Today we are going to learn 3 common pentatonic guitar licks you know and love! These licks are ones you have definitely heard from a vast array of guitar players who use these licks all the time, in different solos, different songs, even just different placements of the licks. It’s really cool to hear how different players may use the same lick, but make it sound different just because they’re style and feel is different, or seeing their different takes on the same or similar licks. These are 3 licks that you should be able to grab right away, there will also be tabs below to help you follow along. Also if you are worried about your knowledge of the pentatonic scale and the different patterns and might need to review them, be sure to check out video 1 of our 3 part series, Ultimate Pentatonic Roadmap, the pentatonic boxes part 1. All three videos would be great to view in addition to this, but part one is extremely important since it is an in depth look at all five patterns.
Our first of three pentatonic guitar licks, starts off with descending sixes. Using the E minor pentatonic scale, box 1. Which is 6th string 12th to 15th fret using your pointer to pinky, on the 5th, 4th and 3rd strings play the 12th to 14th fret using your pointer to ring finger, and on the 2nd and 1st strings play the 12th to 15th frets using your pointer to pinky.Descending six’s means we are just going down 6 notes at a time. Starting on the 15th fret 1st string, to the 12th fret, then on the 2nd string play the 15th fret to the 12th, and then on the 3rd string the 14th fret to the 12th. For the next group of six we just go back down one string. So now picking the 15th fret to the 12th on the 2nd strings, to the 3rd string 14th fret to 12th, to the 4th string 14th fret to the 12th. Then again going back down one string, now starting on the 3rd string picking the 14th and 12th frets, and you will actually play the same frets on both the 4th and 5th strings, all playing the 14th fret to the 12th fret. Then back to the 4th string picking the 14th to 12th frets, to the 5th string 14th to 12th frets, to the 6th string 15th fret to the 12th fret. And you just keep doing that pattern, you go down 6 notes, then simply just start over but one string higher than before. So down 3, up 1, down 3, up 1 etc. This has a really aggressive sound to it, Zakk Wylde does this style of picking pentatonic scales a lot, and he is definitely the master of it. Check out almost any of his solos and you will find one. A great person to learn these licks from and take notes on why his sound so good and stand out.
Lick two is a very easy one! But it’s also one of those really cool ones, especially if you’re using a wah or something you can create a lot of cool dynamics and builds with it. So again it is very simple. We are in that same pentatonic box and position, starting by hammering on from the12th fret 2nd string to the 15th fret 2nd string and then pulling off back to the 12th fret still on the 2nd string, of course. Play that part using your pointer and ring finger, then go to the 14th fret on the 3rd string with your middle finger to grab that note and then just repeat! You can play this one and really build up speed..gradually as part of the lick or even just as an exercise or speed builder. It’s also good to practice moving this around and playing it in different positions, different keys, and even on different strings.
Lick number 3 gives you this really nice building sound, kind of similar to lick 2 but this is a different way to apply it. This lick is played only on two strings, and has this really cool aggressive sound to it. This lick also has that Zakk Wylde feel and inspiration behind it. All still in E Minor starting off by picking the 7th fret to 9th fret on the 4th string, then picking the 7th fret to 9th fret on the 3rd string. Robert is using his neck pickup which gives his tone a little bit of a warmer sound. Then pick the 9th fret to the 12th fret on the 4th string, to the 9th fret to the 12th on the 3rd string. We started in pentatonic box 4, then moved to pentatonic box 5, and now we are in box 1 and now picking the 4th string 12th fret to 14th fret, and the 3rd string 12th fret to 14th fret. So far they have all been identical frets played on the 4th and 3rd strings. But now in box 2 that changes. On the 4th string pick the 14th to 17th frets, and then on the 3rd string pick the 14th to 16th frets. Then for box 3 on the 4th string play the 15th fret to the 17th fret, and on the 3rd string play the 14th to 17th fret. Then end by going up to the 19th fret 3rd string and just adding some vibrato to that note, which is our root note. Then you can mess around with this idea and descend this lick, lots of different ways you can apply this lick all over the place. You can do it on your top 2 strings, the 2nd and 1st strings, or your 6th and 5th strings. It’s really good to learn this licks the way Robert shows them to you but also to practice playing them in different ways and really understanding and knowing them inside and out. You may even stumble across a unique version you have never heard before or a combo you love and want to throw in your own solos and improvising repertoire and box or tricks!
I hope you enjoyed this lesson on 3 very common pentatonic guitar licks. These licks are really versatile and easy to move into different keys if you want to. It’s always nice to have a little arsenal of these licks to have to just throw into your own playing, even if you just need a minute while improvising or playing a fill to think of what you’re going to play next. So again pay attention to detail, learn the scale forwards and backwards, definitely play these licks slow before you play them fast and then try to move them all over the beck and be able to play them upside down and inside out, and of course, as always, have fun!