How to make guitar phrases! The only thing you need to do to graduate from playing only pentatonic scales.

Hello, I’m the guitar blogger, Rimo (@RimoGt).

When you want to improvise, the first thing to learn is the pentatonic scale, right? Once you master the pentatonic scale, you can easily improvise.

However, after a while, you might find yourself in situations like:

You can improvise with the pentatonic, but it’s becoming monotonous.

Even when you play pentatonic phrases, they sound bland and lack flair.

You rush and cram in notes, but it only sounds noisy without any nuance.

What makes you different from other pentatonic players?

Are you facing such concerns? I, Rimo, struggled with them for a long time. I fervently tried to learn more and more phrases, but they often sounded forced and out of place.

This issue, which troubles many guitarists, had a fundamental cause. Of course, understanding music theory helps, but that alone might leave some feeling unsatisfied, leading to restless nights.

In this article, I’ll explain the cause and its solution through simple phrases.

By reading this article, you’ll:

Play beyond basic pentatonic phrases.

Be able to create infinite phrases without blindly memorizing new ones.

You can spice up the phrases you’ve learned so far.

So, please stay with me till the end!

Now, let’s delve into the phrase explanation. Today’s topic is ” How to make guitar phrases! The only thing you need to do to graduate from playing only pentatonic scales. “

Listen to the Phrase

First, listen to phrase #35. (Video starts from 18:34 of #35.)

It’s a cool pentatonic-centered phrase. But memorizing it as is isn’t efficient, and it’s hard to use in actual play. Let’s examine the phrase in detail and learn how to create endless variations.

Check on the Fretboard

Let’s recheck this phrase on the fretboard.

Check with Chords

The phrase is in the key of C#m. This person visualizes the 6th (&4th) string root C#m chord on the fretboard.

Overlaying this phrase with the C#m chord looks like this:

Out of the 7 notes in the phrase, 4 are part of the C#m chord.

Check with Scales

Simultaneously, the 6th string root C#m pentatonic box is visible.

Overlaying the C#m pentatonic looks like this:

Out of the 7 notes in the phrase, 6 are part of the C#m pentatonic.

Understanding the Composition

The phrase consists of:

C#m chord tones + Tension notes

Considering the phrase this way makes it easier to understand. The three notes marked in blue are the core tones of the C#m chord.

Playing only these gives a chordal feel, but it might sound too ordinary or like a backing track. Hence, tension notes are added to flesh out the phrase.

Thinking in terms of “adding to chord tones to create a phrase” means even if you use all pentatonic notes, your phrasing approach differs from the typical “basic pentatonic.”

The outcome might be the same, but the process changes the sound.

The Essence of the Phrase

As mentioned, playing only chord tones sounds like a backing track, so the key is to add to them. In this phrase, notes other than the C#m chord are inserted.

Here, three notes encircled in blue are used. While these are “eventually” chosen from the pentatonic or minor scale, any nearby note to the chord tones would suffice.

With this mindset, choose notes that match your desired expression. This approach allows for endless patterns.

Try creating various patterns, and you’ll see they form coherent phrases.

Listen Again

Let’s listen to the phrase once more. (Video starts from 18:34 of #35.)


To summarize today’s phrase:

It’s based on the C#m chord and C#m pentatonic scale, with the root on the 6th string 9th fret (or 4th string 11th fret).

The phrase centers around the C#m chord tones.

The essence of the phrase is adding nearby notes to the chord tones.


Today, I introduced #35. When starting with improvisation, many rely solely on the basic pentatonic. By shifting your approach, you can craft phrases with various moods.

I hope this adds to your guitar repertoire.

Thank you for reading till the end. Look forward to the next time.

Lastly, if you want to expand your phrase repertoire, check out other articles in this series. Reference: (Sorry, Japanese only so far…)

Until then, Love Guitar!