Ive been playing guitar about 7 years now and im ashamed to say ive never put any time and dedication to learning theory and scales beyong what ive learnt naturally whilst playing.

Ive decided I wanna write music and join a band with a bluesy proggy rock vibe so im gonna need to get this shit learnt really.

my question is......

everyone tells me the only scales youll need for rock and blues is pentatonic? im WELL aware that's not a rule of thumb but the gist is that theyre all based around it.

well....I look at about 10 solo's from gilmour, brian may, jimmy page, young, Hendrix

who in they're right mind would tell you that its all pentatonic ????!!! all the solos I can see for rock and blues and proggy have added fifths and flats and sharps and the like all over the place, ive got the a minor pentatonic scale down, I mean I know it all over the guitar and the root note everywhere, and there is no way you listen to licks like the opening solo in death on two legs by queen or even the majestic if overrated stairway to heaven and so many notes fall out of the pentatonic shape!

pentatonic seems to be only for solo's like let it be by the beatles, simple scale for (very technically...) simple music.

I want to be able to do licks and runs say for example 3 notes within 4 frets, that obviously includes the pentatonic pattern and the added note but all I hear is that everythings pentatonic, its not at all?

ive decided to learn the minor and major scales, and that shall be that, does this ring true to anyone with any similar issues with limited playing by learning the pentatonic?

I figured if you learn the major and minor scales say for A then at the very least you can play it just like the pentatonic but have full use of extra notes and slicker licks. the pentatonic to me (maybe I haven't learnt it as well as I think) sounds samey and boring, unless like I said your writing let it be style solo's. what scale is used in I want it all by queen especially in the fast runs, has to be added notes on the pentatonic doesn't it?

sorry for long essay but its driving me mad!
Lots of melodic music uses the pentatonic almost exclusively, but which pentatonic scale you use changes with the harmony. And using a scale doesn't mean using it exclusively. You have to look at harmony, rhythm, and phrasing together to determine which melodic notes define the harmony.

If you have a song with chords C F and G, you can use C pentatonic over the C, F pentatonic over the F, and G pentatonic over the G. All without ever leaving the key of C.

And let's analyze why that is:

What are the notes in each of those scales?
C pentatonic: C D E G A C
F pentatonic: F G A C D F
G pentatonic: G A B D E G

All different notes, so it would appear...

But what are the notes of your overall key, C major?

C major: C D E F G A B C

Notice that your key here contains the same notes as all of the corresponding pentatonic scales for the chords within it. Here are those pentatonics overlaid on the key of C:

C pent: C D E F G A B C
F pent: C D E F G A B C
G pent: C D E F G A B C
Last edited by cdgraves at May 10, 2014,
Don't underestimate the power of the pentatonic scale. Lots of great solos only use notes inside of one pentatonic scale. It's not about which notes you use, it's about how you use them.

But yeah, I don't agree with the guys who say that pentatonic is the only scale you need to know to play rock and blues. Or actually you don't need to know any scales to play blues or rock. But if you want to play your own solos, knowing some scales helps - it helps you find the sounds you are looking for.

But yeah, many rock solos mostly use the pentatonic scale. They do use some notes outside of the pentatonic but they are mostly pentatonic.

It's not all about the scales you use. Music isn't scales. You need to know how to use the notes.
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Most of the old rock bands used pentatonic scales because they were highly influenced by the bluesmen. They grew up listening to blues musicians and learned many of their songs. So, of course, when they began writing their own songs, they used what they already knew to create original songs.

And that tradition has extended a bit into today.
Because it avoids the trouble that added notes would cause and it makes it avoid minor 2nd dissonances by eliminating the half steps from the attending major or minor scale. That makes it easy for just about anyone to play something without falling into much trouble.


It is my opinion that the minor pentatonic is severely overused and is almost "boring" to listen to - often times it sounds the same, generic, lacks punch and expression. I like more notes, accidentals, etc and find it much more interesting. One thing is if you're improvising or jamming with someone - sure go ahead and play some pentatonics - but if you're actually writing a solo or melody for an original song and have time to make sure your notes work, I don't see any reason to keep it pentatonic unless you're going for that traditional bluesy sound.
Definitely disagree with it being "all you need", especially in this youtube/spotify age where there's so much music available, nobody is going to notice your music unless you make it original. 5-note solos aren't gonna cut it