Open Position Chords And Pentatonic

This article serves as a part two to the Connecting Chords To A Scale article. The purpose here is to provide a list of open position chords and the pentatonic scales that they fit into.

Open Position Chords And Pentatonic
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This article serves as a part two to the Connecting Chords To A Scale article. The purpose here is to provide a list of open position chords and the pentatonic scales that they fit into. Since the pentatonic scale has five notes then there are five chord possibilities. One major chord, one minor chord, two suspended chords (sus means to replace the 3rd with the 4th and sus2 means to replace the 3rd with the 2nd) and it turns out that the last chord is a minor augmented chord which is just the root major chord inverted. Knowing the connections between chords and scales is crucial for advancing your rhythm and lead playing. Whether you just memorize the shapes (most guitarists), learn the sound and fingering (ala BB King and others), learn the theory (more of a composer thing especially pre-computer) or all of the above (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai etc.) it will all help.

Lost?

If you aren't familiar with the terminology like 3rd, 4th etcetera, don't know the chords or scales Rock Prodigy can fill in the gaps. We've created a lesson path that will take you from total beginner. Contact us at RockProdigy.com and we'll point you in the right direction.

Pentatonic and its Triads

Let's use C pentatonic as our example. C pentatonic consists of C root, D 2nd, E 3rd, G 5th and A 6th.
  • C-E-G makes up C major
  • A-C-E makes A minor
  • D-E-A is Dsus2
D-G-A is Dsus
  • G-A-D is Gsus2
  • G-C-D is Gsus
  • E-C-G is an inversion of C major There are a lot of possibilities, here's what I came up with for C. Sticking with three note chords (triads):
  • C-E-G makes up C major
 Using scale tones to make alternate C chords you have:

  • C-D-G is Csus2
  • C-E-A is C6
  • C-D-A is C6/9
  • C-G-A I guess you could call it C5add6

    C/Am Pentatonic

    C with its relative minor, Am, works well in open position. Also, you can play the fully movable CAGED box shape by shifting all the notes up the neck to change key.

    Am and the Pentatonic

    For Am, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.
    Here's a video link to watch the Rock Prodigy Exercise, Am and Am Pentatonic:

    C and the Pentatonic

    For C, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.
    Here's the link to download Rock Prodigy and play this exercise, C and C Pentatonic.

    The Sus Chords

    There are two sus chords that fit into the pentatonic scale they work both as a sus 2 and a sus 4. Notice how Dsus is the same notes as Gsus2. Since G is the 4th of Dsus then we know that Gsus must be some sus2 chord. C is the 4th of G so now we have a new Csus2 shape. Aren't inversions fun? :)

    Gsus and the Pentatonic

    For Gsus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    Gsus2 and the Pentatonic

    For Gsus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and 6th.

    Dsus and the Pentatonic

    For Dsus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and flat 7th.

    Dsus2 and the Pentatonic

    For Dsus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7th.

    F/Dm Pentatonic

    Also, F with its relative minor, Dm, works well in open position. Again, you can play this fully movable CAGED box shape by shifting all the notes up the neck to change key.

    Dm and the Pentatonic

    For Dm, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.

    F and the Pentatonic

    For F, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    Csus and the Pentatonic

    For Csus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    Csus2 and the Pentatonic

    For Csus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and 6th.

    Gsus and the Pentatonic

    For Gsus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and flat 7th instead of the 6th like in the other pentatonic scale.

    Gsus2 and the Pentatonic

    For Gsus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7th again instead of the 6th like in the other pentatonic scale.

    G/Em Pentatonic

    G with its relative minor, Em, works well in open position. Also, you can play the full movable CAGED box shape by shifting all the notes up the neck.

    Em and the Pentatonic

    For Em, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.

    G and the Pentatonic

    For G, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    Dsus and the Pentatonic

    For Dsus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and flat 7th.

    Dsus2 and the Pentatonic

    For Dsus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and 6th.

    Asus and the Pentatonic

    For Asus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and flat 7th.

    Asus2 and the Pentatonic

    For Asus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7th.

    E, A and D

    E/ C#m, A/ F#m and D/ Bm become a hybrid of the three note per string shapes and the CAGED box shape. Note: Both the three note per string shapes and the CAGED shapes are provided at the bottom of the article.

    E and the Pentatonic

    For E, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    C#m and the Pentatonic

    For C#m the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.

    A and the Pentatonic

    For A, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    F#m and the Pentatonic

    For F#m, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.

    D and the Pentatonic

    For D, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.

    Bm and the Pentatonic

    For Bm, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.

    Rhythm Guitar

    Knowing the scale tones around the chord you're playing or the scale that the chord progression fits into is great for adding color and internal riffs/fills to your rhythm playing. In the video below I demonstrate how you can utilize the pentatonic scale notes to add variety and dimension to your rhythm playing.

    Lead Guitar

    Knowing where the chord tones of the chord progression you're playing over helps to make your playing more melodic and will steer you away from hitting "wrong-sounding" notes.

    Wrapping It Up

    I hope this was helpful. I've added 12 exercises, as a free download, to Rock Prodigy that will help you master these chord/ scale connections. Just search "Open Chords And Pentatonic" in the RP store.

    Just Because

    Here are two common ways of looking at the way the major scale (and all it's modes) on the fretboard.

    The Big Five

    You might have heard of the CAGED system. This system is a great way to cover the entire fretboard with familiar chord shapes. Knowing where the Root, 3rd and 5th are in the chords also helps when you start to add scale tones as colors. This is why I've added the scale degrees to all of these charts. This helps you find the relationships between the chord shapes and the added scale notes.

    Three Note Per String

    These patterns are great for "breaking out of the box" of the CAGED system, plus you can do some really cool legato licks with them!
  • 23 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      tj4234
      my mind has been blown. I actually did not notice before that this chords were pentatonic. Thanks guys.
      MaggaraMarine
      I think it doesn't make sense to change the scale if there's a chord progression in C for example. Let's take a simple progression C-G-Am-F. You could just play C major pentatonic all the time because the key is still C major. OK, actually you could just play C major scale but every note of the major scale doesn't fit that well every chord (the 7th and 4th notes fit only some chords well). C major fits C pentatonic, G major fits C pentatonic (even though there's no B in C pent), Am fits C pent and also F major fits (even though there's not F in C major pent). So if you change pentatonic scales inside a chord progression, you aren't playing pentatonic any more. You are playing the major scale because if you add the notes in G major pent (G A B D E) and F major pent (F G A C D) to C major pent (C D E G A), you get C D E F G A B which is C major scale. So you aren't really playing different pentatonic scales, you are playing C major scale. It loses the pentatonic sound if you change the scale. Nothing wrong with the article though.
      Rock Prodigy
      The cool thing is that C, F and G pentatonic are all in C major.
      MaggaraMarine
      That's true. But you kind of don't need to think of 3 different scales when you can use one scale = C major. And my point was that if you change the scale, it doesn't sound pentatonic any more, it sounds like C major that is just fine, but if you want pentatonic sound, staying in C maj pent all the time is what you should do.
      RabidPikachu
      In what way is G a flat 7th in the key of Am.....
      Rock Prodigy
      G# is the major 7th, G is the flat 7th or Minor 7th. A major 7th is a half step below the root and a flat 7th is a whole step below.
      Rock Prodigy
      Also, G# is diatonic in the A harmonic minor scale. G natural would be the flat seven in that scale.
      MaggaraMarine
      ^Actually the chords don't fit the scales, the scales fit the chords. So I correct my comment: C pent fits C major, F major, G major and A minor chords.