Why You Must Get Out of that Box to Become a Great Guitarist

by Jake Wilmot

So, if you have been playing guitar for a little while, chances are you have learned to play the minor pentatonic scale. Kind of. What do I mean by that? Well you simply have learned 20% of the pentatonic scale.

Let me explain. Once when you were playing the guitar you came across the standard minor pentatonic scale which is used very often by guitar players. But many people make the mistakes of learning the 20% standard box but end up staying there.

Why does this happen? Because it is simply what people learn first and so that is typically the one they use and when they want to play in different areas on the guitar they simply just move that standard minor pentatonic shape in a different area in the guitar. This is very limiting. More on that later.

A few people may have tried to learn the blues scale, major scale, and minor scale also. But the same thing happens. If it is the blues scale they learn the first 20% (the first shape) and they simply stop there. When they go through the major scale and minor scale they simply learn those shapes and that’s it. They only change areas of the guitar when they change key.

And this is why this limits you:

You become limited in terms of pitch range

You either use a lot of lower pitch range to mid pitch range or you use high pitch range. Just knowing that box pattern stops you from being able to freely use pitch range without having to change keys all the time? How many songs or solos do you know that change key every single time they want to go to a different area of the guitar or use different pitch range? Not very many.

You have limited options for creativity

The only ideas you will be able to come up with will be within the same box shape. Your ideas will then start to sound the same which will make song writing quite hard. This also destroys your ability to improvise and not bore the death out of anyone listening. Because all you do is play within that same area all the time and your ideas will again be in the same pitch range.

You become unsatisfied and unmotivated to play the guitar

I mean let’s face it, how much fun is it to play the guitar when all you do is play the same old licks in the same places on the guitar day after day. And if you try to fix the problem then you do it in all the wrong ways which causes you a lot of struggle.

So I am sure you understand that staying in this pentatonic box or getting stuck on any 1 scale pattern is no good forever. It is okay for a while but eventually you will need to grow from there.

So here is how you are going to do it:

1) Learn the second minor pentatonic scale pattern. This is also known as the major pentatonic scale. And don’t move to the 3rd shape yet.

2) Get comfortable using the second pattern on it’s own in one key and then move on to another key until you have used this in all keys

3) Next you will want to be able to use both the first pattern and straight away use the second pattern afterword without thinking about it. You want to practice this in all 12 keys.

4) You will also want to be able to smoothly connect one shape to another by beginning a phrase on the first shape and smoothly ending in the second shape

5) Only then you will learn the 3rd shape and from there you will repeat steps 2-4 with all 3 shapes. Do this in all 12 keys and then add the 4th shape.

6) Repeat these steps with the major scale shapes and the shapes of all scales you currently know.

About the author: Jake Willmot is a passionate guitar player who has been playing for the past 8 years. He is heavily into rock and metal music and has been every since he can remember. He first got into guitar by playing guitar hero games but has moved on from that now that his playing has advanced. He even gives guitar lessons in Exmouth so if you live there and want guitar lessons give him a try!