Pentatonic Scales

This is an introduction to the five basic pentatonic scales. I will explain how each scale is connected if thought of in the correct order.

Pentatonic Scales
101
The Pentatonic scales are the basic building blocks to soloing. There are 5 scales that are considered the basic pentatonic scales; although there are more then just one set of pentatonic scales. This is a tab of the 5 basic scales:

F minor Pentatonic: I (1st scale)


e|---------------------1-4-------------|
B|-----------------1-4-----------------|
G|-------------1-3---------------------|
D|---------1-3-------------------------|
A|-----1-3-----------------------------|
E|-1-4---------------------------------|

G# Major Pentatonic: II (2nd scale)

Notice how the 2nd pentatonic scale starts on the second note of the 1st pentatonic scale before it.
e|---------------------4-6-------------|
B|-----------------4-6-----------------|
G|-------------3-5---------------------|
D|---------3-6-------------------------|
A|-----3-6-----------------------------|
E|-4-6---------------------------------|

A# Dorian Pentatonic: III (3rd scale)

Notice how the 3rd pentatonic scale starts on the second note of the 2nd pentatonic scale.
e|---------------------6-8-------------|
B|-----------------6-9-----------------|
G|-------------5-8---------------------|
D|---------6-8-------------------------|
A|-----6-8-----------------------------|
E|-6-8---------------------------------|

C Phrygian Pentatonic: IV (4th scale)

Notice how the 4th pentatonic scale starts on the second note of the 3rd pentatonic scale.
e|--------------------------8-11-------|
B|---------------------9-11------------|
G|----------------8-10-----------------|
D|-----------8-10----------------------|
A|------8-11---------------------------|
E|-8-11--------------------------------|

D# Mixolydian Pentatonic: V (5th scale)

