Lick of the Week – Knockin on Heaven’s Door

The La shape of the pentatonic scale, commonly known as the minor pentatonic scale, is the most frequently used pattern by guitar players around the world. And because a large chunk of the rock library is steeped in the minor pentatonic scale, it is also the first thing you will learn and practice with our app Fretello Lead. Later, when you learn classic rock solos, blues licks, pop chord progressions or heavy metal riffs you will know the shapes. It will be familiar territory, which is a great feeling, especially for a beginner.

A refresher to the pentatonic scale

If you want to become a better guitar player, it is crucial to practice scales. Although learning scales is great, you have to learn some popular licks to learn lead guitar. Also, learning to play some lead lines from popular bands is also more fun than just practicing scales.  Thus, we are going to present you different licks, riffs and solos that you can play with the pentatonic scale.

In case you do not remember, this shape is called the La shape. It is the 5th of 5 possible box patterns of the pentatonic scale. Sometimes, it is also called the 5th mode of the pentatonic scale. The major pentatonic scale in C consists of the notes c d e g a. Instead you can also say it consists of the notes Do Re Mi So La. The pattern is called the La shape, because it starts from the 5th position of the pentatonic scale. In C major the La shape starts from A for example. And because A is the parallel minor of C, it is also called the minor pentatonic scale.
A minor pentatonic scale

Don’t worry if this still sounds a bit complex, we will come back to it later as you continue developing your skills with Fretello Lead.

Knockin on Heaven’s Door

This week, we show you how Slash from Guns’n’Roses uses the 5th pentatonic mode for his solo in Knockin on Heaven’s Door.


The song is written in G major and the G major pentatonic consists of the notes g a b d e. Thus, the La shape starts on the e which is located on the 12th fret of your guitar.

Slash repeats the same rhythmic motif twice. If you take a closer look, he only varues the last note of the sixteenth note figure by playing the note on the 14th fret the first time and on the 12th fret the second time.

Repeating rhythmic motifs creates a clear structure which makes the lick sound catchy. The icing on the cake is the note in the middle of the phrase.

Note: Slash always tunes down his guitar by a half step. If you want to play the lick to the original song, you will have to do the same.

Helmut Kirisits
Guitar Teacher & Musicologist