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The Pentatonic Scale – Guitar

Hey guys, today I want to talk to you about probably the most used scale in the vocabulary of rock, blues and probably jazz music : The pentatonic Scale.

The pentatonic scale is probably the most used scale when it comes to guitar playing and soloing for the simple fact that it only contains 5 notes. That is the reason why it is called the pentatonic, because PENTA means 5 in english.

How to look at the pentatonic scale ?

A good way to look at the pentatonic scale is by taking the ionian guitar mode, also known as the Major scale and eliminate the 4th and the 7th intervals from it.This means eliminating degrees 4 and 7 from the scale.

If you don’t know what degrees are read the article in which i explain to you how to analyze a scale from 3 points of view.

Let’s take C major for example.

The notes of C major are:


In our example the 4th is F and the 7th is B. So if we eliminate F and B we will have C Major pentatonic is:


Now let’s see how the above example would look on one string on the fretboard.

C Major Scale on the A string

C Major Pentatonic Scale on the A string

As you can see they are almost the same, only that the pentatonic has 2 notes less.

Pentatonic Guitar Scale Shapes

Below you have all 5 shapes for the pentatonic guitar scale

  • Shape 1
  • Shape 2
  • Shape 3
  • Shape 4
  • Shape 5

The black dot is the root note in every case

If this is the major pentatonic scale which is the minor pentatonic scale?

The minor pentatonic shape is basically shape 5, because that is the relative minor of it’s major corespondent.

I explained this in detail in the ”What is a major scale, what is a minor scale and what is a chromatic scale ? ”

How to memorize the above shapes ?

1. You have to be patient. You can start by practicing one shape at a time. I recommend that you do each shape 10 times a day each

2. You can also apply the 4,3,2,1 X 4 method by playing each shape consequently.

3. The reason i wrote these shapes in this particular order is because they work one after another.

Start with the C pentatonic and see how well all 5 positions bend together one after another.

4. Choose a note and start with shape 1 and go down the neck until you reach shape 1 again, one octave higher.

5. Practice with a metronome and start slowly.

6. Be patient.

Learning a scale takes time ( remember what i said about the circle of learning). You will know you have learned it properly when you will be able to play it effortlessly anywhere on the fretboard.

7. Find a backing track and start improvising using the pentatonic scale.

8. Chose a note and build the pentatonic scale on each string starting with the same note.

This way you will greatly increase your fretboard visualization skills.

You can do this process with any scale you want to.

9. You can also play the scale using different note values.

10. Have fun 🙂 .

If you already say to yourself: “I just want to play guitar, i don’t need this stuff”, remember that this is part of the process of becoming a great guitar player.

After you will learn them you will see the amount of fun you will have when you are going to be able to improvise effortlessly anywhere on the fretboard.

In a future article i am going to show you the link between the pentatonic scale and the CAGED System.

Until then i wish you good luck with your pentatonic scale practice.

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