Spice up your Pentatonic Licks with 2 notes! *FREE LESSON*

It’s very easy to get stuck playing the same old patterns and licks as a guitar player. Here I’m going to show you two very simple ways of adding extra ‘flavour’ (or whatever you want to call it) to your pentatonic licks.

As long as you have a basic knowledge of the minor pentatonic scale, you should be able to follow along just fine. These licks are based around the Cm pentatonic ‘box’ shape – the most common one. It’s well worth checking out the other five shapes too, as they can really open up your creative thinking… but that’s for another time!

STEP 1 – ‘BASE LICK’

Here’s one example of what I’m talking about. We start out with a ‘base lick’. It’s a fairly simple lick I’ve come up with using only notes from the Cm pentatonic scale. (No extra notes just yet!)

 

Base Lick

It already sounds pretty cool, and goes to show that just using this 5 note scale can be enough to come up with some great ideas. However you may want to take it a little further…

STEP 2 – ‘ADD THE BLUES’

The most common way of adding flavour to your pentatonic licks is by adding ‘the blues note‘. Yes it’s actually called that! In theory terms it’s simply adding the flattened 5th. Our scale has now gone from

Cm Pentatonic: R b3 4 5 b7   (C Eb F G Bb)

to

C Blues: R b3 4 b5 5 b7          (C Eb F Gb G Bb)

We now have an extra note to play with. In the second lick below I’ve added/ substituted a couple of instances of the blues note (highlighted by the blue arrows). Hopefully you can all hear it has a bit more of a bluesy vibe about it.

 

Add The Blues

 

I also incorporated another simple but effective bluesy ‘trick’ here, by bending the last note of bar 1 up a semitone (from Eb to E). By doing that we are playing with the tonality of the lick, bending from a minor 3rd (Eb) to a major 3rd (E). It’s an extremely common and easy technique to deploy and can instantly give your licks a lift if they’re feeling a little bit flat.

Let’s take it one final step further.

STEP 3 – ‘DORIAN FTW!’

We’re going to add a little ‘modal’ theory. DON”T RUN AWAY!! This is super simple and when used in the right places will sound absolutely great.

Here we go, Lick 3.

 

Dorian FTW

In fact there’s only one note difference between licks 2 and 3. Hopefully you can hear it in bar 3 over the F7 chord.

I’ll try to keep the explanation behind this as simple as I can. If you want to look into modes further there’s already a tonne of material out there and it’s a big topic to cover.

The note I’ve added here is A.

Our scale has now become a bit of a hybrid of the blues scale and the dorian mode (more on this in a minute):

R b3 4 b5 5 6 b7                       (C Eb F Gb G A Bb)

The Dorian mode is the second mode of the major scale. There are lots of ways to approach thinking about the modes but for simplicity here, let’s think of the Dorian mode as the natural minor scale with a raised 6th. This defining note (the major 6th, or A), is the one we’ve stolen and placed into our blues scale. It works fantastically well over the F7 chord because A is a ‘chord tone’ of F7.

Essentially, anytime you come across chord IV in a blues progression (in this case our F7 chord) it’s a fantastic time to deploy that dorian note for some killer flavour!

 

I hope you all enjoyed that little lesson, and hopefully it’ll inspire you to get more mileage out of any stale licks you have knocking around. Please feel free to comment below with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer. Remember to check out my video lessons on the site, and please SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

Enjoy those new found tasty licks!

James