Combining Pentatonics to Play Mixolydian

Today I introduce to you George Ramsay, Co-founder and Guitar Teacher at Bold Music Lessons. George sheds light on combining pentatonics to play mixolydian.

A great example of how get the most out of your pentatonic scales. Learn and reap the benefits!


You can’t really talk about soloing on the guitar without understanding pentatonic scales. Normal, or “full” major or minor scales have seven different notes, while pentatonic scales have only 5 notes (hence “pent”).

Klaus has written extensively on this as well as the CAGED system, so I’ll let you read through some of his postings for more info on playing these scales.

Today we will look at creating the Mixolydian scale by combining some major pentatonic with its parallel minor pentatonic.

Mixolydian is used extensively when improvising over the 12 bar blues, other I-IV-V chord progressions, and more generally chord progressions featuring dominant seventh chords.

What the heck is Mixolydian?

Mixolydian is a mode, and modes are really just types of scales, much like major and minor (in fact, major is called the Ionian mode and minor is called Aeolian). Perhaps the simplest way to understand modes is to look at a major scale. Let’s look at C major, where our notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

Playing a major scale (in this case C major) but not starting or ending on C, creates our different modes. For example, the second mode, called Dorian (in this case D Dorian) would look like this: D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Similarly, the fifth mode, called Mixolydian, would have G-A-B-C-D-E-F as its notes. Notice that each of these modes consist of the same seven notes! We are just starting and ending in different places. These are modes. Read More »

Ruthless Minor Pentatonic Scales Over 3 Octaves

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The standard minor pentatonic scale is normally played over 2 octaves and stays within one position.

If you have been playing and improvising with the minor pentatonic scale for some time it’s likely that you want to break out of that one position and expand your reach on the fretboard.

You can use the minor pentatonic scale over 3 octaves for this purpose. It wil give you much more freedom and flexibility.

When you play “the pentatonic scale over 3 octaves” it means you actually play 3 pentatonic scales, one after another. Each pentatonic scale consisting of 5 notes per octave.

In the first example (the E minor pentatonic) you start on the E note, which is your root note (open low E-string). You play the first 5 notes of the scale and then arrive on the 6th note to land on the octave (7th fret A-string), which of course is also an E note. Then you play the next pentatonic scale starting from that 6th note, play the 5 notes of the pentatonic scale and arrive on the 11th note (9th fret G-string) to land on your second octave. Continue on the 11th note, play 5 notes up the scale and arrive on the 16th note for your 3rd octave.

So you can play each example as one long hell of a scale across the entire neck or treat them as 3 separate scales.

The numbers next to the notes on the staff above the tablature indicate the finger placement of your left hand (assuming you play right-handed). 1 = index finger, 2 = middle finger, 3 = ring finger, 4 = pinky.

The first example, the “E minor pentatonic over 3 octaves” is commonly used to take the standard pentatonic scale to the next step. It’s also the most comfortable and easiest one to play. The other two (A minor and G minor) are a little bit more challenging but definitely worth the effort. Practice pays off!

Tip: Each scale can be played in different keys by moving the entire scale up or down the fretboard. If you want to move “the E minor pentatonic” up a half step to the key of F you need to move up the entire scale 1 fret higher. So the first 4 notes on the 6th string: “0 3 5 7″ now become “1 4 6 8″. Moving every note of that scale up a half step (1 fret) and you’re playing F minor pentatonic. If you move up the scale a whole step (2 frets) you’re playing F# minor pentatonic and so on.

- Play each 3 octave scale ascending and descending.
- Memorize how to play each 3 octave scale.
- Play the scales with a metronome. Start slow and gradually build up speed.
- Play the scales in different keys.
- Play the 3 smaller pentatonic scales that make up the big “3 octave scale” separately, from root to octave, ascending and descending.

Have a blast! Read More »

8 Reasons Why Learning The Blues is So Important

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My oldest brother introduced me to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was hooked instantly. I soon took up the guitar and started taking lessons.

Although I was happy in the beginning playing and singing songs by Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, The Beatles and Springsteen, what I really wanted was to learn those beautiful bluesy solos that came from Stevie’s fingers and strings. It took another couple of years before I found the right teacher to teach me those skills. The blues has always been a major influence on my playing ever since.

Whatever you’re playing, whether it’s country, folk, alternative, rock, pop music or jazz it’s always great to combine these and other styles with blues elements or to lean on your blues vocabulary and skills whenever you need it.