Notice how the 5th pentatonic scale starts on the second note of the 4th pentatonic scale.
e|-------------------------------11-13-|
B|-------------------------11-13-------|
G|-------------------10-13-------------|
D|-------------10-13-------------------|
A|-------11-13-------------------------|
E|-11-13-------------------------------|
F minor Pentatonic starts over at the 13th fret again See how the 13th fret and 1st fret are the same notes, the 12th fret is the octave of the open notes as well as the 13th fret is the octave of the 1st fret.
e|-------------------------------13-16-|
B|-------------------------13-16-------|
G|-------------------13-15-------------|
D|-------------13-15-------------------|
A|-------13-15-------------------------|
E|-13-16-------------------------------|
If you notice that each pentatonic scale is connected to two other scales. Each pentatonic scale is an inversion of the others. Basically each scale starts and ends on a different note than the other pentatonic scales, but still uses the same notes as the rest of the pentatonic scales. For example:
  • F minor pentatonic consists of these notes in this order: F, G#, A#, C, D#, and F again (octave)
  • While G# major pentatonic consists of the same notes, they start and end on a different note making it a major and not minor scale: G#, A#, C, D#, F, and G# again (octave) Each of the pentatonic scales consist of the same notes depending on the place you play them on the guitar neck. The only difference between each scale is which note they start and end on. The scales above are two octaves starting with F and ending with G#. F minor pentatonic scale in two octaves starting with F and ending with G# go in this order: (first octave) F, G#, A#, C, D#, F, G#, A#, C, D#, F, G# (two octaves higher). I hope this helps you begin your adventure into soloing and defining your self as a musician. If you have any questions or complaints please email me at: reaper2751@yahoo.com Enjoy!
  • 58 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      reaper2751
      hoodaneez wrote: oh man,i just bought my electric guitar and i dont know anything about guitars i dont know why im reading this lol what are pentatonic's?
      Pentatonics are scales. These scales are composed of 5 notes. Learning these scales and practicing them will do many things for you. For example, practicing them will give you more speed and dexterity, it will eventually lead to learning how to solo, and you will eventually be able to apply these scales and more advance scales to creating songs. -Learn the scales. -Practice moving between all of the scales. -Apply techniques like bends and slides to moving between the scales and make it sound smooth. -Learn what a key is. -Find a song and apply the scales to that song in the correct key and try to solo over it. Do those, and you'll become great in no time! Oh, by the way, there are no short cuts in becoming a great guitar god. Just practice, practice, and more practice. And remember, perfect practice makes perfect. So take it slow and build up. Don't start off biting off too much for you to chew. Okays? Have fun!
      reaper2751
      redflag_ppl wrote: Is this all of the pentatonic scales? and im still not understanding hoow they help make solo's?
      There are only 5 standard pentatonic scales. Each one is composed of 5 notes. The only difference between these scales are the order in which the notes are played. _____ Learning these does help you solo. If you just learn all 5 scales and practice moving between these scales, you will eventually understand what I mean by it will help you solo. I know it's very confusing, but to make it easier on yourself, just learn the scales first, then practice moving between all of the scales, then apply techniques like bends and slides to make it smooth, and you will eventually be playing a solo. Take a song you like and try to solo to it. If you know the key to the song, then you can place the scales to that key and try to solo using the scales. Sorry. This is all very confusing for people at first and you'll eventually end up hitting yourself in the head wondering how you were ever confused by this stuff, but for now, take it slow. And if you can, get a teacher or someone who can show you in person. It helps, a lot! Hope this helped some. Have fun!
      lakie
      No but i can see where you're getting confused. The different shapes are labelled as different scales when in fact they are all parts of the same scale. I'll try and explain it without theory to make it easier. Right, take that first scale as shape 1 of the Fminor Pentatonic scale, take the second scale as shape 2 of the Fminor pentatonic, third scale as shape 3, fourth scale as shape 4, and fifth scale as shape 5. all these shapes overlap each other on the fretboard so the same notes that you'd play with your third and fourth finger on shape 1 would be played with your first and second finger if you moved up the fretboard to shape 2. shape 1 e 1-4 B 1-4 G 1-3 D 1-3 A 1-3 E 1-4 Shape 2 e 4-6 B 4-6 G 3-5 D 3-6 A 3-6 E 4-6 Shape 1+2 e 1-4-6 B 1-4-6 G 1-3-5 D 1-3-6 A 1-3-6 E 1-4-6 all these shapes interlink like this and shape 5 links back to shape 1(12 frets higher). these shapes make up all of the notes in F minor pentatonic on the fretboard so if a song is in F minor, then play this scale over the top and it will sound good with it. Remember the scale is F minor pentatonic because the first note you play in shape 1 is F. To play the scale of A minor you move the whole scale up the fret board by 4 frets and start with A as the first note of shape 1... If a song is in a major key, start with shape 2 so the sequence of the shapes go 2-3-4-5-1. so for a song in A major, start shape 2 with the A at the 5th fret and you'll be playing A major pentatonic. sorry, i know it's a bit long-winded. hope it helps though
