Learn to Play: Ariel Posen's Improvisation Techniques with Pentatonics and Arpeggios

Canadian guitarist and musician Ariel Posen stopped by the Reverb studio recently to sit down with us and talk guitar. For his first lesson, Ariel is tackling the topic of unaccompanied improvisation within a blues—playing changes and using nothing but pentatonic scales and arpeggios.

"In this case, we want to try to play the changes so that any listener can hear the chords moving without someone playing behind you. And it's as simple as just thinking about the one and the three of each chord," Ariel says. After running through the chord progression, he highlights how it's harder to hear the chord changes when the player improvises solely in the pentatonic scale, without emphasizing the chords when they hit. He plays the progression again, this time emphasizing the chords with the one and three when they hit to signify the changes.

It sounds more complicated than it is, and Ariel takes the time to explain that with a bit of time and consideration, any guitarist can master it. "It just takes time, the idea is simple. But once you work on it and you start thinking less scale-y and you start thinking more about the notes and the melody—it works really well if you try to sing your solos—it just makes you get out of your head. You start leading with the idea inside your brain instead of letting your fingers do the talking for you."

Be sure to check out the full video above, and let us know what you think in the comments below. Ariel Posen's album, How Long, will be released on January 11 and is already available for pre-sale now. Click the links to listen to the first two singles, "Fade" and "Things That I've Said," or search for them wherever you like to get your music.

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