Here are some exercises that will help build your proficiency shifting up and down the neck between scale positions. When you learn to move easily up and down the guitar’s neck you give yourself a new dimension to develop solos and improvisations.
E Minor Pentatonic Scale on 1st and 2nd Strings
In this first exercise you’re going to walk up the neck and back down again on the first and second strings using four-note groups from the E minor pentatonic scale. Use your third or fourth finger for the notes on the second string and each time the note on that string changes slide it up to the new position. Going down, use the same finger and slide down. Use alternate picking for this exercise, you can start on either a down or an up stroke (or even do both).
D Minor Pentatonic Scale on 3rd and 4th Strings
Here’s another variant, this time using D minor pentatonic. This time we’re going to explore a different fingering to shift up the neck. Each time you complete one four-note box with a note on the 3rd string shift your hand up and play the next note on the 4th string with your first finger. Again, use alternate picking throughout.
A Minor Pentatonic Scale on 2nd and 3rd Strings
Notice in this exercise on the 2nd and 3rd strings that the four-note boxes have different shapes because the guitar is tuned to a major third between these strings instead of a fourth elsewhere. You can use either of the previous techniques – or both – to shift up or down between positions.
When you learn to move horizontally along the neck you will free yourself from the slavery of single position licks, and you can play intervals and lines that are impossible or inconvenient in a single position.
Work through all these exercises slowly and focus on clean and precise shifts from one position to the next. It’s also a good idea to call out the note names or scale degrees as you play each note; this will help you keep track of where you are in the scale. Try to visualize, too, each of the five pentatonic minor scale positions as you pass through them.
I’ll be developing these exercises further in the coming weeks. Don’t forget to subscribe to the feed (it’s free) using the link below if you’d like to follow along.