Guitar Lesson 14

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Lead Guitar Made Easy

Playing lead guitar and the pentatonic scale

Throughout our lessons, I've stressed how once you learn the Am pentatonic scale, you can use the same fingering patterns to play in other keys. Now is the time that you begin to do just that. We will work on a few different progressions that are not in the key of C major.

G major scale and chords in G

The Key of G Major has the chords that follow:

G Major, Am, Bm, C Major, D Major, Em, F# dim. and G

Em pentatonic would be the natural minor for the key of G. Check out key signatures before we begin. 

key signatures

G major pentatonic and Em pentatonic share the same notes and are relative to one another. If you are playing over the G chord or a progression in G major, use G major pentatonic, or Em pentatonic, but start on the G note.

Remember, the pentatonic root note fret fingering for all minor pentatonic scales will always be. 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4

So for Em pentatonic play 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4, at the12th fret.
The notes for Em pentatonic are: E, G, A, B and D.

lead guitar in the pentatonic scale.

For G major pentatonic use

2-4, 1-4, 1-4, 1-3, 2-4, 2-4 at the 15th or 3rd fret for G major pentatonic.
G, A, B, D, E, G. Notice that G major pentatonic and Em pentatonic share the same notes. If you played lead in the red box above you would be playing the Em pentatonic scale. If you played lead in the orange box, you would be playing the G major pentatonic scale. But you could use the red box for G major, just start on the G note.

Play the Em chord and then play the notes in the red box.

Play the G chord and play the notes in the orange box.

Look to the at the image above and notice all of the chords in the key of G major.

For those of you who are a Gold Level Member, please study the lead keys chapter. Also study major key theory and look over all the G major progressions in the progression charts that have been included.

In every major key, there are always three major chords, three minor chords and a Diminished chord. Look above at the circle and find all of those chords. 

G, C and D are the major chords. Am, Bm and Em are the minor chords. The F# is the diminished chord. 

A popular progression for any major key is a 1, 4, 5 progression. I, IV, V. Since we are illustrating the key of G major, the G would be the I chord, the C would be the IV chord and the D would be the V chord. If your not up on chord formula's or roman numerals, please go back and review that chapter. Check out leading to modulation part 1 and return.

I've stated throughout our lessons that every major chord has a relative minor. Each of those three major chords in the key of G and every major key has a relative or natural minor within that particular key. 

The Em scale is relative or natural to the G major scale. Am is relative or natural to the C major scale. Bm is natural or relative to the D chord. These are always the same, no matter what key. For Example, the Am is relative to C in the key of C as well.

What does this all mean? This is really one of the most important things I have to tell you. This information is worth more than you will ever know. If you understand what I have to tell you, you will be a kick ass guitar player.

Once you know the natural or relative minor scales to the major scales, playing lead guitar will be very easy to understand. I have showed  you how to play the Am pentatonic scale in every position for a reason. You should know the relative minor to every major. Each of these scales share the same notes, or key signatures. Check out key signatures to get an idea of what were talking about.

It is also very  important to know where all of the chords are on the complete fret-board. If you know where you can play the C chord in every position, then you could also play lead over those same positions. To understand what I'm saying, check out the C chords and different locations you could play the C. C chord and locations. Once you review this example, print out some blank illustrations and fill in all of the chords of the key of C major in the same fashion. By using these illustrations on a regular basis, you will master the fret-board.

Putting it all together. 

Since there are 3 major chords and three minor chords in every major key, then there must also be 3 major and 3 minor scales. We will be looking at the G major and Em pentatonic scales to start out. The progression we will be working on will be constructed for G major pentatonic. The pentatonic scale has only 5 notes. In G major the notes are:

G, A, B, D and E. The key of G major has 7 notes, G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G.

Play the G major chord. Remember what that chord sounded like. Now play the G major pentatonic scale, in the open position.


This is also the Em pentatonic scale, but since we are strumming the G chord, we will concentrate on the notes of G major. We can also use the Em pentatonic root note fret at the 12th fret. 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4 below. But once again we need to concentrate on the G note. It should sound good, because the Em is natural and share the same notes of G major. You would always try to play on the notes of the chord your playing. For example, the notes that make up the G chord are, G, B and D. You would work around those notes for the G chord. 