There’s also something about the pentatonic / blues scale that no other scale has in store. It’s that raw, crying, heart aching, but also earthy, soulful, honest sound that really comes alive through playing the blues.

Now if that hasn’t convinced you to pick up your guitar and dive into the world of blues, you might want to know what reasons are so important that you do so.

Check it out: Read More »

50 of The Greatest Guitar Riffs of all Time

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There’s something about playing guitar riffs. Creating that cool sound with your own bare fingers while sliding down and bending up those strings feels just like pure magic. Ain’t nothing like it.

Also the excitement of learning and eventually mastering a challenging riff is unbelievably fulfilling.

Let alone playing that riff with a real band will give you a true adrenaline rush. Yes that’s why we love to play riffs.

A little while ago I created a list with “50 of The Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time”. After that I got a lot of requests for a “Greatest Riffs of all Time” list. And I thought ‘yeah why not?’ So here you are.

As most of you know the lists on Guitarhabits are in no particular order and they are never complete. The lists are here to inspire and to motivate.

You might discover a riff or song on the list that you haven’t thought of before and would really like to learn. Maybe you’ll get some new ideas for practice or encounter a “mustknowriff” for your repertoire. It’s all here.

I was thinking about my personal favorite and it’s just too hard to choose only one. There are too many brilliant creations and all unique in their own way. I love the simplicity of “highway to hell”, the beautiful, mysterious, wah wah riff of “Voodoo child”, I have a weak spot for almost every guitar riff by John Frusciante or Slash and not to mention the zillion riffs that aren’t even on the list. Thank god it never stops.

Enjoy the list! Read More »

How to Hold a Guitar – Proper Posture and Hand Positioning

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I first got briefly introduced with proper posture and good practice habits by Al Di Meola’s chords, scales and arpeggios book. For me he is just one of the coolest guitar dudes on the planet, so what he wrote in the book was a good place to start with.

Proper guitar posture is not something every guitar player is aware of or takes seriously.

That’s because improper posture and bad habits will not immediately result in injuries.

But over the long term guitar players can get back, shoulder, neck, elbow, arm and wrist pains, RSI (repetitive strain injuries), tendonitis, CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and other nasty side effects.

This is certainly not every guitar player’s destiny, but it’s not out of the question either. But there’s good news! Proper posture can prevent a lot of these injuries and it makes guitar playing easier and more pleasant.

A good hand positioning is here also really important to learn to play effectively and properly. Every detail makes all the difference in the world.

Let’s take a closer look: Read More »

The 5 Major Scale CAGED Shapes – Positions

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If you know how to play the major scale in one position and you’re ready to learn to play it all over the fretboard then this lesson is the next step.

If you haven’t played the major scale before you might wanna check out this post first The Two Most Important Scales in Western Music

The major scale is the mother of all scales and your reference point for all other scales. That’s why it’s so important to master all of these five scale shapes.

The five C-A-G-E-D scale shapes (C shape, A shape, G shape, E shape and D shape) surround the entire fretboard. The “shapes” are sometimes also referred to as “positions”. In this post we use the G major scale as an example. So all five scale shapes (see below) are G major scale.

You can apply these scale shapes to all 12 keys by simply moving the shapes up or down the fretboard. For example: If you move the five shapes up a whole step (2 frets) then all the shapes are in the key of A, so you have five A major scale shapes.

The five scale shapes are derived from the CAGED system. If you’re not sure what the CAGED system is all about check out: What is The CAGED System? (The Keys to The Fretboard)

Each scale shape is related to a chord shape and surrounds that chord shape so you can easily identify the name of each scale shape. In each diagram below you can see the scale shape and the chord shape (made up of the red and green dots) that is surrounded by the scale shape.

If you look at the diagrams, play each scale shape starting from the lowest root note (the red note) then play all the way up (ascending) to the last note on the high E-string, then play all the way down (descending) to the first note on the low E-string and then play up again to the first root note you’ll hit upon. The tablature shows you how to play each scale shape ascending and descending.


- Practice the scale shapes with a pick using alternate picking technique (down, up, down, up, etc.)
- Practice slowly first and make sure each note sounds clean and clear.
- Try to visualize the chord shape in each scale shape.
- Make sure you can play each scale shape thoroughly before moving on to the next.
- Be patient and persistent, it takes some time to get them all under your belt.
- Repetition and regular practice is the key to success!

Have fun!
Read More »

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