I’m not sure how else to put it… but most of us learn the “boxes” of the pentatonic/blues scale in a way that… isn’t actually all that useful to us in the heat of battle (during an actual solo.)

It’s not our fault, it’s how we have to learn them at first. But the problem lies in the fact that, once we get past the first box/pattern, most of us don’t focus on root notes and learn how to use the boxes as scales.

In most cases, they are little more than finger exercises at that point!

Of course, there is a better way. It’ll seem really confusing at first because I’m asking you to look at things differently.

You’re not learning anything new, the 5 boxes never change, the only thing that will EVER have to change is how you look at them…

… think about that for a minute, because it’s very powerful.
Grab your guitar, and follow along with me and you’ll (hopefully) see what I mean fairly quickly.

Filmed Live, pardon the few seconds in the beginning… skip ahead 20 seconds or so to get to the meat of it.

Here’s the Blues Scale Trainer Tool

    25 replies to "You Might Be Practicing Your Boxes Wrong"

    • Mark

      I get the right facing and left facing concept however I need a lot more work on my scales to use it well. More practice. I have been avoiding it due to a nagging elbow injury…I am more motivated now and starting to work on lessons. I have my BGU CD’s on my desk waiting to be used. On my way!

    • ChrisGSP

      Chris G again – it’s a slow, rainy day… Griff laments that too few students actually USE the Blues Scale Trainer Tool – guilty! I’ve seen it and tried it once or twice and I agree it’s a great tool. From today I promise I will use it LOTS (shortcut has been added to PC desktop).
      But many people will think there are too many different patterns to learn.
      That’s not true – try these tricks. First, select Minor and leave it there until you know all your Minors; that cuts the possibilities in half.
      Then you need to understand that there are ONLY TWO correct answers for the Root note on each string. One is Left-facing and the other is Right-facing; For the Root on the 1st string, Box 5 faces Left and Box 1 faces Right.
      For the Root on the 2nd string, Box 2 faces Left and Box 3 faces Right.
      For the Root on the 3rd string, Box 4 faces Left and Box 5 faces Right.
      For the Root on the 4th string, Box 1 faces Left and Box 2 faces Right.
      For the Root on the 5th string, Box 3 faces Left and Box 4 faces Right.
      6th string, same as the 1st.
      All of the above is MINOR only. Major is different but just as simple.
      If you need to LEARN WHERE to find the notes on the guitar, search “blues guitar unleashed finding notes” to find Griff’s lesson from the Soloing Without Scales course – it’s on YouTube.
      Cheers. Finally, it’s Beer O’Clock.

    • ChrisGSP

      Hi Griff. That solo at the beginning sure sounds a lot like “Ain’t No Sunshine” – cool tune.
      I’m seeing you do something that I’ve seen you do elsewhere and want to ask about it. At about the 36 second mark you do a little slide up-and-back from the 9th fret on the third string up to the 10th fret and back to the 9th; 9-10-9, then a bar or two later you do the same move on the second string at the 5th fret 5-6-5; then a bit later you do it again on the fourth string at the second fret 2-3-2. Each time that’s E-F-E. It looks and sounds to me like you are playing in B (so, B Minor pentatonic), which means E-F-E is 4-b5-4 or 4 up to Blue note and back.
      It sounds really good – have I got it right? And regardless of whether I got it right, I reckon it’s a great little move that you should do a video for because it would make a very nice lesson.
      Cheers from Sunny Oz, where it’s been raining lately.
      Chris G.

    • John Southey

      How is it A minor all over the neck?

    • cdog085

      I had to go back and re-learn the pentatonic boxes after watching a Griff video a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t used the online trainer but about a year ago I bought a training wheel for the same purpose that another Griff student had developed from the on line trainer. Perhaps the link to that could be posted again. I know that I have a difficult time keeping the online thing going and the “training wheel” sits in front of me and works great.

