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Seeing Shapes and Patterns

A great skill and tool to develop as a musician is the ability to see various shapes and patterns all over the neck of your instrument.

As an example, if your teacher were to give you the pentatonic scale to learn, never make the mistake of working on the scale in root position and assume that your work is finished. These patterns alter their shapes all over the neck of your instrument in a process called “permutation.”

The pentatonic scale contains five notes and avoids the fourth and seventh scale degrees of the major scale.

Starting from root position, these configurations of notes follow a five-note sequence, and repeat all over again to the top of your neck. The examples I’m providing (in the key of G) pertain to a four string bass but must be extended for five or six stringed instruments.

In the next example of permutation, the pattern begins on the second scale degree, continues up the neck, and repeats its pattern until you’ve reached the top of the neck.

Repeat this same process with the remaining third, fifth, and sixth scale degrees as starting points. Both the patterns and flavor of the scale will change but you will eventually memorize the shapes.

Does learning all of this information guarantee that you’re going to take a good solo? The answer is once again a resounding “no.” There are a variety of exercises to apply to this concept. Once all of this information is learned in all keys, the next step is to apply sequences to these scale patterns.

The following example shows he pentatonic scale broken into four notes scales sequences.  Apply these sequences to all five pentatonic shapes in all twelve keys.

I’ve provided you with a wealth of information and concepts to apply to the pentatonic scale.

These concepts create a roadmap on your fret board that allows you the freedom to express your musical ideas in any area of the neck. In the next lesson I’ll expand on these and different concepts for you to take through the pentatonic scale. Once you can see these various shapes and patterns, the rest is up to you.

Good luck!

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