      Leigh|esp
      I dont know if this will help or not but with all those patterns you are basically playing the same notes. The pentatonic scale written here is F Minor so the notes are F, G#, A#, C and D# then back to F. So a pentatonic scale is made up of 5 notes and in the above F minor pentatonic scale those are the notes being shown. The second third fourth and fifth scale versions are exactly the same notes sometimes played on different strings and frets some being an octave higher but still are comprised or the same notes. The only difference is with the second scale it starts on G# instead of F, then the 3rd scale starts on A#, the fourth starts on C and fifth D# then starts back on F again an octave higher. The lesson shows the jigsaw puzzle of the F minor pentatonic scale. The First scale what some people call The Root pentatonic scale as it starts on the root note which in this case is F. If you wanted to play this in E you would transcribe the first scale down 1 fret eg. e|-----0-3-----| B|-----0-3-----| G|-----0-2-----| D |-----0-2-----| A|-----0-2-----| E|-0-3-----| and the pattern would look like this... e| 0 - - 3 - 5 - 7 - - 10 - 12 -| B| 0 - - 3 - 5 - - 8 - 10 - 12 -| G| 0 - 2 - 4 - - 7 - 9 - - 12 -| D| 0 - 2 - - 5 - 7 - 9 - - 12 -| A| 0 - 2 - - 5 - 7 - - 10 - 12 -| E| 0 - - 3 - 5 - 7 - - 10 - 12 -| 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Then the pattern would start again from the 12th fret Anyways i hope that helped a little and hope it made sense.
      reaper2751
      Fedx_metallica wrote: Which ones are the most common scales that metallica uses to makes riffs?
      If I remember right, I think Metallica was in love with E minor, which is G major. I'm not a hundred percent sure though. But from what I remember, that's right. Good luck!
      Sav25
      Thanks man - practiced these for 20 minutes and already my accuracy is better - going to do this loads and learn how to link them cheers
      reaper2751
      rukario wrote: you can move pents anywhere along the neck right, it'll just change the name depending on the root note???? Am I understanding this right???
      Mhm. The cool thing about the guitar is that the pattern remains the same in every pentatonic. The name only changes because the notes change. That's all. You're on the right track. Keep up the good work!
      rukario
      you can move pents anywhere along the neck right, it'll just change the name depending on the root note???? Am I understanding this right???
      reaper2751
      N!K wrote: i got bout the pentatonic scale that it's made up of 5 notes and there are 5 of those to practice but what the heck is key??
      Hahaha. Thanks. I needed a laugh. Had a jerk comment rudely on another post and was quite disheveled by it. But now I'm better, thanks to you. A key is simply a set of notes that someone along the line decided they sounded good together. If you take one scale, figure out the notes in it, and BAM! You have the key it's in. Hope that helps some
      reaper2751
      B-Ron wrote: Been practicing these all day. How long does it usually take for someone to memorize all of these 5 pentatonic scales?
      It can take someone practicing it one time or a million times before they memorize it. I think it took me 3 months to completely understand and memorize pentatonics and modes, both. I did it the opposite way that I suggest, too. I learned modes first, then pentatonics, and only truly understood the modes after learning the pents. Have fun bro
      THe h man
      i attempted to learn modes n scales when i started to play an i tryed again recently an memorized them straight away.before this lesson i only knew maj and min pentatonic. very good lesson
      patrickodang
      ok im a little bit confused on how the structure of pentatonics work. you say the fminor pent scale consists of: F, G#, A#, C, D#. so why do you skip B, and then E when coming back to F? sorry if my question doesn't make sense, im new to this
      XyPh0z
      Awesome ! is pentatonic scale also used in shredding technique ?
      Tim-B
      Phenomenal post! Thank you for taking the time to explain so many details to us newbies! It has made a huge difference in my ability to understand the entire concept of scales and how they fit into the big picture.
      8ashbyst
      8ashbyst I haven't played guitar in 50 years, what happened to reading music notes, and not tap ?
      iampr69
      I am a beginner and i don't get why we have to study scales and how should we study the.....should we just learn them or is there any other method ??
      heironymous1
