Posted by Mike Cramer on 10:42 AM

Pentatonic scales are 5 note scales that should be in every guitar player's vocabulary. The two most common pentatonic scales are the major and minor variety. However, any combination of 5 notes could be considered a pentatonic scale.

Pentatonic Box Shapes

Guitar players often learn pentatonic box shapes. These shapes are incredibly useful and easy to learn, but one problem many guitarists face is getting stuck in these boxes. Because they are stuck viewing the neck through boxes, they have a difficult time connecting these shapes, thus creating a complete picture of the fingerboard.

One String Pentatonic Scales

To break out of the box I'm going to suggest another way to learn/practice your pentatonic scales. Play these scales on one string. That's right, one string, this is great way to start moving up the neck. You also benefit from seeing, and feeling, the intervals in the scale.

Download the Handout

The handout provided with this post presents the G minor pentatonic on each string. Practice this scale one string at a time. Fingerings have not been provided, I encourage you to experiment with various fingerings for the scale.

Practice Tips

  • Play slowly and gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable with the scale.
  • Improvise with the scale. Create your own backing tracks to jam along with. A G blues progression would work great, or simply record a G minor chord vamp to play along with.
  • Once you get the hang of soloing on one string, try two strings. These two strings don't have to be right next to each other, in fact, two non-adjacent strings could yield some interesting results!
  • Have fun with the scale!

Do you need a program to easily create background tracks? Then look no further. Check out Band In A Box. It's easy to create fun practice tracks.

Posted by Mike Cramer on 10:35 AM

If you've ever found yourself searching for a way to harmonically spice up your folk and pop based tunes then check out Sus2 and Sus4 chords. They are versatile, easy to play, and harmonically satisfying.

What are Sus2 and Sus4 Chords?

The sus stands for a suspension. The formula for a sus2 is [1 2 5] and the formula for the sus4 is [1 4 5]. Notice that neither chord contains the 3rd, that's because it's replaced by the 2nd (sus2) or the 4th (sus4).

Playing Sus Chords on the Guitar

The easiest way to learn sus voicings is by altering your triad voicings. For a usesful reference sheet on triads visit my post on triads.

All you need to do is find the 3rd of your chord voicing and replace it with either the 2nd or the 4th, depending on which sus voicing you are creating. That's all there is to it!

Sus Voicings Handout-click to download

Posted by Mike Cramer on 2:08 PM

Here's a handout I created for students that explains how to create all of the major scales. Click here to download.

I hope you find it helpful.

Posted by Mike Cramer on 8:25 PM

Learning triads and their inversions is a must for all guitarists, regardless of stylistic interests. In our rush to play our favorite songs we often skip directly to larger chord forms and harmonic structures instead of gaining a solid foundation in basic chord structure and harmony. It's not until later, however, we get a sense that a piece of the harmonic puzzle is missing from our chord vocabulary.

If any or all of this sounds familiar read on! In this post we'll look at the major triad and inversions in closed position.

The Major Triad

The major triad is a three note chord built by taking the first, third, and fifth notes of the major scale and stacking them on top of each other. (If you are unsure as to how to create the major scale view this post on major scale construction.)

I will refer to the notes of the chord by number. Therefore, the major triad has the formula [1 3 5]. By looking at the chord tones as numbers the triad is no longer root specific. The formula is the same for any major triad regardless of key.

Figure 1


Once we've created the triad we can rearrange the notes in the chord. By doing so, we've created different inversions. If the root is the lowest note of the chord, it is in Root position. If the 3rd is the lowest note it's called a 1st Inversion triad and if the 5th is on the bottom then it is a 2nd Inversion triad.

Figure 2

Closed vs. Open Position Chords

The handout accompanying this post diagrams triads in closed position. This means that the notes of the triad are as close to each other as they can be. An open position triad has larger spaces between the individual notes of the chord than it's closed position counterpart. Open and closed position chord voicings are both heavily used, one is not better than the other, they achieve different sonic results.

Figure 3

Practice Tips

Print off the handout and you'll see the triads and their inversions organized by string group. Pick a key and move through that chord's inversions staying on the same string group. Be aware of what inversion your are playing, also note where the root is located in each shape. Be sure to practice this exercise on all string groups in all 12 keys.

Make practicing your triads and inversions a part of your daily practice routine. You will start to see the fingerboard more clearly and you'll have more options for playing through chord progressions.

Download Handout

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