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A Guide to Pentatonic Slides

Learn one of the best ways to transition up and down the neck on the fly.

In this lesson, I’ll be demonstrating one of the best ways to transition up and down the neck on the fly.

I frequently utilize this technique because it’s easy to play fast and expand into many complex riffs and ideas.

The premise of this lesson is based on visualizing the pentatonic scale on one string and expanding it into two-, three- or four-note patterns using adjacent strings.

Let’s start with its most basic form in EXAMPLE 1.

EXAMPLE 1 is based on a descending D minor pentatonic scale on the B string. I play a pattern off of every note in the scale—two frets higher on the E string. Then I use my first finger to slide on the B string to the next note in the D minor pentatonic scale. This creates a cascading effect and keeps the fingering very simple. To complete this example, I add a pattern off the Bb on the 11th fret to give it some more color. Be sure to memorize this scale pattern before moving on the next examples.

For EXAMPLE 2, I play the same pattern and scale, but in a different sequence. This time, the sequence is down two notes in the scale followed by one note up in the scale. This adds to the cascading sound of this technique and creates a great effect with minimal effort from your left hand.

EXAMPLE 3 is nearly identical to EXAMPLE 2, just moved to the D and G strings. Be sure to use the same fingering as the prior examples. Once you have this example down, try moving it down two frets to the E and A strings.

EXAMPLE 4 is where things start to get interesting. For this example, utilize the pattern EXAMPLE 2, but double up the highest note of every pattern with its lower octave on the G string. This creates a three-note sweep pattern. The trick to keeping this simple is only thinking about the note you’re playing on the B string. Stick to the original scale pattern and you’ll have this lick down in no time.

Moving on to our final example, EXAMPLE 5 takes this concept a step further and expands it into a four-note sweep pattern. This is accomplished by doubling up both notes of our original pattern with their lower octaves on the D and G strings. To take this lick to another level, really try to accentuate the slides between positions. By accenting the slides, it will sound cleaner and more modern.

This one string scale approach can be used in all types of musical contexts. I tend to use it in solos, but I’ve found it works just as well on the lower strings for writing riffs. I hope these licks spark some creative ideas for you and open some new doors in your playing. Keep shredding! Cheers!

Tab and Blog available at Engineered by Alex Kaye at Rustbelt Studios, Detroit, MI.

Sammy Boller is a guitarist from Detroit, MI. His debut instrumental record will be released later this year. To contact Sammy or ask him a question, email him at or follow him on Instagram @sammyboller



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Our brand-new tuition series will teach you how to become a better blues-guitar player, but you won’t get anywhere without an understanding of the basics. Join us as we teach you how to truly get to grips with that most essential of blues concepts: the 12-bar…


Eric Clapton is so synonymous with the chord progression, the recent documentary about him was titled 'Life In 12 Bars'. Credit: Getty Images

Eric Clapton is so synonymous with the chord progression, the recent documentary about him was titled 'Life In 12 Bars'. Credit: Getty Images

If you’re a fan of the blues and play the guitar – let’s face it, that’s most of us – you’ll have almost certainly heard the term ‘12-bar blues’. But what exactly is it? The 12-bar is a chord progression, and its cycling pattern is the heart and soul of blues music. Most blues guitarists through the ages have leaned on this 12-bar concept to create the backbone for their songs, and everyone from Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to BB King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan have used it as a foundation upon which to build their hits.

The blues in its most familiar form only requires three chords. As with most theoretical ideas in music, we’ll be calling on the major scale to give us the chords to work with. This lesson will be in the key of A, so we’ll be using the A major scale to obtain the chords we need. What we’re looking for here is to pull out the three chords that give the blues its familiar, repeating progression.


You may have heard of this term before, but what we’re going to play is also known as the ‘I-IV-V’ chord progression. In our case, as we’re in the key of A, it will be:


If we want to play a blues in the key of A, all we need are these chords. Using the interval number, the chords will fit into our 12-bar structure as follows. This will be the structure for not only this lesson, but the roadmap to everything you will see on your blues journey:


If we apply the I, IV and V chords we took from the major scale earlier in the lesson, we can populate our 12-bar chart as follows:


This 12-bar progression now forms our blues track. You can repeat that progression as you see fit, with whatever rhythmic and chordal choices you feel appropriate. The 12-bar blues is a very open-ended style of playing: once you know the formula, you’ll be able to adapt it in many different ways by changing the rhythm, substituting chords for other chord types and embellishing the rhythmic parts with lead accompaniments.

