Waking Up The Pentatonics: Extended Pentatonic Arpeggios

Pentatonics are commonly used in all types of music and at times can become over used and monotonous. In this article I hope to give a different perspective on this scale by using arpeggios. Some of you may be familiar with these techniques and some of you may not be. Hopefully all will find this article useful for helping create new ideas.

As we know, with any scale comes the associated arpeggios. For the pentatonic scale if we combine adjacent patterns we get what is referred to as the Extended Pentatonics. This greatly expands the fretboard and gives you greater distance between intervals. There is an almost Holdsworthian sound when you use this approach. Now by finding arpeggios within the scale we can get some pretty creative and interesting ideas that some might not expect from the pentatonic scale.

The first set of arpeggios are taken from the extended pentatonics in A minor and uses each box pattern and its adjacent counterpart. This is my own way of sweeping as I don't consider myself to be a proficient sweep picker. The hammer ons add a fluid motion that I find fits the hand in a ergonomic way that does not require bridging with one finger - another troublesome technique.

Example 2 spreads the forms out and gives some extended harmony over a static A minor chord vamp. What makes these arpeggios different is that there is one note per string. The patterns also move diagonally in a ascending manner that's not the usual motion.

Example 3 continues with one note per string with the exception of the top of the arpeggio where there is a hammer and pull off that keeps the idea continuing from ascending to descending.

Practice all of these ideas very slowly at first and then build up your speed. If you feel any pains or numbness/tingling in the hands - stop immediately and give yourself a rest. Don't practice these for long periods of time if you are not used to the stretches. This will develop over time so be patient. There are lots of ways to cook up ideas with the pentatonic scale so I will continue with the next article with different ways you can use the pentatonic scale.

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If there are any other topics you would like me to discuss please email me at the email link in the sidebar at the upper left of this column - I look forward to your suggestions.

Joe Pinnavaia is a professional musician, guitarist, instructor and composer from Buffalo, NY, USA.

His first solo release, "InVitro", under the project name Test Tube Rhino, is now available digitally from iTunes and Amazon from Steve Vai's Digital Nations.

Joe Pinnavaia

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