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E minor Type Guitar Scales

E minor Pentatonic Frame One

e minor pentatonic on a grid

Practice this scale slowly, focusing on picking & timing. The E minor Pentatonic scale has 5 tones: E G A B D. [This scale is also G Major Pentatonic - G A B D E]. Penta- = 5, -tonic = tones. Penta + tonic = 5 tones.

It isn't possible to play all of the tones on a grid at once (opens & fretted). So, when we see a grid as shown above, scattered with many tones, it is a scale frame, or a collection of tones that we can use in a number of ways (play as a scale, build chords or arpeggios). When we see this type of grid, we can assume that it is a scale frame. How we interpret the grid is shown next in tablature.


A fixed position guitar scale means that we don't shift, rather we stay in one position while playing all of the tones of the scale (rather than shifting). In first position, we use 2's & 3's to play the tones. In second position, we use 1's & 2's to play the tones. We try it both ways to determine which suits us best.

E minor Pentatonic in Tab

e minor pentatonic in tablature

Play through the scale above academically [in order, as written]. Prepare for the next tone in both the picking and fretting hand. Think ahead.

If played in P1, we use the 2 and 3 fingers. If in P2, the 1's and 2's.

Jam Audio Tracks for Improvising


E minor 12 bar: (4 beats each) : Em Em Em Em | Am Am Em Em | Bm Am Em Bm


E minor Strumming Form = V C V C Tag : Verse: Em C Am C D | Chorus: G Bm C C | Tag: Em C


Once we have this down 'academically' (in order), we try some figures & experiment with 'being melodic'. Try these melodic figures from the Em pentatonic scale. Experiment. We make up some of our own. No particular rhythm!

e minor pentatonic melodic ideas

Use the audio file to improvise. It will work best at first to stay on the treble strings (E, B, & G). Try playing just one of the tones for a whole round of the progressions. We can also repeat tones, & use slurs (pulls, hammers, slides, bends, & vibrato).

Experiment with trying different combinations of tones against the chords. Even playing double stops & triple stops in as many combinations as possible.

We are studying how tones interact with other tones, & developing our melodic hearing & memory. We might be surprised by what emerges. We don't judge, rather focus on a tonal flow with listening awareness. Listen for tension & resolution. Push & pull against the audio.

E Blues

e blues guitar scale

By adding the B-flat to the E minor Pentatonic scale, we create the E Blues scale. This is a good example of modifying or adding something to a known scale to create another type. The B-flat acts as a passing tone when we are using it for soloing over E minor type progressions. And, this scale could be called E minor blues, since it has a flat-3rd.

The Cascade

These E minor scales all begin on the open high e string. All three examples are identical tones, just different ways to the bottom.

The tones in this scale are is E F# G A B C D E- E Natural minor, also known as the Aeolian Mode. It's formula is R 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. We can play the following scales in triplets or any rhythm we hear.

e minor guitar scale, example 1

Stated Rule

Let everything ring as long as possible, including fretted tones (hold on to every fretted tone as long as possible).

This is a very important 'rule' in guitar. It creates layers of sustain, plus rhythmic effects that help us create style. When and how we let go of a tone is as important as pressing it.

Another Example

e minor guitar scale, example 1

And Another

e minor guitar scale, example 1

Remember, let everything ring as long as possible. Try not to disturb a vibrating string. Also, the slurs are optional.

There are other ways to 'get down' the scale.We could mix areas of the neck (tones from the above examples) to get other possibilities for E minor.

Final word on the term cross stringing. Cross stringing typically refers to these types of scales in this lesson, where we have groups of tones which could be played on a single string (in a row of steps), yet we use multiple strings that they can ring against one another. In the Baroque era (1600-1750 CE), this would sometimes be called campanellas (bells).

In this way (using cross stringing), we are creating chordal sounds using scales. Thus, blurring the line between harmony and melody.

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