Pentatonic Scales for Guitar

Pentatonic

Tried and true, this is the scale we all love to use. Guitar legends have been made from this scale. The good news is that it’s one of the easiest scales to remember and it fits in just about everyone’s style in some way or another. It’s commonly used in country, jazz, rock, metal, folk, everything.

Major Pentatonic Scale

Lets start with the Pentatonic major scale. Below is the fretboard chart (in A) for it then we’ll talk about what’s going on in it.

pentatonic scale

Above you can see that there seems to be fewer notes than the major and minor scales. It’s true. The major pentatonic eliminates the 4th and the 6th of the major scale. This may be the reason it is easier to remember. Also by eliminating the 7th it makes the scale more universally usable. The 7th note, remember, sets the flavor of the chord. Without defining it the scale can fit over more chords.

Every single major pentatonic scale for every single key signature follows the same pattern:

W … W … W + H … W …W + H or Whole step – Whole step – Whole step and a half – Whole step – Whole step and a half

A step is the distance between 2 notes: half step = 1 fret whole step = 2 frets

On the guitar you can play a whole major scale up to the 12th fret and see the pattern on one string.

pentatonic scale

A very good idea would be to try to memorize or learn the major pentatonic scale for each of the keys A through G. Below is a chart that shows every key’s major pentatonic scale.

Tonic (major pentatonic scale) 2nd 3rd 5th 6th
A B C# E F#
B C# D# F# G#
C D E G A
D E F# A B
E F# G# B C#
F G A C D
G A B D E

Minor Pentatonic Scale

The minor pentatonic pretty much is the major pentatonic scale except you shift the tonic, or 1st note to 3 frets below. So the chart’s notes remain the same but the root or tonic is different. Take a look.

pentatonic scale

I made a mistake on the B string… the blue fretted note on the 3rd fret should actually be on the 2nd fret. My bad yo. hehe

Above you can see that there seems to be fewer notes than the major and minor scales. It’s true. The major pentatonic eliminates the 4th and the 6th of the major scale. This may be the reason it is easier to remember. Also by eliminating the 7th it makes the scale more universally usable. The 7th note, remember, sets the flavor of the chord. Without defining it the scale can fit over more chords. Every single major pentatonic scale for every single key signature follows the same pattern:

W + H … W … W … W + H … W or Whole step and a half – Whole step – Whole step – Whole step and a half – Whole step

A step is the distance between 2 notes: half step = 1 fret whole step = 2 frets

pentatonic scale

So here are the notes for all of the minor pentatonic scales

Tonic (minor pentatonic scale) flat 3rd 4th 5th flat 7th
A C D E G
B D E F# A
C Eb F G Bb
D F G A C
E G A B D
F Ab Bb C Eb
G Bb C D F

So obviously these two scales are related because each major pentatonic shares the same notes with its pentatonic minor scale. Here are the scales as they relate.

Major Pentatonic Scale Relative Minor Pentatonic Scale
A F#m
B G#m
C Am
D Bm
E C#m
F Dm
G Em

Of course all of these scales should be practiced across the fretboard. They also have modal positions just like the major and the minor scales. And the process is the same. I would practice each modal position for each scale. Use the blank tab sheet on the web site or above to TAB out your exercises if you’d like.

All of this talk about chords, modes and scales begs a question. “How do we tie them all together?” Well, you can do one of two things. You can take all of this information and explore it, apply it, combine and create with it yourself, which I really hope you do. T

The other pages in theis section of the site will be dedicated entirely to figuring out chordal, modal and scalar relationships and how they relate to one another.

Right now let’s wrap up with a little study that incorporates some of the stuff that we talked about so far in a study Hope you like it.

Comments

  1. JB says

    Thank you very much for this and ofcourse all your other lessons they have been very informative and have helped me alot :) thanks once again!

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