Pentatonic Solos:Most lead guitarists begin learning to solo with the "pentatonic" scales ("penta"=5, "tonic"=note). These five note scales provide the basis for the most common rock, blues, heavy metal, and country lead licks. There are five "box" patterns, or fingering positions which connect up and down the guitar neck, allowing performers to play the pentatonic scales in every position on the instrument.
The circled notes are the "minor" root notes in the scale, the squared notes are the "major" root notes. If you put any circled note in the positions on "A", for example, the pattern is called an "A minor pentatonic" scale. If you put any squared note on a "C", the scale is labeled "C major pentatonic". Notice that A minor pentatonic and C major pentatonic actually contain the same notes (and have the exact same fingerings) - they are simply two ways to label the same set of notes. Every pentatonic box can be called by two different names - either major or minor.
The five pentatonic positions are known thoroughly by lead guitarists of every style, and there is a tradition of common "moves" - licks, techniques, and melodic patterns that are found in each of the boxes. To learn lead guitar, it is essential to master these scales and all of the melodic vocabulary that is common to each pattern.
The solos on this page provide a lexicon of common licks, techniques and patterns found in each position of the pentatonic scale. The solos are written over a variety of common chord progressions (accompaniment backgrounds) found in various musical styles. For a complete discussion of chord progressions, scales, and chord-scale relationships, please see the lessons entitled Music Theory. That lesson should be completed in order to understand how the appropriate scales and chord progressions are chosen to create the solos on this page. Pay particular attention to the section labeled "Chord-Scale Relationships". It contains all of the guidelines explaining how to fit pentatonic scales over common chord progressions.
1) The first solo contains many of the basic moves in the first position pentatonic box pattern. It is written over the following chord progression:
||: A5 | A5 | A5 | E5 A5 || A5 | A5 | A5 | E5 C5 A5 ||
|| D5 | A5 | C5 | E5 A5 || D5 | A5 | A5 E5 | G5 C5 A5 :||
The above chord progression is made up primarily of diatonic and borrowed chords (see the lesson on Chord Progressions for a complete explanation of roman numerals):
||: I5 | I5 | I5 | V5 I5 || I5 | I5 | I5 | V5 bIII5 I5 ||
|| IV5 | I5 | bIII5 | V5 I5 || IV5 | I5 | I5 V5 | bVII5 bIII5 I5 :||
According the chord scale relationships given in the Music Theory lesson, the A minor pentatonic scale will sound good against the above chord progression. The solo is created entirely from the notes of the first box pattern in the key of A minor (put the circled first finger note in the first box pattern, on the A at the first string, fifth fret):
Understanding the theory above is much less important than being able to perform the actual moves in the solo. Download the tablature and recording below, and practice these moves until you can make each of the techniques and licks sound good:
2) The second solo is taken entirely from the first position box pattern again - this time in the key of F. There are two "F" notes on the first string of the guitar - one at the 1st fret, another at the 13th fret. This solo jumps between those two positions. In each case, the pointer finger on the first string of the box pattern is put on the "F" note:
The solo is written over the following chord progression:
||: F5 Eb5 | F5 Ab5 | F5 Eb5 | C5 :|| (4 times)
||: I5 bVII5 | I5 bIII5 | I5 bVII5 | V5 :||
This solo demonstrates a set of very common fast, repeating "motive" pattern licks. Motive patterns are melodic moves that can be played on any set of strings in the scale. Notice the use of repeating licks in this solo, and be aware of how only a few moves make up this entire piece. These patterns of motion are VERY common in lead guitar playing, and will be found in many solos in various styles of music. By learning this solo, you will learn fingering patterns that are played in all of the pentatonic boxes, and which form the basis for lead solos of every type.
The tab and recording for the second solo can be downloaded below: