Major And Minor Pentatonics

The object of this lesson is to describe the major and minor pentatonic shapes and their uses.

19
One thing that confuses a lot of guitarists is the use of the minor and major pentatonic scales. The the minor scales that are outlined below, in the key of "A", are simply patterns that can be moved up and down the neck. Putting these patterns in the key of "A" means that the notes that have an "R" after them, or the root notes, are on an "A" note.

Minor Patterns


Pattern 1
E||----------------------|----------------------|------------3----5R---|
B||----------------------|----------------------|--3----5--------------|
G||----------------------|------------2R---5----|----------------------|
D||----------------------|--2----5--------------|----------------------|
A||------------3----5----|----------------------|----------------------|
E||--3----5R-------------|----------------------|----------------------|

Pattern 2
----------------------|----------------------|------------5R---8----|
----------------------|----------------------|--5----8--------------|
----------------------|------------5----7----|----------------------|
----------------------|--5----7R-------------|----------------------|
------------5----7----|----------------------|----------------------|
--5R---8--------------|----------------------|----------------------|

Pattern 3
------------------------|-----------------------|-------------8----10----|
------------------------|-----------------------|--8----10R--------------|
------------------------|-------------7----9----|------------------------|
------------------------|--7R---10--------------|------------------------|
-------------7----10----|-----------------------|------------------------|
--8----10---------------|-----------------------|------------------------|

Pattern 4
--------------------------|-------------------------|--------------10----12----|
--------------------------|-------------------------|--10R----13-----------
--------------------------|--------------9----12----|--------------------------|
--------------------------|--10----12---------------|--------------------------|
--------------10----12R---|-------------------------|--------------------------|
--10----12----------------|-------------------------|--------------------------|

Pattern 5
--------------------------|--------------------------|--------------12----15----|
--------------------------|--------------------------|--13----15----------------|
--------------------------|--------------12----14R---|--------------------------|
--------------------------|--12----14----------------|--------------------------|
--------------12R----15---|--------------------------|-----------------------
--12----15----------------|--------------------------|--------------------------|

Pattern 6
--------------------------|--------------------------|--------------15----17R---||
--------------------------|--------------------------|--15----17----------------||
--------------------------|--------------14R---17----|-----------------------
--------------------------|--14----17----------------|--------------------------||
--------------15----17----|--------------------------|--------------------------||
--15----17R---------------|--------------------------|--------------------------||
Here you can see that pattern 6 has the same shape as pattern 1 and it's root notes in the same place, but is exactly 12 frets up the fretboard, meaning all the notes in pattern 6 are one octave higher then pattern 1. The major pentatonic scales use the same patterns but with the root notes in a different place to produce a different tonic "progression", which is basically the music theory way of saying it makes it sound major, instead of minor. Here are the same 6 patterns on the neck but with the roots in different areas.

Major Patterns


Pattern 1
E||----------------------|----------------------|------------3----5----|
B||----------------------|----------------------|--3----5--------------|
G||----------------------|------------2----5R---|----------------------|
D||----------------------|--2----5--------------|----------------------|
A||------------3R---5----|----------------------|----------------------|
E||--3----5--------------|----------------------|----------------------|

Pattern 2
----------------------|----------------------|------------5----8R---|
----------------------|----------------------|--5----8--------------|
----------------------|------------5R---7----|----------------------|
----------------------|--5----7--------------|----------------------|
------------5----7----|----------------------|----------------------|
--5----8R-------------|----------------------|----------------------|

Pattern 3
------------------------|-----------------------|-------------8R---10----|
------------------------|-----------------------|--8----10---------------|
------------------------|-------------7----9----|------------------------|
------------------------|--7----10R-------------|------------------------|
-------------7----10----|-----------------------|------------------------|
--8R---10---------------|-----------------------|------------------------|

Pattern 4
--------------------------|-------------------------|--------------10----12----|
--------------------------|-------------------------|--10----13R---------------|
--------------------------|--------------9----12----|--------------------------|
--------------------------|--10R---12---------------|----------------------
--------------10----12----|-------------------------|--------------------------|
--10----12----------------|-------------------------|--------------------------|

Pattern 5
--------------------------|--------------------------|--------------12----15----|
--------------------------|--------------------------|--13R---15------------
--------------------------|--------------12----14----|--------------------------|
--------------------------|--12----14----------------|--------------------------|
--------------12----15R---|--------------------------|--------------------------|
--12----15----------------|--------------------------|--------------------------|

Pattern 6
--------------------------|--------------------------|--------------15----17----||
--------------------------|--------------------------|--15----17----------------||
--------------------------|--------------14----17R---|--------------------------||
--------------------------|--14----17----------------|--------------------------||
--------------15R---17----|--------------------------|---------------------
--15----17----------------|--------------------------|--------------------------||
Here you can see that the same patterns but the roots have been changed. The change in roots for the patterns isnt very difficult at all. You can take the the pattern for the Minor scale, and root moves up one note. So in the case of pattern 2, The root note for the minor is on the 5th fret, and the root note for the major is on the 8th fret. So all you are doing is moving the root one note forward in the pattern to change from minor to major. These major patterns also fall into a different key because there is a change in the root note. These patterns shown above are the C major Pentatonic scales. What?!?! You might think this is strange, but starting at the root note, they have totally different tone feel. So the A minor pentatonic scale and the C major pentatonic scale might be made of the same notes (A C D E G) but depending on what note you start on, you give the scale a whole different feel. All you need to do is learn the 5 patterns and how the root notes change for major and minor scales and you will be well on your way to being able to improvise a solo over nearly every song your hear. This is one of the most powerful tools for a learning guitarist. So make sure to memorise the patterns and think about how to apply them, use your ears and have fun! Hope this was a good first lesson. Chris.

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    3dw1n
    Hey bro. excellent i rated u by a 10 GREAT !!! Keep Going man!!!!
    CryLeadGuitar
    I'm a beginner, I just want to ask something. If someone is playing a guitar in a Chord family of "A" then I can play "A" minor pentatonic alone all through out? Another question, in the family chord of "A", "D" chord comes along right(correct me if I am wrong), is it okay if I will play the "D" minor pentatonic when that someone is now on the "D" chord?
    Vendetta V
    edit: the first paragraph of my post. forgot to include the quotes
    Ehm... So. if someone is playing a solo, I could go: "Ey, you're playing the d minor pentatonic scales". But then somebody else will go: "No no. he's playing the F major pentatonic scales". And we'll both be right?
    not necessarily! hypothetically you'd be right. but those are different things in theory language! same like saying F# and Gb are the same note but saying i've got Gb in my Gmajor scale would be totally wrong
    Seems weird to me.
    ok...:shrug:
    I though there were more notes in the major scales
    ...as well as in minor scales. but these are the pentatonic scales meaning it's 5 tone scale (penta tonic!).. not 7
    Vendetta V
    as well as in minor scale. these are the pentatonic scales meaning it's 5 tone scale (penta tonic!).. not 7 not necessarily! hypothetically you'd be right. but those are different things in theory language! same like saying F# and Gb are the same note but saying i've got Gb in my Gmajor scale would be totally wrong now I disagree with the pattern 1 being the first one. you'd better start with something where the root note is the first... so they can feel the difference. ok let's do it this way: first play the pattern 2 notice that the first note is the root note, then play the pattern 3. note: the notes are same (cause thsese are called relative notes like Amin shares the same notes as Cmaj but they begin from different places and sound different) but the intervals change. now for Dmin you wouldnt be just playing the pattern 4 as the 10th fret is the D. you have to have the intervals correct!! so you first take a the formula for calculating the minor pentatonic which is 1.5step-step-step-1.5step-step that means 3frets-2frets-2frets-3frets-2frets calculate and get the pattern 2 but this time starting from the 10th fret. if you want the D# you can do the same.. however the pattern doesnt change. it just moves one fret up to become D# I hope that makes sence the root note is not something to be hold or have a sforzando on it! it doesnt have to be noticed. they are only for saying what scale it is and in what key! try for example to play the Dm chord and play along the D# pentatonic minor ie the pattern 2 starting from the 11th... see how awful it is??! cause they are not in the same key and now try to play the Dm Pentatonic (pattern 2 starting from 10th fret) over the Dm chord and see how it suits there.. ok and here's a good idea of how to make the difference between the relative notes and maj mins ok you first take the C major pentatonic (pattern 3 starting from 8th fret of the lowest E)and play along the C chord now take the Am(which is the relative key to C)take the Am chord and play the Am pentatonic scale (pattern 2 starting from the 5th of the lowest E) now you see how they both suit their chords. now play the C pentatonic over the Am chord and play the Am pentatonic over the C chord! they match again?! right but they sound different now!!! i hope that makes sence
    Senor Kristian
    Ehm... So. if someone is playing a solo, I could go: "Ey, you're playing the d minor pentatonic scales". But then somebody else will go: "No no. he's playing the F major pentatonic scales". And we'll both be right? Seems weird to me. I though there were more notes in the major scales
    jimjam69
    jonnyrotten1264 wrote: i don't get it, if the scale is the same how does the root note change or stand out
    yeah like there the same....
    doza808
    hey good job on this lesson, it cleared many questions in my head. i guess its just time to put in a lot of practice time now....LOL...dangit...j/k.
    TheLastBaron80
    Thanks for the lesson raymo39. I'm kind of in a rut though; I was hoping you could help me out? Are these patterns the same as different modes? No, eh? Are there 5 different patterns for extended scales as well?
    bagpipemetal
    Thanks for thiss it's really useful and helps me memorise the different scale shapes really fast!
    raymo39
    its really to create your own riffs, start playing great 70's rock songs and you can immeadiately see the notes from the main riffs fit into these patterns. stuff like mississippi queen and heartbreaker by led zeppelin just go straight in. And they are heavily used in the solos too
    adawal87
    I can play them all, but the meaning goes over my head. Whats the point in scales? is it to learn or create your own riffs or something?
    raymo39
    sure, major A will be the same pattern or shape as minor a, but major a will start on the second fret of the 6th string, because the root of that pattern then falls on an A, but the minor will be the same shape but the main, root note will be the first note in the pattern falling on the A or 5th fret
    Bigcammy4
    im not sure i understand what happens when you change the location of the root, and or what u do with the root. does it change the sound? do u hold the note longer on a root? the way im playing atm i dont see a difference between major A and minor A, care to help out? thanks =)
    raymo39
    the root note doesnt change in terms of position in the pattern, in these examples i have the root note at A for the minor scales (which is at the fifth fret of the E string) but if i shift the scale up one fret, the root note will be on A# (sixth fret of the E string) then the key becomes A# minor pentatonic. so the pattern is still the same, but the notes you play form a scale in a different key
    raymo39
    r stands for the root note, says that in the first paragraph
    TriviumFan717
    great information. basically your using relative keys the whole time. Ex. d minor pentatonic is the same as F Major Pentatonic (relative keys).