Major Pentatonic Scale Use

Ever played a solo in your minor pentatonic scale and it sounded shocking and you have no idea why? Try this lesson.

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:
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:
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:
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 is 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

68 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this was the first lesson i actually understood. definatly worth my time reading it, thumbs up
    Can anybody explain to me how the hell this can help me with soloing? I mean, do I have to practise those scales every day or something to be able to solo?
    Can anybody please explain to me why use major pentatonic when a major pentatonic in one key is a minor pentatonic in other? How does one distinguish between the major & minor characteristics? This problem , i have, also with the usual major & minor scales.
    Mr. Kill
    nice lesson but still doesn show me how to use em in solos i really some one to show me
    If you want to solo in a song that goes in a Major key then a Major pentatonic probably sounds better.. All you need to know is that if you are in a MINOR pentatonic scale in a certain key, and you want to play in the MAJOR pentatonic scale in that key instead of the minor all you have to do is to move the scale 3 frets closer to 1st fret and then you are in the Major! For example, if you play the scale in A minor on 5th fret just start the same scale at 2nd fret and you now play A major instead of minor! Simple huh? ; )
    can you start the solos on any fret and like do that kind of scale. and if its like in the right key or w.e. will it sound good.
    oh wait nvm that mareng dude just made me get it. i understand scales now. sweet. thanks man
    nice lesson dude its short'n'sweet and to the point. U should state tho that the first note of the upper tetrachord on a major scale is its equivelant minor scale. That way u can play the same pentonic scale for a particular major and minor chord eg: C major = A minor. Good lesson
    Creepy. I was doing a solo on "In my life" by the Beatles with my friend, and I was using the minor pentationic cuz the real one is real hard, and my other friend basically said the same thing, but explaid that they are the same scale, but you just move it so the roots are in different places, you ought to include that.
    Metalic Demon
    thomashewitt : good thing for every guitarist to know is that the major an minor pentatonic scale is the same thing. the relative minor of C major is a. if you add the 5th fret a note to the way you explained C major you have a minor pent.G=e A=f# B=g# C=a D=b E=c#. So go ahead and use major and minor positions in solos as well and the other three boxes.
    wot? and anyway thats a lesson i finaly understood, and liked!
    Man, thanks, this helped my to develop a really cool sounding lick. Easily understood, thanks for posting.
    I still don't understand the differnece between the minor pentanomic and the major pentaomic. Can someone explain to to me?
    You should also point out how with every major pentatonic scale,theres a minor pentatonic scale that goes with it and vice versa.
    You sir are an idiot. if like me you'd have learnt the minor pentatonic scale in its 5 'possitions' each possition starting on the next note in the scale (A, C, D, E, G) you would have noticed straight away that possition 2 C, is your NEW starting point when playing C major pentatonic...or stick to starting at possition 1 A and play C major's relative minor Am pentatonic. ITS THE SAME THING!
    Good Lesson,I'm Starting to learn scales and this helped.Some info on the net can confuse more than it helps.It's nice to have the scales in tab form for us that havn't learned the note names yet.
    I was just listening to some good ol' blues and here's a nice tip for ya: Try mixing parallel pentatonic scales. For those of you that don't understand - Try combining notes of a specific minor pentatonic scale with the major pentatonic scale. G minor pent and G Major pent. D minor pent and D major pent. You can get some crazy soulful bluesy solos with that. Just takes practice and memorization.
    Damn, reading some people's comments make me lose faith in grammar. Anyways everyone seems to be ask the same thing, when to use the scales, what's the difference, etc., etc. Look: 1. Every key has a relative major/minor. So in the key of Cmaj (the key this lesson is written in), your relative minor is Amin. These keys (relative major/minors) both have the same exact notes in them, just different roots. This is where modes come into play, but I am NOT going to try and teach that in one comment. 2. Practicing these solos over and over again will not teach you how to solo. Knowing them will help, but the only thing that will teach you how to PHRASE will simply be learning songs and developing a style of your own. 3. He only listed 2 positions each scale to play these in. There is a total of 5 (hence the name 'penta'). The difference between the 5 positions is simply which note of the key you choose to start on. Some might be thinking, "If there are 7 notes in a key, how come there are only 5 positions then?". This is again, where modes come into play. A pentatonic scale only has 5 notes, so therefore you only have 5 notes of the key to start on.
    HAHA..KrazyKingsFreak makes me piss myself.. u click the print button... how original!! well i got a suggestion for all u lookin at this lesson.. how about u stop searching for the secrets of guitar online... and START DOING DRUGS!! All it takes is some herb and a guitar.. n the rest is history. be open minded.. you'll see what i mean
    also, just so you know, avoke, i have written a lesson, before you try to play that card. Also, rhysy_boi, That mix of scales that you said Jimi Hendrix used... yeah, those are modes. Just so ya know. Hey, but seriously, your lesson wasn't that bad, just needs some work. You'll get better.
    jakey c
    the scale is quite sweet, but only if you add sum bends, finally understood a lesson, cheers m8 :
    great, cept there are five minor pentatonic forms, and your second one is incomplete. and while I know you're starting your scales on the root notes, a beginner might not know that.
    good thing for every guitarist to know is that the major an minor pentatonic scale is the same thing. the relative minor of C major is a. if you add the 5th fret a note to the way you explained C major you have a minor pent.G=e A=f# B=g# C=a D=b E=c#. So go ahead and use major and minor positions in solos as well and the other three boxes.
    Very good lesson!! Excellent, I noticed that using 3 patterns (2 major and 1 minor pentatonic) and I good a cool solo, it's so easy right now. I always understood modes etc. but I could never apply it until now!
    When you combine the Minor and Major Pentatonic scales in the key of C it becomes a Mixolydian Scale with and added e-flat (or minor 3rd). It's all about the Mixolydian Scale for MOST rock/blues progressions. Although, we must remember...scales can be "boxes"...don't let them completely trap you. Play whats in your heart which may not always be on the scale.