Connecting Chords to a Scale
Chords and scales do not have to be two different worlds.
Often, beginner guitar players think of playing chords and scales as two different worlds.
If you’re the chord type then maybe you have a hard time memorizing scales, or don’t see the value in them, maybe you don’t know how cool it can be to apply them.
If you’re the scale type maybe you like the melodic aspect of scales or repeating the same chord progression over and over with no variation isn’t your idea of a good time.
I’d like to offer an approach that may help with any or all of these scenarios.
With students I always try to relate anything new that they’re learning to something that they already know. If you’ve been playing the guitar for a little while you probably know the A minor chord, I’m going to show you how to play the A minor pentatonic scale around the A minor chord. Since the A minor chord has one note per string, learning the scale involves adding only one extra note to each string.
"Guitar chords & guitar scales do not have to be two different worlds."
Here’s a reminder of the fingering for the A minor chord.
Fifth string open
Fourth string, middle finger on the 2nd fret
Third string, ring finger on the second fret
Second string, index on the first fret
Open first string
You can also play the open sixth string.
(We teach this chord along with E minor and D minor in the Rock Prodigy lesson number 17).
A Minor Pentatonic scale: The nice thing about the pentatonic scale is that it has two notes per string. Here’s a reminder of the A minor Pentatonic Scale in open position:From the low E string
Play the E string open followed by the 3rd fret
A string open followed by the 3rd fret.
D string open followed by the 2nd fret.
G string open followed by the 2nd fret.
B string 1st fret followed by the 3rd fret.
And the high E string open followed by the 3rd fret.
The great thing is that all the notes of the A minor chord are in the pentatonic scale. Yay!
Try this: Play an A minor chord. Now going from the thick E string to the thin E string we’ll add the note that is in the A minor pentatonic scale.
Open thick E is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
Open A string is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
2nd fret of the D string is in the chord, open D string is in the scale
2nd fret of the G string is in the chord, open G string is in the scale
1st fret of the B string is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
Open thin E is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
NOW THE FUN BEGINS
Putting it to music: Now that we’ve covered the A minor pentatonic scale and how it relates to a common chord shape let’s go over a couple ways to make use of it. Instead of playing the whole scale from the lowest to highest note, stick to one register.
Play with the open chord and the pentatonic notes on the low E and A strings to create riffs.
Play with the open chord and add the pentatonic notes on the high E and B strings to add fills and melody to your rhythm playing. You don’t even have to lift up the chord, just add your pinky!
Give the chord a full measure of four beats and the scale a full measure of four beats. Then when you are comfortable with it try to do fractions of the bar.
FOR THE ADVENTUROUS TYPE
Bonus: Add articulations to create color.
Mix Strumming the chord, picking a string or two and hammering on or pulling off between chord tones and pentatonic scale notes.
Bend the pentatonic note on the 3rd fret of the B string up a whole step (it will become the same note as the open E string!)
Bend either of the E string 3rd fret pentatonic notes up a whole step (it will become an A note which is a chord tone!)
This scale is also married to the C major chord. Try these tools out by combining this pentatonic pattern with the C major chord.
There are two more chords that are related to this scale which are Dsus and Gsus.
WRAPPING IT UP
So there is some food for thought, and if you have any questions just post a comment.
Ready for something more advanced? Check out other chords and pentatonic scales here.
By Mike Georgia for rockprodigy.com