Rut Busters! Double Your Vocabulary!
Here's another Rut-Buster. For the introductory blog to this category go here.
We're going to assume you already know the Minor Pentatonic Scale. After all, you have to have a rut in order to bust it! This is the pattern in the key of A:
Previous Rut-Busters have dealt with this pattern; it's the most-used lead pattern of all time and therefore the "ruttiest!" See:
There is a phenomenon in music theory known as, "relative harmony." All major keys have relative minor keys and vice versa; all minor keys have relative majors. The key signatures for relative keys are the same; they share the same notes.
Now, you don't have to understand all that to take advantage of it. I'm going to show you how it relates to the guitar in the simplest and most guitar-friendly way I can.
The above Minor Pentatonic Scale is an A Minor Pentatonic because the root (the blue circle with the, "R" in it) is on the 6th string at the 5th fret, which is "A."
The root of the Relative Major is "C" which is the 6th string, 8th fret:
Notice the scale pattern is exactly the same, only the location of the root in that pattern is different. So whether this is an A Minor Pentatonic or a C Major Pentatonic depends on the context; the scale pattern, and the mechanics of playing it, are the same either way.
That's a beautiful thing because it's the mechanics that take all the time, repetition, blood, sweat and tears. So all the time and practice you put in to get the A Minor Pentatonic scale to be second nature to you - in other words, a rut - can now be applied to C Major Pentatonic; without all the work!
Double function for one pattern!
But wait, there's an even more guitaristically functional way to think about this! Here's the fingering for the scale, with the minor and major roots noted:
Notice the major root is 3 frets up from the minor root. If the minor root is A, then the major root is C.
Say you're going to solo over a 12-Bar Blues in A. One of the things that happens in many Blues tunes is the soloist will switch from Minor to Major Pentatonic in the same solo. So if you were soloing in A Minor, how would you make it A Major?
Simple, move the pattern 3 frets down so that your 4th finger is on "A" instead of your 1st finger:
Notice that your pinky would now be on the root at the 5th fret. It is now A Major Pentatonic.
Still confused? Don't overthink it; just remember this maxim:
Any minor pattern moved 3 frets down becomes a major pattern with the same letter name.
Every lick, every pattern, every solo you've learned in A Minor moved 3 frets down becomes A Major. It sounds different, it's different theory-wise, it has a completely different emotional content...but it's fingered exactly the same! Just moved 3 frets down.
Play Smarter - Not Harder!
P.S. In a previous blog, I told the story of how 13-year-old me discovered this phenomenon, and the effect it had on my technique and my musical development. If you're interested read, Theory Doesn't Matter? Don't Be An Idiot!
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