Pentatonic Scale Tapping Lick

Written by Rob in 'Techniques'

Hopefully, you’ve seen my video on the two handed tapping technique. If you’re not confident with the techniques in that video, this lick may be a bit advanced for you.

Also, it will be really helpful if you’re confident with your minor pentatonic scales in all different keys if you want to really get your head around what’s going on here.

This video is going to be about some more advanced tapping techniques, to take things to the next level.

How to do It

What I’m doing for the first part of this lick is: ascending the A minor pentatonic scale, 5th position (i.e. from the 5th fret) with my fretting hand, and using the same scale shape in a different position with my tapping hand.

I will be using this scale shape with both hands:

shape one of the minor pentatonic scale, for your fretting hand

With my fretting hand, I am using this shape at the 5th position (i.e. starting at the 5th fret), which looks like this:


e ---------------------5-8-
B -----------------5-8-----
G -------------5-7---------
D ---------5-7-------------
A -----5-7-----------------
E -5-8---------------------

I suggest playing through these shapes on your guitar, to better visualize what’s going on here.

Then, with my tapping hand, I am using the same shape at the 12th position (i.e. starting at the 12th fret). This looks the same, but starting on the 12th fret:


e -------------------------------12-15-
B -------------------------12-15-------
G -------------------12-14-------------
D -------------12-14-------------------
A -------12-14-------------------------
E -12-15-------------------------------

Not all positions will work together like this. I am using the same pentatonic shape, 7 frets higher, at the 12th fret. The pentatonic scale 5 frets higher will also work. That would look like this:


e -------------------------------10-13-
B -------------------------10-13-------
G -------------------10-12-------------
D -------------10-12-------------------
A -------10-12-------------------------
E -10-13-------------------------------

Remember: play through each one of these shapes yourself if you really want to understand what I’m doing here. The technique of mixing pentatonics like this is related to a technique called ‘pentatonic substitution‘.

Example Lick

For the first example lick, I’m going to tap the 12th fret on each string and combine it with the A minor pentatonic with my fretting hand. This works because in the scale at the 12th position (shown above), there is a note on the 12th fret of each string.

That gives us this:

guitar tab for the advanced pentatonic tapping lick one

The main thing to watch out for is that you’re muting the unwanted string noise with the underside of your tapping hand for the thicker strings, and the underside of your fretting fingers for the thinner strings.

This can also be done with the 14th and 15th frets from the same shape, which gives us this lick:

the second more advanced pentatonic scale tapping lick

What I like to do, to add a bit more variation, is to also skip strings. I either just play every other string going up, or alternate E – D – A – G – D – B – G – E. That would produce something like this:

the third pentatonic scale substitution tapping lick

You can also use the same idea with the third scale I mentioned (the same shape again, but starting at the 10th fret instead of the 12th). That would create something like this:

final pentatonic tapping example with string skipping

Taking it Further

You can also try this lick with different pentatonic scales, different shapes from each scale, or try it descending (i.e going down in pitch).

The examples above are based in the key of A minor, and will work over an A minor chord. However, I have only used the first shape of each scale, and kept the A minor scale sounding the lowest.
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The truth is: you can mix and match between which scale is being fretted, and which are being tapped. For example, you could have the E minor pentatonic fretted on the lower (sounding) frets, and the A or D minor pentatonic tapped above it.

Also, try this idea out in different keys.

This would all, of course, require you to use different scale shapes than the ones above…

I’ll leave that up to you to figure out!

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