I hear that from students often. It usually goes something like this, “I already know my pentatonics and am tired of just bluesy licks, so I need to learn other scales.” Now, it’s true we all need to learn other scales besides just pentatonics. However, when students are “bored” with their pentatonic licks it’s usually because they have not exhausted all the cool things they could do with the pentatonic scale.
Within our old friend the minor pentatonic scale there are all sorts of treasures waiting to be found. You just have to dig through the blues licks to find them. Most players just stop at the blues licks since that is usually the first “soloing” experience they have. But you can find lots of arpeggios, interesting double stops, and of course string-skipping shapes and larger intervals there for the taking.
One way to open up your minor-pentatonic thinking is to work on some things where you are not just playing straight up and down the scale. It’s easy to fall into that trap. For starters that is usually the first scale you learn and you spend a good amount of time just playing up and down it. Then you start learning many of the “standard” blues licks, which are often just a series of notes up the scale…then back down the scale.
So let’s look at a couple of licks from the A minor pentatonic scale, which are really nice patterns where you are not playing up the notes in sequential order. Once you get this kind of playing down, it can really spice up the sounds you get from any scale, and especially give you some more depth with your “same old” pentatonic scales.
While you could play these with economy picking or even hybrid picking, I want you to do them with alternate picking (down, up, down, up). This will also help build up your picking. Start out working them slowly, but gradually putting some speed into these lines will make them sound pretty cool.
Try using similar ideas to build your own licks within the minor pentatonic scale. It will help you sound like you have learned a whole bunch of new scales!