Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Shapes? Say What? Riptide Guitarists Play Runs! Master the Minor 5 (Pentatonic Minor) Runs.


Back in my teenhood, a guy in his late 20s from NYC, a guitarist and maybe a heroin junkie tossed me a softcover workbook-style book. I cannot remember the title of the book but I believe Alfred Publishing produced the work. This book was old. The copyright must have been dated to the early 1970s.

Other than not getting past the first couple of pages, as I recall, the booklet had runs which look exactly like "shapes" as seen below. The first page had the Position 5 run. I played that over and over. After awhile I stopped because I knew it was doing nothing for my playing even though I did not understand why.

After that, I put down the guitar for a long time. Bad teaching will discourage anyone.

So, today, everywhere on the Internet are lessons with pentatonic shapes played at positions. All of that kind of teaching seems so wrong to me in the same way as the Alfred book did many years ago.



Rather than shapes, you should learn to run through the scale, diatonically. In short, you should learn runs. Said another way, you should learn scales. Forget shapes.

Runs are so much easier to learn and to master. If you learn the runs, you will unlock another hidden doorway to advance your playing. Here are the three runs you need to learn. 

Index Finger Run — Minor 5 Scale

Pinky Finger Run — Minor 5 Scale
Ring Finger Run — Minor 5 Scale

So how does it work? 

  1. Find your tonic tone.
  2. Play the run that matches one of the fingers — index (aka pointer), pinky, ring.

Playing with the Open Strings

When you play a run with open strings, you must imagine the plucked open string is the number 1.

That Pesky B String


If you recall from Intervals, the Fretboard and the Strings (yes, you should have read that by now), the intervals between all the strings is a perfect fourth (P4), except between G and B, which is a major third (M3). Looking at it another way, the B string is tuned down a half step from the other strings.

To overcome that half step tuning down of the B string relative to the other strings, your playing must "tune up" by one half step. 

Before your fingers hit the B string, you must adjust the position your fingers in the run up one fret. 

Moving up a fret because of the B string happens so often in runs that two more runs are quite common — the D String Ring Finger Run and the G String Middle Finger Run.

D String Ring Finger Run


D Only Ring Finger Run  — Minor 5 Scale

G String Middle Finger Run


G Only Middle Finger Run — Minor 5 Scale

Practice, Of Course

  1. Practice the three runs from tonic tones on the E string so you can master these runs with ease. 
  2. Once you have the three runs down, practice from the A string.
  3. Practice the D String Ring Finger Run and the G String Middle Finger Run.