Chapter 11 of 26 from Tom Morello

Beginner Theory: Pentatonic and Blues Scales


Aimed towards beginner players, Tom demystifies the pentatonic scale and the blues scale to help you start improvising solos.

Topics include: Find the Key Center The Pentatonic Scale • Moving the Pentatonic Scale • The Blues Scale

Tom Morello

Tom Morello Teaches Electric Guitar

In 26 lessons, Grammy-winning musician Tom Morello will teach you the guitar techniques, rhythms, and riffs that define his signature style.

Learn More



Class Info


When it comes to playing guitar, what you put into it is what you get out of it. You practice technique to get your fingers to go where you want them to go. You practice theory to understand where they can go and why. If you want to get a level of technique and ability and skill, you really have to put in the work. There's no two ways about it. You can't escape from doing that. Now, that's not to say that a guitar player like Joe Strummer or Johnny Ramone, who are two of my favorite guitar players, who had no technique and no theory but had a great rock-and-roll spirit and vibe are not spectacular musicians. And if you want to be one of them, then please do. And I look forward to listening to your record. But what we're talking about here is pushing through to a different level of an understanding of the instrument to unlock a kind of creativity and ability that will allow you to have no boundaries and no horizons to what it is that you can play. So first of all, is music theory necessary? Well, I'd say formal music theory absolutely is not. I was a pretty fine guitar player without having any idea what any note, chord, mode, triad was called on the guitar. I played probably 10,000 hours before ever learning the name of a scale that I was playing. During that time, I did stumble on by just sort of following my ear the stuff that made sense to me later on I found had names that were applicable in music theory. I'm quite confident that Angus Young has never cracked a music theory book. And he's probably one of the greatest of all time. So is it necessary? No. But is it an option that you can use to make music that you might hear in your head or make music that you haven't imagined yet? Then absolutely. There are channels to do that, and that's what we'll talk about now. Use them as you see fit. I found that when I began putting names and filling in the blanks of what I had stumbled upon as music theory, it was tremendously helpful in my songwriting, in my soloing, in my love and appreciation of playing guitar. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was a person that disdained and feared music theory. And so if you're fearful of music theory, then this is the correct time to listen, because I'm going to teach it to it in a way that's going to be a lot of fun. And it's going to unlock the fretboard that's going to allow you to play solos and write songs and riff from one end to the other with a minimal amount of suffering. What we're going to talk about now is the practical application of scales. And the first part is going to be for beginners, and what I also taught to my guitar students back in the day. On the very, very first day, I would have them improvising guitar solos. So I'm going to teach you beginners how to improvise a guitar solo right now, OK? So the first thing we're going to do that you always have to do in order to play a solo that sounds musical is identify the key center. So we're going to play one of the bits of music that ...

Strike a Chord

Tom Morello is a two-time Grammy winner, and one of Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” In his first online class, the co-founder of Rage Against the Machine will teach you the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career and sent his music to the top of the charts. Tom will share his approach to making music that challenges the status quo, and teach you how to create your own musical style.

Learn Tom’s signature guitar techniques and musical philosophy as he guides you through the process of writing, recording, and performing songs.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps. supplemental materials, and access to setlists from past shows

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Tom will also critique select student work


Tom Morello

Tom Morello Teaches Electric Guitar