      If you begin by practicing playing a scale (over say a four fret or five fret span) then you learn a collection of notes which sound good together. By practicing you hit the right notes and learn to play them fluidly, rapidly and without having to think too much. Then you can try improvising and making up a tune selecting notes from the collection you have learned. Tunes often start and end on the root note. For example, the root note of E major pentatonic is E. Knowing which key you are playing in tells you which chords are likely to fit your tune. For example if you are playing in E major then E, A and B are prime candidates. You can improvise a tune over a chord sequence or given a tune you can work out what chords fit best. Learning a scale over all of the finger board is useful when you want to play a tune that extends over several octaves.
      zyzzyx6
      Understanding root notes on the sixth string is a great place to start. Shape 1 is the easiest to understand and the most common. If you start shape 1 on the third fret you will see it is a "G". This makes it the key of G. You will run up the shape and back down again for practice. When finished you will move up to shape two and do the same thing. Each shape covers only 5 notes but is two octaves long. As you move up the neck you will pass the 12 fret. This is the octave fret on the neck. At this point you may choose to continue up the neck playing the 5 shapes and repeating them until you hit your 22 or 24 fret or however many frets you have. Another option is to finish the shape at the 12 fret and then continue down to your first fret. The shapes function as a circle repeating themselves in order. Doing this you stay in the same key. In this case the key of "G". To change keys you can move your first shape up the neck to any fret and begin again playing the first shape, slide up for second shape, etc. Beginning this on the fifth fret would be the key of A. Beginning this on the 7th fret the key of B etc. This is in no way designed as a comprehensive lesson. It is an illustration as to how the 5 shapes correlate to the changing keys.
      mind.0.jelly
      Hey guys, can anyone tell me what scale is: e-12-14-15 B-12-15 G-12-14-15 D-12-14 A-12-13-14 E -12-15 Is it an E Major pentatonic?
      zyzzyx6
      To the guy that said he started learning the modes first and then clarified them with the pentatonic.....wow!!! Modes are based on the major scale. Learning modes would be easy enough but clarifying them with anything other than the major scale would be an amazing feat. I'm kind of slow sometimes so my hats off to you for doing this. I would recommend to anyone else to begin learning your major scale shapes first and then attempting modes. Just my opinion...
      Senor Kristian
      Most useful lesson I've ever read on this site! Been bugging me for ages how I couldn't get from one scale to the next, but with the pentatonic scales, I can! Thanks
      tomxrich
      I've been on here for a long time but have never bothered posting anything until now, but thanks a lot for putting this up. As said above, clear and to the point, thanks again.
      justcool7
      How come you guys are saying that all these scales are in the same key when it goes F G# A# ? I know its a silly question but I'm not getting how there all in the same key
      jmarq
      ok so are all the basic minor pentatonic scales the same shape as the f minor? and all the basic major pentatonic scales the same pattern as G#? thats what im confused about.
      redflag_ppl
      Is this all of the pentatonic scales? and im still not understanding hoow they help make solo's?
      lakie
      in reply to luckydog004 and redflag_ppl... yes these 5 shapes are all in the same key and they interlink, so scale 1 interlinks with scale 2, scale 2 interlinks with scale 3, 3 with 4, 4 with 5, and 5 with 1... learn these 5 scale shapes and how they interlink with each other and you'll be able to solo all over the fretboard
      hoodaneez
      oh man,i just bought my electric guitar and i dont know anything about guitars i dont know why im reading this lol what are pentatonic's?
      redflag_ppl
      if shape 1 and 2 are together...what does that then make? a blues scale? or an i lost again? :S
      reaper2751
      redflag_ppl wrote: if shape 1 and 2 are together...what does that then make? a blues scale? or an i lost again? :S
      There are 5 notes in a pentatonic. The blues scale is one extra note added to the pentatonic. So the blues scales are another completely different scale. _____ Each shape is composed of those 5 notes in the pentatonic. The only difference between shapes is the order in which these notes are played in. I know it's very confusing at first. Just learn all of the patterns and practice moving from one to the other. After you have that, then go back and try to understand the "whys." Hope that helped some.
      redflag_ppl
      sooo I'm still abit confused how theis can help me solo? and same as 'luckydog004' are theis all the same key?
      iamjon117
      this is cool ive been wanting to learn pentatonics 4 a while dude thx alot
      !RHCP!RACH!
      thankyou this is really helpful, but could you maybe edit this and write which finger i should be using when playing each note, P I M A, that sort of thing, if you don't mind
      metallicate
      This is interesting, and I can see the author put in alot of effort in explaining it more thoroughly. After looking over it for about 5 times, I think i got it. Haven really practiced though. But good contribution!