Pentatonic Tonic – Lead Blues Licks in 5 Minutes or Less

Everyone wants to play guitar for different reasons and of course has their own ideas about what sorts of sounds they want to make. When I first started playing all I wanted to do was improvise melodic lines, I wanted to make the guitar talk to me. I don’t think I am at all alone in loving the sound of searing lead guitar and the magic of improvisation, and a lot of beginning guitarists are probably dying to play their own leads.

It’s actually really easy to start playing basic leads if you learn a few positions for a pentatonic scale known collectively as ‘the blues boxes’. These are the foundation on which most blues guitar riffs are built, and those of rock guitar as well.

The cool thing about the blues boxes is the very high return on time invested in study. Like any other scale you can learn only one position and then repeat it anywhere on the fret board to play it a different key, but because the scales are pentatonic, the patterns are much simpler and easier to remember and (this is the big one) there are no dissonant intervals. What that last bit means is that no matter what note your finger hits, it’s going to sound okay. This is too cool for words.

It’s like the pentatonic scale has a superpower… you can’t play a wrong note.

Here is one position in A:

E|————————5r-7
B|———————5-8
G|—————5-7(8)
D|————5-7r
A|—–5-(6)-7
E|—5r-8

After you have gotten down one or two of the positions you can solo away to your favorite songs, and no matter how clumsy you are at first (and don’t worry, time will fix that) you’ll still sound pretty good. And there is no artificial high that even comes close to the feeling of melodic improvisation, it’s a way of letting off some steam, saying something words cannot, and hearing those sounds come out of your own guitar will be like a shot in the arm for your will to study.

 

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