Unlocking the Neck: part 2

In part two of this post series we will examine unlocking the neck using the A minor scale on the B or 2nd string.

As I said last time, “Most guitar players know the minor pentatonic box very well.” With that in mind, wouldn’t it be cool to know the neck really well and play parts that are literally outside the box? This article is for that purpose. Busting out of the pentatonic box. Hopefully some of you checked out part one which deals with the A minor scale on the high E string. It’s important to try and write these down on paper for reference so you can begin to memorize them and see the natural patterns on the neck. If there are questions, please reference Unlocking the Neck: part 1.

I explained the scale in part one, but lets review since its useful none the less. The pentatonic scale is made up of 5 notes, which is why penta is used. Penta means 5. The natural minor scale is made up of 7 notes. They include the minor pentatonic’s 5 notes but also include 2 more. For example, A minor.

A minor pentatonic is A C D E G
A natural minor is A B C D E F G

So the only difference between the two scales is an added B or 2nd and F or 6th.

Lets move on to the B string:

B —– 0 1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13 15 17 18 20

Just like last time, I want you to do the following and practice sequences ascending up and then down the neck as follows: FOUR TIMES EACH. And please, use alternate picking!

B —- 0 1 3 (4 times)
1 3 5 (4 times)
3 5 6 (4 times)
5 6 8 (4 times)
6 8 10 (4 times)
8 10 12 (4 times)
10 12 13 (4 times)
12 13 15 (4 times)
13 15 17 (4 times)
15 17 18 (4 times)
17 18 20 (4 times)

Now you descend the neck:

20 18 17 (4 times)
18 17 15 (4 times)
17 15 13 (4 times)
15 13 12 (4times)
13 12 10 (4 times)
12 10 8 (4 times)

Now if you remember the high E string, you have the following mapped out on the neck:

E– 0 1 3 5 7 8 10 12 13 15 17 19 20
B– 0 1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13 15 17 18 20

What I would recommend for you to do is ascend on the high E string and then descend on the B string in the patterns of three I showed above. Then once that becomes familiar I would reverse it and ascend on the B string and descend on the E string. What you will want to do is become totally comfortable moving around the neck and feeling as well as hearing the scale. Developing a good ear is incredibly important and useful when playing with a band, doing session work or just looking to play a melody that you may hear on the radio or in your head when you’re inspired. Another cool idea is to do patterns of 6 up and down the neck. This would be a typical three notes per string climb and then descend.

E– 0 1 3 1 3 5 3 5 7 5 7 8
7 8 10 8 10 12 10 12 13 12
13 15…..
B– 0 1 3 1 3 5 3 5 6 5 6 8 6 8 10
8 10 12 10 12 13 12 13 15

Now get that moving in 16th notes with a metronome at 140bpm and you will have an insane workout to strengthen your fingers and at the same time begin to see how the neck is a lot more than your typical pentatonic scale. Last but not least, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!!!

  • I can’t wait for part 3! This is really helping me work them fingers, thanks Brian.

  • vivoman

    Hi,
    Sorry for sounding dim,in the paragraph saying “Another cool idea is to do patterns of 6 up and down the neck”. Would you as an example E– 0 1 3 1 3 5 3 5 7 5 7 8
    start on 0 1 3 1 3 5 and the next pattern of 6 on the 3 5 7 5 7 8
    Thanks the dim guitarist

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