Lesson #112, Harmonizing with the Pentatonic Scale I

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lesson #112, Harmonizing with the Pentatonic Scale I

Hi Everyone,

Lets talk a little bit about harmonizing the pentatonic scale patterns that we just went over. First lets just play the scale on one string. Since we are working on the G major pentatonic scale.....G A B D E..... lets use those notes and play them all on the 4th string all the way up and down the fingerboard. Now try the notes on the 3rd string. Then to the 2nd, 1st and even fifth if you'd like. Playing the scale on one string up and down the fretboard will bring you to know the fingerboard very well.

Now lets start to harmonize this scale. To harmonize means to take two or more notes and play them together. Lets use octaves for our first harmonization. Since we know that an octave occurs between the 1st and 4th strings, we can easily use this up and down the fretboard. You can hear that using octaves gives us a Rock sound, or even a Blues sound because of the pentatonics' scale nature.

Since you know the modes of the pentatonic scale in G major, that being the tabbed out patterns we went over, lets take two notes out of each mode and work them up and down the fretboard. Lets start by taking the fourth and five degree of each mode, and play the two notes up and down the fretboard. These are scale fragments, we can use them as two note chords by playing them together, or we can use them as single string notes to play over the chords of G major or E minor.

You can take any two degrees of the modes to play any harmonizations you can come up with. It would be good practice to find as many ways as you can to harmonize with two notes to begin with. By exploring these harmonizations on your own, you will start to develope your own ear, and begin to see the fretboard in your own way. This will help to eventually perpetuate your own style on the five string banjo.

Keep on Rollin, keep on Rockin.


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In 2009, at the age of 60, I decided to learn to play the 5-string banjo. I searched the internet for lessons and struck gold when I found David Cavage's free banjo lessons at Musicmoose.org. His video hosting site revver.com was having some serious problems at the time so I downloaded as many of the lessons as I could whenever they became available. Revver.com stopped operating shortly afterwards and, sadly, Musicmoose.org is no more. I contacted David early 2020 and he told me he no longer had the original master videos and feared they may have been lost forever. This amazing course of free banjo lessons, from absolute beginner to advanced player, is too good to be forgotten, so this is my attempt to get David's work back out there again so that he can teach, inspire and spread the joy of banjo pickin' to more generations of budding musicians, just like he did with me. I've rounded up all the Moose stuff I could find and put it here, so start pickin' and enjoy!-------MooseHerder.