Minor 3-Major 2 Patterns

The common pentatonic scale has only two kinds of interval between its notes: each pair is separated by either a minor third (three frets) or a major second (two frets). Of course, this scale counds very familiar, not only because of its use in rock music but also from its very different uses in music by the likes of Debussy and Ravel. So it's interesting to look at what happens when we navigate the total chromatic using those two intervals.

The first pattern below comes from strictly alternating the two intervals. This produces a strongly pentatonic-flavoured sound that gradually changes key as you move across the strings and up the guitar neck. It's a plain but quite strong sound that works over any harmony at all, with different degrees of dissonance depending on where you play it.

The other two ideas come out of fretboard geometry rather than intervallic structure.

The second one has the same starting position but when it shifts it does so by moving the whole thing up or down in major seconds. This causes the key centre to change more rapidly. It also means that each individual string is a whole-tone scale, and any two adjacent strings are complementary whole-tone scales, which are useful for developing a 12-tone approach.

The third is a bit more whimsical -- it's the same as the first pattern but each position shift is "off" by a semitone. Again, this propels us more quickly through the key cycle but it still has that clear, open pentatonic sound to it.

I think these are interesting tools to have in your arsenal if you like to play across the whole spectrum of the chromatic scale but don't always want to sound harsh. These are easy sounds for the average listener to hear and the different patterns provide ways to quickly shift between consonance and dissonance in your lines. They should work great in a modal jazz setting, too. There are lots more possibilities; these are just the ones I've been playing around with.