I'm trying to understand when to use the minor or pentatonic scale.

I assumed it was as simple as....if I'm playing a song in a major key....I use major pentatonic scale to solo with.....find the root note..base around that...

If a minor...use minor...find root note base around that....

But a lot of people seem to keep referring mainly to the minor pentatonic...but there are a lot of songs written in major...so why the heavy emphasis on minor?

Now from what I understand...the difference between the two is just flipping the root note 3 frets up or down (3 semitones below for a minor)...depending on major or minor....

But then why do typical scale chart positions actually add to the confusion by jumbling the order!?

Take this:


Position 1 in minor is actually position 5 in major! 2 is one etc...

Why would they jumble the pattern positions?

Thanks for any clarification!
Scale charts and positions don't really mean anything so try not to focus on them too much - Scales are not defined by shapes or positions, they're defined by the notes they contain and the sounds those notes make.

The short answer is:

If your your is in a major key, solo with the corresponding major pentatonic scale - so if your song is in the key of A major use A major pentatonic. This has nothing to do with shapes, positions, root notes or anything else physical - the reason you do this is because of sound. If a song is "in the key of "A major that means that A major is the "home" chord, the one that the piece wants to resolve to. Now you can of course solo with A major, but the major pentatonic omits the two semitone shifts, leaving you with a scale that's comprised solely of nice, smooth whole tone and 3 semitone intervals...nice and easy to work with, with minimal chance of you running into some awkward dissonant notes over some of your chords.

If you're in A minor, or indeed any minor key then the exact same advice applies, just substitute the word "major" for "minor".

Now the long answer is that because sound is the deciding factor in what a musician plays you can pretty much do anything you want,as long as it sounds goof - and the minor pentatonic over a major progression just happens to sound pretty good to our ears, in fact it's a huge part of blues and rock music that traces its roots back to the blues. So it's something you'll hear a lot, and if that's the sound you want then by all means use it.

However for the sake of learning it's a good idea to spend some time specifically working with minor scales in minor keys and major scales with major keys just to get a feel for how they work and the kind of sounds you get from them
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minor pentatonic over a major backing is frequently used in blues, to sort of mess with the whole major/minor thing. as rock music is based very heavily on the blues (and metal etc. are based heavily on rock), that sort of carried over to rock as well.
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Learn " Lenny" from SRV ( studio version from Texas Flood album) - the backing track for the solo is just E and A and he continuously switches between E major and E minor pentatonic- it's a great case study because you can really hear how each works and hear the differences. Learn the SOUND of the major pentatonic and you'll have a better grasp of when it sounds good to use it.

So, learn E major pentatonic and E minor pentatonic and then start learning the solo to Lenny - note when he switches from one to other and wrap your head around the sound- trust me on this- it will help alot.
Last edited by reverb66 at Oct 31, 2016,