If we wanted to use the Em pentatonic scale for the Em chord, then we would write a progression based on the Em scale. This progression would look more like, Em, Bm, Am, Em. Or maybe, Em, D, Am, Em. The minor progressions tend to give the sadder sound compared to the major progressions that give that happy sound. I prefer the darker sadder sounds of the minors.

Guitar Fret board Em and G major pentatonic scales

Illustration 1  G major and Em pentatonic scale. 

The illustration above shows the G major pentatonic scale and notes. It also shows the Em pentatonic scale. These two scales have the same notes. G is the relative major to Em. Em is the relative minor to G major. Once again the pentatonic scale has 5 notes. Every pentatonic scale has 5 notes. For G major the notes are G, A, B, D and E. Notice that E is the 5th note. This means that in every major pentatonic scale, the 5th note will be the relative minor scale.

The notes of C major pentatonic are C, D, E, G and A. Notice that A is the 5th note. So A is the relative minor to C major. 

When you write a song, you can write it based in a major scale or a minor scale. In this lesson we will start with a major progression in the key of G major. Strum the chords, G, C and D. Now play the notes of the G major pentatonic scale below. These notes will blend in nice with these chords. These chords are right out of the key of G major. You can play all of these notes over each of the chords in the progression G C D, or you can mix in different scales as you play over each chord.

E minor and G major pentatonic scales and notes

Guitar Fret board Em and G major pentatonic scales

Illustration 2

Em pentatonic and G major pentatonic. Notice the G chord and Em chord in the Red box. G chord has the notes, G, B and D, Em has the notes, E, B and G.

If you wanted to, you could play the C major pentatonic scale over the C chord. C major pentatonic and Am pentatonic share the same notes. So recall the position of Am starting on the 12th fret or position. Go back and check out this position, also go back and check out the position at the C note 8th fret Am pentatonic scale. Strum the C chord and play from C to C using the illustration below. You can play over the C chord C, E and G, using the Am pentatonic scale below. This will allow you to play the C major pentatonic scale and the G major pentatonic scale in the same position. Of course you could jump to the 8th fret and play the C major pentatonic scale or even the 5th fret and play the Am root note fret for the C. But concentrate on the C chord and notes.

Illustration 3 The illustration to the left shows the C major pentatonic played at the 12th fret. You can use this position to play over the C chord. Notice the only note that is different between C major and G major pentatonic. It is the C and B notes. G major pentatonic has the B note and C major has the C note. The other notes are the same. Eventually you will be learning the scales and how they relate to one another. Strum the C chord and then play the E note 14th fret, G note twice at the 12th fret then back to the E note 14th fret EGGE. These notes will fit over the C chord, because they are part of the C chord. C, E and G. 

Strum the C chord again and play the same thing but use the E note 9th fret and G note 8th fret. EGGE, EGAGE, EGA (C 8th fret) AGE, GE (C 10th fret)

So you can use these positions to play over the G chord or the Em chord.  When it comes to the C chord you could stay here or play the C scale as illustrated above.

Illustration 4

C major pentatonic at the 8th fret. Same notes as above, but different location. Learn them both and memorize each position and note being played. If you moved this exact fingering two frets to the D 10th fret, it would now be D major pentatonic. You could use that position to play over the D chord. This is a must to learn because the D chord would be part of the progression and is a big part of the key of G major. D major is the 5th note of the key of G major which makes the D chord the Dominant chord in the key of G major. By the way the C chord would be the sub-dominant chord.

The Dominant chord wants to resolve to the tonic. This creates closure. The tonic would be the home note or 1st note. In the key of G, G would be the home note where everything will revolve around and come back to. Strum the C and D chords and see how they want to resolve to the G chord. When the G chord is strummed following those chords the progression has been completed or came to a final. This is why the I, IV, V progression is so popular.

Now try the same thing in the key of C major. C, D, E, F, G, A and B

The I, IV, V progression in C major would be C F and G. Strum the F and G chord and see how it resolves to the C chord. C is now the Tonic and G is the Dominant and F is the Sub-Dominant. This progression has a very strong cadence in how it resolves. 

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