Free Guitar Lesson: Ruben Diaz on Bossa Nova

Here’s a great lesson on bossa nova rhythm by my good friend and master flamenco player Ruben Diaz. Ruben is a professor at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and founder of Contemporary Flamenco Guitar Studio / CFGstudio (Toronto)

Don’t forget to check out his other videos, albums and  other material at


Free Guitar Lesson: Work Out

This exercise aims to train the finger (combinations) of the left hand while at the same time it aims to optimize right hand left hand coordination using alternate picking.

Play this exercise at a speed where all the notes sound right and do not speed up unless ALL notes sound right.

If your left hand starts to feel tensed and tired stop the exercise to give your had some rest as we do not want muscles to be overworked.

I have been using this exercise myself as a warm up exercise.

Maintain a consistent fingering throughout the exercise.

You can download the pdf here>>>


Free guitar lesson: spice it up with your minor pentatonics

If there is one thing that is clear it seems to me that almost all guitar players interested in lead guitar use the minor pentatonic scale. There are others that will point out that they also use the major pentatonic scale but for now I will go from the premise that any major pentatonic scale will have its minor replacement, similar to what happens in modes.

As an example: some people will use the C major pentatonic scale for playing on either a C chord, C maj7  chord or a C7 chord.

When we look at the C major pentatonic scale we see it has the following notes: C D E G A.
When you start on the A note however, it will make A C D E G.

There is a reason however why I choose to approach this from the minor pentatonic perspective throughout, and that is because a.) Many guitar players start with this scale when experimenting with their blues solos and because it is so closely related to the other well used scale: the blues scale.

As beginning guitar players we will all have gone through licks like this:

Now in the following examples I have used different pentatonic scales to play over the chord sequence D min7 – G7 -Cmaj7 which is for those with a but of a theoretical background a II – V – I chord progression. In its most basic form we would be using the following minor pentatonic scales:

D minor 7 —>  D minor pentatonic scale

G7 —> E minor pentatonic scale / G blues scale or G minor pentatonic scale

C maj7 —> A minor pentatonic scale

You will find that when you play these scales over thew chord progression it sounds a bit dull.

Personally what I find attractive about the minor pentatonic scales is that they are useful to create patterns or certain repeatable fragments. If we combine that given with the idea that we may be able to use different minor pentatonic scales on different chords all of a sudden a wide array of possibilities opens up to spice up your solos. By the way I could go into all kinds of theory here but I will just say I usually use the minor pentatonic and blues scales as interchangeable. (the notes in between brackets are the additional note to the pentatonic scale to make it into a blues scale.  I am aware that more options exist but these give you a nice start.

D minor 7 (D F A C)

  • D minor pentatonic: D F G (G#/Ab) A C
  • E minor pentatonic E G A (A#/Bb) B D
    The B in this scale  makes for a nice emphasis of the dorian character of the chord (IIm7 chord) while the blue note  (Bb) provides for a nice natural minor sound.
  • A minor pentatonic A C D (D#/Eb) E G.

G7 (G B D F)

  • E minor pentatonic: E G A (Bb) B D
  • F minor pentatonic: F Ab Bb C (C#/Db) Eb
  • G minor pentatonic: G Bb C (C#/Db) D F
  • Bb minor pentatonic: Bb Db Eb (E) F Ab

C maj7 (C E G B)

  • A minor pentatonic: A C D (D#/Eb) E G
  • B minor pentatonic: B D E (F) F# A this scale produces a lydian airy kind of sound
  • E minor pentatonic: E G A (A#/Bb) B

Some Examples

Example 1

In this example only the A minor pentatonic and Bb minor pentatonic scale were used to create chromatic tension and and at the same time resolution. The A minor pentatonic over the C maj7 chord creates a 6 or 13 sound.

Example 2

I this second example we move up position by position and end up in the lydian sounding b minor pentatonic over the C maj7 chord.
The F# note suggests a Cmaj7 #11 chord.

Example 3

In this third example we have an gone from D minor pentatonic to E and F minor pentatonic so we would at least have the B note in the G7 chord. Try to avoid over emphasis of the C note in the F minor pentatonic as against G that suggest a sus chord, while at the same time chromoatically it sounds nice and we resolve this back to E minor pentatonic goes to B minor pentatonic goes to A minor pentatonic.

Cycling around for practice

I you would like to come up with other ideas and practice it us actually nice if you have a cycle that you can let go on continuously. That can be one by playing ||       Dmin7     |      G7     |      Cmaj7     |       A7 ||

Below I will list the different pentatonic scales you could use in a format that makes it easier to see how you can create nice patterns with them.

I guess you can see for yourself now that there are some good options to connect different minor pentatonic scales and keep on going round and round. Have fun!


Joe Satriani is on of my favorite guitar players and in my view a typical example of someone that knows not how to play the right notes in the right timing but make every single one of them sound just perfect.

Often, with students, I see how they may master the technique yet still some of the especially longer notes seem well let’s say ‘lifeless’. This in my view has all to do with finishing off a note and make it count, make it come to life. Great guitar players, like Satriani, Vai but also Santana, Nuno Betterncourt, they understand the importance of not just playing the right notes but making them fantastic. It is the difference between DOING THE RIGHT THING OR DOING THINGS RIGHT. And that is why some of these notes really touch.

As far as Joe Satriani goes, it was him and Jenifer Batten that got me interested in so called double tapping techniques. At the time it felt like Edie van Halen being taken to the next level.

The Exercise

This exercise is all about a double right hand tap combined with left hand hammer-ons, no pick needed. However try to do this exercise finding a place to keep your pick at hand. Personally I usually end up with my pick in my mouth.

The patterns played here are all outlining specific chords (with extensions not mentioned in the tab an for you to find out).

To give you an idea of the nature of the exercise here are the first two bars.

The complete exercise is available here: Etude Satrianesque >>>

If you are not used to this type of playing I strongly suggest you take it slow, and start building strength in your left hand. Additionally try to keep an even pace and make sure you make all notes sound good. Move to a higher tempo only when your coordination between rught and left hand is up to it.


Application example

For an example of how these types of patterns may be used in a song, click on the photograph below and listen to John Castellain an me playing the song Cosmic Explosion, which was the result of our collaboration and based on a harmonic structure using the shapes of this exercise.

Click here to listen to COSMIC EXPLOSION >>>