Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guitar Workshop: Embellishing the Pentatonic Scale

It was a night shortly before Christmas, when the Southwest Airlines flight touched down at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I had only my carry-on bag, and my Fernandes Nomad traveling guitar. I was sitting on the bench near the front entrance, getting caught up on a few new tricks, when Aunt Shirley pulled up with the car. After four and a half decades, the guitar has been my most constant and faithful companion. She never lets me down, and she's always there if I leave her for a spell, even when I'm gone for a spell.

How could I ever give that up, even as an adult?

You remember how, two weeks ago, we introduced the Pentatonic Scale as part of our regular Thursday midday Guitar Workshop series. We also provided a source for more detailed tutorials, including an example of a hit song where the introductory skills would be applied. Hopefully you've had a chance to practice -- 20 to 30 minutes a day is better than two hours one day a week, all other things being equal -- because we're taking you to the next level. But just in case, you may wish to keep the previous lesson handy, by clicking here.

Our instructor makes reference to musical terminology, which some players who only know how to "sight read" may find intimidating, or just confusing. If this applies to you, ignore it. Don't let yourself think you have to know what to call it for now. You can look it up in Wikipedia some other time. Just concentrate on the instrument itself, and let the instructor guide you through the motions. This is supposed to be fun, remember?

Once again, we have to stress the importance of practicing every single day. A short daily session is always better than a long bi-weekly session, all other things being equal. For our purposes here, the tutorial itself gives you an idea of how to start. Simply go up and down the scale several times, then move the left hand to a higher position, and go up and down several times again. If you've ever sung for the parish choir, they start out the same way, with the scales. It's no different here. When I lived in Georgetown years ago, I hung part of my antique collection on the wall, including a 1930s-vintage Bradley Kincaid "Hound Dog" that I still treasure today. It was always good for the occasional "gut bucket" tune.

Toward the end of each clip here, you will be referred to the advanced lesson for a tune by Los Lonely Boys, which applies what you've learned. If you want to know more, and see the full range of complete lessons, go to the website at

And use what you got, 'cuz you already got a lot.

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