions.

Paul uses his fingers instead of a pick for a percussive feel, but you can apply these ideas to normal plectrum picking as well. Bear in mind that the large string skips are best suited to alternating your thumb (p) and index finger (i).

Next page: tab for the video examples

Example 1: A minor pentatonic scale - position 2

(Click tab to enlarge)

This is the A minor pentatonic scale (ACDEG) but it starts on the C note instead of the A. This gives you a whole new fingering pattern and you should find that a whole new set of licks are available to you.

Example 2: blues lick

(Click tab to enlarge)

Aim for a light, palm-muted thumb stroke on the low A notes. This should be more of a gentle percussive effect with the high melody notes ringing out more clearly. Notice that Paul also adds in a bluesy sounding Eb note. If you add this note to the A minor pentatonic scale it becomes the A blues scale.

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