How to Play Customized Two-Note-Per-String Scales

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If you’ve ever sat down to learn a scale that isn’t called the minor pentatonic scale, you’ve definitely made a few mistakes as you ascended and descended through the various positions.

The simple two-notes-per string construction of the pentatonic scale is the reason so many guitar players stop there when it comes to learning new tonalities on the instrument. It sounds good, works in a lot of musical situations and above all, it’s easy to play and remember.

In this lesson, I’ll show you how removing certain notes on each subsequent string not only preserves the character of more intricate scales like the major scale, but also allows you to get acquainted with positions that might be new to you—without you having to work too hard.

The concept is simple: remove one note per string of each scale position. If scale positions are new to you, you can learn all about them in my course Guitar Super System.

As you’ll see, this will make the scale seem a lot more familiar, both in feel and when you try to use it for improvising. The neat thing is, depending on which notes you choose to remove, you’ll still have access to the character of whatever scale you’re playing.

For those of you who are already well versed in three-note-per-string scales, though, don’t worry—I have something for you too. Take the same concept of the previous exercise where you remove a certain note of each string, but instead of sticking to only two notes on each string, insert a unison note on the following string.

I’ve found this to yield extremely unique melodies, allowing for a displaced emphasis on where I’d normally articulate a given chord tone. It’s also an extreme workout on my fingers regarding dexterity and strength, and subliminal ear training as I search for cohesive melodic statements.

Give it a try, and watch the new melodies bloom out of your fingers!

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric website Music Is Win. His entertaining guitar-related content receives hundreds of thousands of video views on Facebook per month, and his online guitar courses tout more than 1,500 students with a cumulative 4.7 rating on Udemy. Get in touch with Tyler on Facebook, watch more of his guitar lessons and vlogs on YouTube, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.