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Overcoming E minor scale

Bye Josip Pešut

The sole purpose of this article is to help you understand minor scale in general, and overcome the E minor scale, through the whole guitar neck. We talk about natural minor scale, so the first step would be to determine which notes it holds. We can do that in 3 easy ways:

1) Use the formula W, H, W, W, H, W, W (or 1, ½, 1, 1, ½, 1, 1) to extract the right notes from chromatic scale, starting from the note E.

2) Compare it to major scale, so you get the formula 1, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 6b, 7b. Meaning, take E major scale and flat the 3rd, 6th and 7th interval by half step, to get E natural minor scale.

3) Take G major scale, and start it from 6th interval (E note). This works because E minor is a relative key to G major.

Either way, you will get the following notes and intervals:

1st – E
2nd – Gb
3rd – G
4th – A
5th – B
6th – C
7th – D

Now that we've got the notes, we should try to put them on guitar. I will cover whole guitar neck with notes of E minor scale, but in steps, so you won't have much problem with learning them. Trying to learn all notes on the neck at once is ridiculous, anyway.

Step 1 – Notes on 1st string

When you put the notes of Em scale on first string, you already have this:

Note!! You should do these diagrams yourself, by hand, on some paper or something, and DON'T FORGET to put which notes belong to which fret, and try to learn which interval they present, also!

To overcome those note positions, try to use exercises like this one:

When doing these kind of exercises, speak or sing the notes you play, you will get them quickly this way. Also try skipping some notes in similar runs, try legato... The more you practice on these notes, the sooner you will remember them.

Step 2 – Notes on 6th string

When you do exactly the same thing as before, you get this as result:

Exercise same things for 6th string, as you did for 1st.

Step 3 – Em pentatonic

If you take 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th interval of natural minor scale, you get minor pentatonic scale. Notes of Em pentatonic scale are E, G, A, B and D.

Starting from E notes on 6th string, you get following diagrams:

Practice those well. Both descending and ascending, in as much runs and combinations you can think of. They will become your basis for soloing later on.

If we add those notes to the notes we have from before, you already have this:

The notes rounded by yellow line are a connection between Em pentatonic and Em (on first string). You would be surprised with how much solo licks you can make only on these notes!!

Step 4 – Em pentatonic from E note on 5th string

If you go from E notes on 5th string, you get Em pentatonics with the following pattern:

Dedicate your time in overcoming this and last position of this scale. Without getting this you won't go through next step that easily. Anyway, if we put all those notes we know already together, it looks like this:

Rounded in green are the notes that connect Em pentatonic from 6th string with Em pentatonic from 5th string. Connecting your past knowledge with your new one is extremely important in overcoming the scale through whole neck. Rounded notes form 5th pattern (notes of 5th mode) of Em pentatonic scale, meaning you take Em pentatonic scale, and start it from its 5th note (D note). Try improvising and connecting all 3 pentatonic patterns; 1st pattern from 5th string, 5th pattern from 6th string and 1st pattern from 6th string

Step 5 – First 6 notes of Em scale through 3 notes per string patterns

Before we go any further, you have to learn where all E notes on your fretboard are, and you must know them anytime, anyday, anywhere! Here they are (Yellow are more important than blue notes, because they are simply easier to remember, and hold more soloing options, which you will realize through practice):

You will also need to know the pattern for the first 6 notes of Em scale through 3 notes per string: You will also need to know the pattern for the first 6 notes of Em scale through 3 notes per string:

Green is the 7th, which we won't use right now, and blue is an octave, from which you can begin the pattern again, of course.

Now, implement that pattern (while thinking in notes, of course) on all the yellow E notes. You will get this:

I suggest you to stay at this one for a few days. Practice each pattern separately, and be sure to have memorized them all (in notes) before you continue.

Now, don't go learning all over again through the blue notes. Just expand the pattern down to blue note, and start from it all over again. Also try practicing this through 3 octaves. This way you get:

This seems like lots of notes! Take some time now to connect this with everything you've learned before. Remember, the notes you should know by now are looking like this:

Step 6 – Implementing 7ths and notes of 24th fret (if you have it)

The only thing now left to do is to add notes on 24th fret and 7ths to your diagrams. Do it through practice, tough. Play those 3 string patterns, but now add 7th before you go to next octave. Also play pentatonic scales and add those missing 7ths to them. It is very good sounding thing when you're playing in minor key, to play sixth, bend it up to 7th and release bend, and then go to 4th to eventually end on 1st, 3rd or 5th. Practicing similar things will get 7th in your fingers, not only in your head.

So now, you have learned E natural minor scale through whole guitar neck!!

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