    • Jim Kubitza

      Well, I kinda got it and I kinda got lost with it. I NEED TO WORK ON THIS! I need to work on so many things that if I spend 15 minutes every day on each one I would be practicing for 12 hours every day. Just ain’t gonna happen. But I do place a high priority on being able to solo over just about any jam track, improvising as I go, off the cuff. And the stuff in this video is smack in the middle of that, so it is going to get a HIGH priority in my routine!

    • Scott R

      Justin at JustinGuitar really promotes the idea of practicing the boxes by always starting and ending on root notes for each respective box. I think that, combined with what Griff is promoting is a good combo. Key being that you want to be able to find those root notes quickly, and then pivot off them.

      Also I’m reminded of a table in your Slow Blue Supplement course that showed the left and right combos for both major and minor on each of the six strings. This is pushing me back to that table as I clearly need to know that a lot better.

      Thanks again Griff for another solid little lesson.

    • Kimberley Christie

      Hi Griff, thank you as always, really dumb question here- you showed 5 boxes e.g. in key of Am, are each and every one of those boxes in key of Am? I am confused about what key a box is, is that fixed, or could there be several keys in each box depending on your root note, does the root note determine the key? I have always failed to understand how to apply boxes, it is like a piano scale right? so could there be a key for A through to G in every box, or only the Am key? I have a learning disability so no one laugh at me ok….

      • Scott Weil

        My first response is the cliche, there really is no such thing as a dumb question, but it took me 60 years to realize it is a bit dumb to not ask any question related to what you are studying to your teacher. The best way to learn the boxes, as Griff said, is to practice them for 10 -15 minutes, and no more, every day. It may be hard at first, but after a week or so you will get the hang of it. I abuse boxes so badly that my live teacher finally had to show me it is possible to solo without using box 1, 2, or 5, and my initial response to him was, no, that can’t be possible. He was right.

    • Robert

      Grid WOW
      Always great stuff question
      I’m trying to get the “minor blues scales” and the correct boxes? But each site has a different or incomplete boxes.
      How do I get these.
      I’m a beginner student of yours I currently have the Beginner Blues Unleashed.
      What do you suggest?

      • Jeff

        Search YouTube for: Live Blues Guitar Lesson – The 5 Minor Pentatonic Boxes

    • Robin

      thank you I really needed to here this. I memorized all the notes on the first 12 frets but I could not do a thing with the scale except with the sixth string root. It was like I all of a sudden knew nothing

    • Stephen

      Griff, thanks for this! I’m right at the point of learning the boxes but feeling lost and having to “calculate” where I am. Such an eye-opening lesson!

    • Bill

      Can anyone refer me to the basic box lesson that Griff mentions?

      • Jeff

        Search YouTube for: Live Blues Guitar Lesson – The 5 Minor Pentatonic Boxes

    • Joe

      Possibly the reason it is not used is the sheer amount of info you share…???

      Many times I get overloaded with info, and coupled with *life*, simply can’t spend the time it takes to absorb all your lesson materials.
      So I pick and choose the material I feel that I can *get* at any given time.

      • Bob

        Not to be disrespectful but yes, your newest type of videos are to wordy. Get to the point already.
        22 minute video and the subject was covered in about 3 to 4 minutes of it.

        • Christian

          I think you should ask for your money back…

    • Mark Wales

      Cheers Griff
      For the lesson the fourth box turned a light on for me looking forward to the CD

    • Tom

      Great lesson Griff! Hoping to become a better navigator with your help.

    • Steve

      Always amazed at how well you are able to break these crucial concepts down to an understandable level for those of us who quickly become lost beyond Box 1 at the 5th fret! Thanks, Griff!

    • SPA

      Great tool for right handed players!

      As a lefty using right/left to describe up/down the neck make it harder to use the tool – at least for this novice . . .

    • Dennis - Planet Houston

      Nice!!!! As always – you do good work! You make the complex understandable!

    • Ian

      Great lesson.

      Love the playing at the beginning Griff, do you have the tab for it?

    • Mario

      Very very helpful. Thank you so much.

      Think about Instagram. You are that cool.

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