Warm Up Exercise

Adding pentatonic fills over D-Cadd9-G

Lesson #348

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey friends! Here’s a new warm-up exercise video, where I’ll show you how to add pentatonic licks & fills over the common progression D-Cadd9-G. Specifically, I’ll focus on 4 phrases from the D-minor pentatonic scale – and demonstrate how to play these between the chords you’re strumming. If adding licks and fills from a scale is new to you, don’t worry – honestly it’s pretty new stuff to me, and in this video I’ll explain the chords + fretboard + general advice on how to approach adding the most basic of fills.

Video timestamps:

The song this is inspired from

This lesson is inspired by the song β€œDown Low” by Town Mountain ft. Tyler Childers, which was sent in by request. A lesson for that song may be coming one day, but in the meantime I wanted to share this one explaining the basics of the lead riffs & fills you hear in that song.

Summary of the main riff

Here’s the 4-measure sequence I play at the start of my video lesson. The idea is to move into each full chord by playing a 6-note lick. Once you get the chord, you can strum it as much (or little) as you want before continuing to the next lick.

E –––––––––––––––––––––  –––––––––––––––––––––  –––––––––––––––––––––  –––––––––––––––––––––
B –––––––––––––––––––3–  –3–1–––––––––––––––3–  –––––––––––––––––––3–  –––––––––––––––––––3–
G –––––––––––––––––––2–  ––––––2–0––––––––––0–  –––––––––––––––––––0–  –––––––––––––––––––2–
D ––––––0–3––0–––––0–0–  –––––––––––3–0–––––x–  ––––––0––––––––––––0–  –0–3––0–5––0–3–––0–0–
A –0–3–––––––––3–––––––  –––––––––––––––––3–3–  –0–3––––3––0–––––––x–  –––––––––––––––––––––
E –––––––––––––––––––––  –––––––––––––––––––––  –––––––––––––1–––3–3–  –––––––––––––––––––––
                     D                   Cadd9                     G                      D  

Chord shapes

Here’s two options for the 3 chords used in this exercise. To keep things basic, you can use the standard D-Cadd9-G voicings (shown on the left). However, I prefer using the slightly modified versions (on the right)… where you’re never playing the high-E string, and likewise muting the 4th and 5th strings on the Cadd9 and G, respectively. Muting these strings helps keep the chords from feeling too β€œmajor”, which would clash with the vibe of the minor pentatonic scale we’ll be using.

[ See PDF for chord diagram ]

Learning the D-minor pentatonic scale

For context, here’s the scale we’ll be using – all the licks and riffs and fills we play will come out of these notes. While I do think it’s good to practice playing this up-and-down a few times, don’t feel pressured to memorize this entire thing just yet. Rather, refer back to this when learning any individual lick – seeing the β€œshape” of the notes you’re playing in any given phrase will likely be very helpful in cementing this in your mind.

[ See PDF for the scale diagram ]

Full tab, with counting (standard tuning)

Here’s the same tab shown earlier in the page, but written with approximate timing. Note that I’m showing very basic strumming on the 1-2-3-4 counts, and the β€œxxxxx” on the second 1 count means you should silence all the strings by gently resting your right hand on them, just before playing the licks. See my video lesson for reference.

[ See PDF for tab ]

Full tab, with counting (Drop-D tuning)

Here’s another fun way to play this same sequence, if you tune your lowest string down to a D. Notice how much more full this makes the D chord.

[ See PDF for tab ]

Additional licks and fills to try using

The great part about this minor pentatonic scale, is there’s no limit to the phrases we can use as the licks & riffs we play. Here’s a grab bag of different phrases, from which you can pick and choose. Try using these as the connecting phrases between the chords within the D-Cadd9-G progression. You can also repeat any single lick shown here before each chord in the D-Cadd9-G progression, which is a fun way to practice.

[ See PDF for tab ]

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