To get a feel for the progression, take the chords you find (in the case of this lesson, A, D and E) and play them as either major chords or just power chords.

Keep the rhythm simple, play in 4/4 time and play one strum per beat. This will help you get a feel for the pattern and how it moves through the different chord changes. Even playing it with simplified rhythms should instil the familiar sound of the blues in your ears.

Muddy Waters creatively extended the 12-bar-blues formula. His version of Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ is an example of a 16-bar blues. Credit: Getty Images

Muddy Waters creatively extended the 12-bar-blues formula. His version of Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ is an example of a 16-bar blues. Credit: Getty Images

Try it for yourself

To put this into practice, try to find your I, IV and V chords in other keys. In the next lesson, we’ll start to look at the rhythms commonly found in blues music, and then put it all together to turn these three chords into a fully fledged blues track!

About the author: Leigh Fuge is a guitar teacher and professional musician from Swansea in the UK with over 10 years of experience. He’s taught hundreds of students face-to-face and via the MGR Music platform. To find a qualified guitar tutor in your area, visit

Tips on Creating a Guitar Practice Schedule

Learn how to mold your practice routine to fit your specific playing needs.


How would you respond to this question: “What’s the hardest thing you know on guitar?”

Some people might whip out their flashiest sweep-picking lick. Others may show off their slickest two-handed tapping pattern. Those are both valid replies, but when I was asked that question by one of my Guitar Super System students, I had a different answer.

The hardest thing I know on guitar is how to practice. This skill didn’t come overnight, but it’s something I consider to be the hardest learnings to absorb as a guitar player. We’ve all done it—we sit down to run our scales, but after about three minutes, we’re on YouTube looking up a sick metal backing track to solo over.

There’s no shame in this; in fact, it’s necessary to let loose from time to time and enjoy yourself on your instrument. The key is learning to channel that urge to shred and keep it from interfering with progress. The skill and discipline of practicing proficiently is vital to your continued development as a guitar player, so in this lesson, I’ll outline how I recommend you create a guitar practice schedule. My approach consists of customizable elements that allow you to cater the routine to your own musical goals, because there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. This layout is a based on the philosophies of guitar lords like Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert, as well as what I’ve seen be most effective for students in my experience as a guitar teacher.

STEP ONE is deciding how much time you’ll commit to practicing each day. It’s highly encouraged that you practice every single day, but the most important thing is dedicating an allotted amount of minutes or hours to a consistent schedule. If you falter from the routine, you won’t improve nearly as quickly. For the purpose of this lesson, let’s say you choose an hour and a half of practice time per day.

STEP TWO is to then break that time into categories of practice. I’ll outline the categories I recommend, as they’re pretty universal and will be customized in the next step. The categories are: Exercises, Scales, Chords, Ear Training, Sight Reading, Theory, Songwriting, and Improvisation. I’ve chosen to spend 15 minutes on each category per practice session, which of course would give us two hours of potential practice, going over the hour and a half timeframe I decided in. This is where the customization begins.

I’ll throw out two categories per session, meaning I won’t practice two of the eight categories on a given day. The next day, however, I have to be sure to hit those categories. So if one day I exclude Theory and Improvisation, I’ll be required to practice those categories the following day. The customization continues in the last step.

THE THIRD AND FINAL STEP is to customize the categories to your guitar goals. The exercises category can consist of any exercises that will help you achieve your desired results. If you want to be come a better metal player, insert sweeping, tapping and alternate picking exercises here. There are plenty of these types of exercises on Guitar World to choose from. If you want to become a better funk player, you could add rhythmic chord vamps over drum loop exercises, among many others. For the scales category, you might want to focus on the Mixolydian and symmetrical diminished scales for blues, but harmonic minor for hard rock. As you can see, there's no limit to the way you can mold these categories to your satisfaction—the key is that you commit to the schedule once you’ve built it. If you do, your devotion will pay off in a remarkable way in just a short period of time.




