In this guitar lesson we will be learning a pentatonic exercise that will help you develop strength and dexterity in your left hand. In order to play this exercise you should probably know all five pentatonic scale shapes. It is not absolutely necessary that you know all five pentatonic shapes but it will make learning the exercise a lot easier. Don’t worry too much if you don’t know your five pentatonic shapes. Just learn the exercise from the tab and use it to build up your left hand strength. We have provided you with the notation and tab for this exercise.
You can think of the example in this lesson as being in the key of C major or A minor.
The idea behind this exercise is to play a pattern, or sequence of notes, using just the first and second strings. Once you learn the pattern of notes, all that you have to do is move up to the next pentatonic shape in the key and play the same pattern.
Pay particular attention to the picking on the right hand. One thing that makes this exercise such a great workout for your left hand is the combination of picking, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
Let’s take a look at the pattern with the first pentatonic shape. Start of by playing the 3rd fret of your B string with your 2nd finger. You should be using a down-stroke with your picking hand. Hammer-on to the 5th fret with your 4th finger. Go over the 1st string and play the 3rd fret with your 2nd finger. Don’t forget to use an up-stroke. Play the 5th fret of the B string again with your 4th finger using a down-stroke.
This next bit is the tricky part of this pattern. You have to rock your 4th finger over to grab the 5th fret of the 1st string right after you’ve just played the 5th fret of the 2nd string. You should play this note with an up-stroke. This can be difficult if you have never played anything like this before. Slow this part down and practice “rolling” your 4th finger back and forth between the 5th fret of the 2nd string and the 5th fret of the first string.
Now pull off from the 5th fret of the 1st string to the 3rd fret. You should play this note with your 2nd finger. Use a down-stroke to play the 5th fret of the B string with your 4th finger and finish off the pattern by using an up-stroke to play the 3rd fret of the B string with your 2nd finger.
The picking, hammer-ons, and pull-offs stay the same when you move up the fretboard, but the shapes that you will be using with your left hand change a bit.
This exercise is a great way to help you start playing up and down the fretboard instead of just playing one pentatonic scale shape. Once you get this exercise down, you can start to make up your own patterns. Just take the patterns you make up and move them up and down the fretboard through each pentatonic scale shape.
Like scales, this exercise is movable. That just means that you don’t have to start on a certain fret number. You can start this exercise anywhere and it will just change what key you are in. Try moving this exercise around to see if you can play it in other keys.