Guitarist + Composer

Easiest Way to Get Out of a Pentatonic Rut   

Every guitar player knows the pentatonic scale,it is one of the first things we learn as a guitarist and we often rely on it heavily to lay down solos when playing with other musicians. However, because we rely on it so much we often start playing the same licks, patterns, and positions it can begin to sound bland. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get out of a pentatonic rut, but let’s talk about of the easiest ways: the Minor Pentatonic add 9 scale – which when broken down it is just an extended form of the pentatonic scale.

TL;DR Video

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The Minor Pentatonic Add 9 Scale

Guitar players of legendary status such as Eric Johnson and Nick Johnston incorporate the Minor Pentatonic add 9 scale as a way to add some spice to their pentatonic lick. It’s an easy scale to remember and the less we have to think the better, it keeps our flow as free as possible.

To get out of our pentatonic rut, lets take our everyday basic pentatonic scale:

Now let’s add the 9th (2nd note in the scale – up an octave) interval in every octave. (9th interval shown in green)

Play the scale and notice how it still sounds minor, it still sounds pentatonic, but now it has a little more movement in it.

In a minor key, the 9th interval is one of the most emotional intervals, and including that interval to something as pleasing as the minor pentatonic scale adds a lot of dimension to your playing and it is a rad way to catch the listener’s ear.

In your solos, try to sit on that 9th interval and notice how it wants to pull up but it also doesn’t sound so bad when the note sits there. Or! Perform a half-step bend on the 9th to the minor 3rd – that sounds rad. Or even cooler is to perform a full-step bend from the root to the 9th – now that is a mega-emotional sound.

I’ve recently grown an even bigger appreciation for the pentatonic scale and its vocal melody-like quality and keeping it sound fresh and expressive can become a challenge.

The Minor Pentatonic add 9 scale is a fairly easy scale to remember and one of the easiest ways to get out of a pentatonic rut. If it is good enough for players like Eric Johnson and Nick Johnston it sure is good enough for us.