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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Make Music, Not Scales

Updated: Mar 9

From a Reddit thread:

What to do with A Minor Pentatonic now I’ve learned the shapes?

Sorry if this seems a stupid question. I’ve learned the 5 A minor pentatonic positions and can switch around them while using a metronome. Feel stupid asking but what do I do now with them? I’ve seen some backing tracks on YouTube - do I just play random notes out of each pattern that sound good, moving around throwing in some bends and vibrato? Or is there a specific way of doing this?

In other words,

"How do I make music from all these positions?"

You don't need all these positions to make music. You can make music with very little vocabulary; pros do it all the time. Take this one position for the A Minor Pentatonic at the 5th fret:

The numbers are the fingering, but finger it however you want to; fingering is never set in concrete, it depends on what you want to do.

But wait, this is still too much. Isolate these four notes:

Now go find a Blues Backing Track in A. Any feel will do, Shuffle, Slow Blues, whatever. We're going to improvise a solo using only these four notes.

The concept is that music is a language and the principles of language apply. The two most important principles are:

Phrasing: You speak in phrases. How do you know when a phrase ends? Silence. With no silence between phrases all you have is run-on sentences. People aren't listened to who talk that way. Break up the four notes into phrases; the silence defines the phrase.

Inflection: In spoken language, inflection is things like stressed syllables - you don't put the emPHAsis of the wrong sylLAble! When you ask a question, your voice goes up at the end, right? The meaning is determined by inflection. This is illustrated by the fact that I can make the same phrase mean different things. Right? Right.

Inflection in music is achieved by the ability to make one note sound different from another. Things like dynamics, vibrato, bends, slurs, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, pinched harmonics etc are all inflective devices or techniques. And the more extreme the better. Furthermore...

The "meaning" of music is feeling! Therefore, in the same way inflection in spoken language determines meaning, so inflection in musical language determines feeling.


  1. The silence defines the phrase.

  2. Emotional content is determined by inflection.

Check out the video for a demonstration:


The video above is the first lesson in a series I call, Concepts for Basic Improvising. It's a PDF download and has 22 lessons, 156 fretboard diagrams and 31 demonstration video links - among other things.

Everything in this lesson series is related to the Minor Pentatonic Scale in a Blues context; no fancy chords or confusing modal theory - just easily applicable concepts to a scale you probably already know.



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