Soloing With Pentatonic Scales

Another scale to help you solo happy songs instead of using phrases in the minor pentatonic scale.

Ultimate Guitar
So basically most soloing techniques are already covered by other articles in this section but I thought I'd add my 2 cents. For the sake of keeping this article simple I will write all the scales in C. My guitar teacher only ever taught me the minor pentatonic scale and tried to get me to make patterns when playing any kind of music and it does work if you can get this right but I found it hard because you'll go try hit a note in the scale and it will fit but sound shocking. The minor pentatonic scale is: e---------------------------8-11------------------3-6------ b----------------------8-11-------------------4-6---------- g-----------------8-10--------------------3-5-------------- D------------8-10---------------------3-5------------------ A-------8-10----------------------3-6---------------------- E--8-11---------------------------------------------------- That's two versions. Basically you can move up and down the fret board with the same shapes, same notes just an octave or whatever higher. The modified version of this scale is the blues minor pentatonic scale where you add a passing note in there but be warned, never end a run or sequence on this note or the whole solo will sound terrible. The note is a flattened 5th note which is as follows: e------------------------------8-11-------------------3-6-- b-------------------------8-11------------------4-6-7------ g-----------------8-10-11-------------------3-5------------ D------------8-10---------------------3-4-5---------------- A-------8-9-10--------------------3-6---------------------- E--8-11---------------------------------------------------- I was playing band at school and the two songs I was asked to solo in were 'You May Be Right' and 'Walking On Sunshine'. Now we all know the minor scale is a sad sound (and if you didn't you do now) and the major scale is happy 'hey let's jump around a laugh'. When I practiced for a lengthy time I found I would solo with the minor scale and sometimes sound good and sometimes sound good. I was finally enlightened by one of my fellow band members there was such a thing as a major pentatonic scale that we don't get taught at school. I tried and immediately found it sounded right! The simplest version of the major pentatonic scale goes like this: e--------------------5-8-------------------0-3------------- b----------------5-8-------------------1-3----------------- g------------5-7-------------------0-2--------------------- D--------5-7-------------------0-2------------------------- A----5-7---------------------3----------------------------- E--8------------------------------------------------------- It is basically a whole + semi (one and a half) tones below your key's minor pentatonic scale but you start on your key's note. Another form of soloing is through the actual scale of your key. I have never actually tried this except in punk music which I know works but it's worth a shot, hell if it sucks you can go back to pentatonic scales. But the whole point of this exercise was to teach you that if your solo's sound out of place in the minor pentatonic scale you can always try the major one. With soloing the number one rule you must always remember to be creative. I have given you some guidelines but you can always break through like Hendrix did and mix minor and major scales together to get a strange effect on your solo's. I hope you've learnt something from this exercise and if you have an feedback email it to

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27 comments sorted by best / new / date

    most of those diagrams ended up all messed up on my broweser. i suggest that in the future, you use [ code ] tags when you are posting tab in articles.
    can anyone please tell me the difference between the relative minor, harmonic minor, "melodic minor", etc. and their different applications?
    i would solo with the minor scale and sometimes sound good and sometimes sound good. wtf does that mean?
    i know a bunch of scales like..... pentatonic... harmonic minor... melodic minor etc.... but my problem is.... i dont know how to play this scales along with the songs... (i dont know how to used them)..... can anyone help me....
    "i wan't to learn how to solo like van halen. is there some kind of scale for that kind of thing? cause i really wan't to learn his solos" EVH uses tapping, ask a guitar instructor about it, or look it up online
    pentatonic scales use 5 notes from a certain scale...its freakin piss easy...if ur COOL like me (lol) u will know ALL the pentatonic shapes up the neck...(haha i only know minor, but hey they sound sexier) have fun everybunny
    pentatonics were the first real guitar scale I learned, and I still use them. Good job
    i'd like to see a tip article on how to write solos, I can only write chorus' to songs on rare occasions, i'd like to learn to write some solos
    Steve Falcone
    if you want an easier major pentatonic than play A--3-5-7----- D- -----5-7 and follow that pattern
    hendricksfan, try lookin up some stuff on speed picking. it makes stuff sound a lot faster and more difficult than it really is.
    The Major pentatonic fingerings are the exact same as the minor pentatonic except with a different starting point.The second position of the Minor pentatonic is the First position of the major pentatonic.C minor pentatonic=Eb Major pentatonic. Relative major.If you know one you know them both!Think Allman Bros for Maj think Zeppelin Minor
    geldof what dildo phone are you talking about? thanks for the tip rhysy_boi, ill definitely use it about the major and minor scale
    Geldof the Grey
    oh, and that phone sucks... I have one and it wont fit in my pocket, so I'm using my guitar case instead. My start is sratched to shit
    Geldof the Grey
    van halen uses the same scales... just better... damn I hate him... article pretty good, and the only diagram which got messed up was the one where the advert popped up in the middle of it.
    if you want to play solos with more techinical speed, then you need to play 3 notes on each string. this can be done by combining different scales in the minor OR major pentatonic sets but not mixing them both. it means you have to move your hand more, so it requires alot of practice. these scales are used by speedy guitarist like paul gilbert, who i would say is alot faster than eddie vanhalen, so if you wanna be fast, i think this might help you.
    i wan't to learn how to solo like van halen. is there some kind of scale for that kind of thing? cause i really wan't to learn his solos.
    can you string together the different pentatonic positions? is that how you make solos/riffs?