Extractions aren’t just for teeth anymore!
I’m really excited about the work I’ve been doing for my latest book, Pentatonic Extractions, so I wanted to share some of the new material with you. In this lesson, I’ll explain one way to create a pentatonic from a seven-note scale and adapt it to the Melodic Minor scale. You’ll learn how to create some cool sounds with only a small change to patterns that you probably already know.
Pentatonic scales are interesting melodic devices because their intervals rest somewhere between an arpeggio and a scale. Personally, I find them to be more “open” sounding and less dense than a seven-note scale. So here’s how to break create a pentatonic sound using material that’s familiar.
If we have any seven-note scale, eliminating two notes will create a pentatonic (5-note) scale.
For example, if I have E Natural Minor:
(E, F#, G, A, B, C and D or Root, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6 and b7), one extraction would be:
E, G, A, B and D aka
(Root, b3, 4, 5 and b7) aka
the pentatonic minor scale.
“The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line”
The first step in this process is to see and hear a melodic minor scale. I like to do this with a single string.
For the sake of comparison, here’s an E Major scale played on the high E string. Since I’m using a single string – I’ll use E Major (E, F#, G#, A, B, C# and D#).
In case you’re wondering, the reason I’ve played the scale with a low E-string drone is to help get the sound of the scale in my head.
The scale formula for a Melodic Minor scale is R, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Applying this to E Melodic Minor (E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D#) on a single string produces the following:
You could use any five notes from the scale, but for this pentatonic extraction, I’ll use the same scale degrees as the Pentatonic Minor scale which leaves me with R, b3, 4, 5 and 7 (or E, G, A, B and D#).
Get into postion
The next step in this process it to see how this scale works positionally. In the example below, I’ve put an E Pentatonic Minor scale on the left and an E Melodic Minor scale on the right.
Note that the only difference between this scale and an E Pentatonic Minor is the D#, but one note can make a big difference in a scale! Let’s look at some licks to hear how it sounds.
Since I’m looking for an alternate flavor to a Penatatonic Minor scale, I hear these licks in one of two contexts:
- The most stable sound for these licks is to play them over the V7 chord (i.e. B7) resolving to E minor (B7->Em).
- For an unsettled sound, use this over an E minor chord to create an E min(maj7) sound.
While these licks will technically work over any harmonization of the E melodic minor scale, I’d recommend starting with these two chords and then going from there.
In the mp3 below, I’m playing this lick in a rubato style. I’m starting from the C# (outside of the pentatonic scale but part of E Melodic Minor) to add tension into the bend into D#. Ditto for the F# going into D. I’ve simplified the notation here to show the bends – but listen to the mp3 to get the actual phrasing.
Here’s an alternate picking lick that works off the box pentatonic shape we looked at earlier. Pay close attention to the fingering!
Here’s a country-style open string lick with an extra #4/b5 thrown in for a little chromatic flair. Since the pentatonic scale has the notes E, B and G as part of the scale, don’t be afraid to incorporate those open strings into licks that you’re generating!
The picking hand uses a series of hammer ons and middle finger attacks. The fretting hand tries to stay as relaxed as possible.
In this example, I’ve pulled the lick out of the 12th position and added a cyclical element with the sweep picking. Conceptually, I see this as the ugly brother of the opening to Alan Holdsworth’s Road Games. I’ve included my own picking pattern for this example, but feel free to incorporate whatever works best for you.
Here’s a string skipping variation that only uses four unique notes in each sextuplet (D#, E, G and B in the first sextuplet and E, G, A and D# in the second). I like these types of sounds as an interesting variation to using all 5 notes of the pentatonic scale. I’ve indicated hammer ons in the tablature, but I’ll generally play licks lick this with alternate picking.
Watch out for those wide intervals! If the lick is too hard to play with just the fretting hand, try tapping the top note of each group.
Finally, here’s another sweep-picked lick that gets some mileage out of the tritone between the A and D strings. Pay careful attention to the position shift on the B string.
For those of you who are interested, all of the examples here were recorded directly in my iPhone with the JamUp Pro app. Be sure to check back for a review of that app!