We’re all familiar with the standard rules given to those who think they want the fame, glory and money that comes from being a successful singer/songwriter—work hard, practice, smile, be nice to people, etc. In the 40 years or so that music industry veteran Larry Butler has worked with some of the most successful artists in the business, he says he’s found a number of pieces of advice that you’re probably not going to find in those well-worn lists. Here are five taken from his new book The Singer/Songwriter Rule Book: 101 Ways To Help You Improve Your Chances Of Success. None of them involve smiling.

Make sure that MUSIC is the ONLY thing you want to do in your life to the exclusion of everything else.
The most successful music and performance stars I’ve worked with over the years were focused. And they weren’t just focused in the normal sense of working on something and then taking a break; nope, they were SUPER FOCUSED. No time off. Nothing else mattered. Not family, not friends, not loving relationships, nothing. If you weren’t somehow related to helping them succeed, you were in the way and did not matter.

A cautionary note: Do not have a back-up plan. If you have “something to fall back on,” you will end up doing that instead. Make sure that this is all there is in life for you to do––singing, songwriting, performing, and entertaining. And only do those things. Everything and everybody else is in second place.

Do not listen to your family, friends or fans. They’re way too close to you to be objective about you, your music or your show.
Your family, friends and fans, for all their genuine belief in you and your talent, probably don’t know much about music or how to entertain an audience. Even if some of them have been in bands or on stage in their lives, they’re all way too close to you emotionally to make an accurate assessment of your music and your show. You’re not nearly as wonderful as they say you are. How would they know?

You’re going to need evaluation and instruction from an unrelated, professional live performance coach on the fine art of taking your well-honed singer-songwriter performance skills and moving them up into the rarefied air of ENTERTAINMENT. Just the ability to write songs and accompany yourself on piano or guitar as you sing them is not, in and of itself, all that entertaining. And even if it were, there are a couple hundred other singer-songwriters in Silver Lake/Echo Park alone who are already doing just that. If you were to learn how to actually entertain an audience of complete strangers, then you would be able to separate yourself from that pack.

Avoid marriage or any serious relationships. Break-up with the live-in boy/girlfriend. If you have kids, love them and keep them safe. If you don’t, don’t.
Everyone who’s ever been a performer knows that as soon as a significant other enters the picture, the career is put on hold. It’s scriptural––you cannot serve two masters. There can only be one driving force in your life––the pursuit of a career in music.

It’s okay to have a casual or friendly relationship––as long as it relieves tension instead of adding to your mounting list of fires to put out. You’re looking for HELP in furthering your career, not HINDRANCE. So you have to weigh the value of the relationship to the actual benefit. Relationships take time––do you have that kind of time?

Then there are kids. If you already have some, you have to stick with them and be a good parent. It is the only real responsibility you have in life. Do the right thing. But, if you don’t have kids and think you have to have some, join a band. Since all musicians act as if they’re 12 years old anyway, you can play out your parental role with them.

Avoid watching or following both real and fantasy sports.
Pointless. They take up way too much of your precious time. The same goes for binge watching Netflix/Amazon or just TV in general. Shut it off!

Get rid of your cat/dog/plants as well as all other high maintenance, non-musical responsibilities.
This instruction may actually be harder for some of you than losing family and unneeded friends––losing the pets and plants. But, let’s face facts: pets are just short of kids in regards to the time and money spent to keep up the maintenance. The food, the walks, the clean-ups, the vet bills and the accouterments are all drains on your time, your cash and the part of your brain that should be focused, once again, on your music.

If, indeed, you MUST have some downtime with an animal, offer to cat or dog sit for friends and neighbors while they’re away. At least you’ll be able to call on them for some awkward favor in the future. And don’t get me started on multiple pets or something ridiculous like horses. Who are you people?

Same thing with plants––they need daily care and, even then, they’re going to die. Plants are designed to thrive outdoors and on their own. Do not continue to live in the belief that somehow you’re going to have a garden in your apartment. Listen to reason for once, will you?

FINAL WORDS ON THE SUBJECT: I’m not going to attempt to list all of the high maintenance, non-musical responsibilities that you may come up with that could sway your attention away from your goal. Lose them all. Now. Today. And get on with living your life for yourself and your career. You do not have the time to waste. All of your clocks are ticking – musical, biological and financial. So do it now! REMEMBER: It’s not about who has the most talent; it’s about who wants it more and is willing to work harder to get it!