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.

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Ultimate Guitar
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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 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 rhysy_boi@hotmail.com.

68 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    fixxxer_928
    this was the first lesson i actually understood. definatly worth my time reading it, thumbs up
    laurent
    diz lesson is gut for begin ears, but me expert, me need big mixolydian two hand tapin shit wif trem bar abuse do some of that ultimate gootar
    purerock
    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.
    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.
    Aetius
    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!
    Runnerstyle
    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.
    jjbb0816
    major penta? just take a major scale from a key then omit it's 4th and 7th note.
    tpfrock
    what are you all talking about?!?!?!?!? if your so amazing why are you looking at the beginners stuff? this isn't meant to be joe satriani level so leave it out
    Runnerstyle
    I'm sorry. I was just trying to help. All this thoery stuff is not really hard at all.....if you go to www.looknohands.com and then go to the advanced guitar section things should be easier... Just mess with the fretboard, chord inversion and scales..... you may begin to see patterens if you give it some time.
    boone_guitar
    appreciate the effort. for those who do not, why don't you play solo with me and let's see how good you are.
    Leigh|esp
    i got a question which might sound stupid but are pentatonics, notes 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 in the scale, so in c minor the notes are C Eb F Gb Bb? would major be C E G A B? which basically mean notes 2 and 4 in a major/minor scale arent played, can somebody tell me if im correct?
    epacers7
    hey there r 5 postistions and wen u string them together they cover the whole fret board thats why i love pentatonics and thatlaurent girl is a major faggot wth r u typing like a noob for...if ur so good go to an "expert" lesson tho u most likely blow major cock
    redsox193
    lol this lesson totally would have helped a few weeks ago when i didnt understdand anything
    Avoke
    How can you tell what key a song is played in? so that you know which root the scale could be in for that song?
    pounda
    Screw all the guitar-freaks-ImTOOgoodforThisLESSONS who post comments in here. This lesson was great.If you are so good why don't you write some lessons down? Can't wait to breathe your knowledge.
    thesmartguy50
    Actually, Avoke, this lesson was slightly incomplete. He never really stated when to use the major pent scale, other than "when your solos sound out of place." While this lesson will probably be helpful to some people (mainly noobs), for the most part, this lesson is fairly useless. For one thing, he only shows, like, one or two boxes for the scale. I've found out early that if you only practice with one box, it's very hard to start using others. Therefore, this might actually screw up some peoples' styles. Also, since he never made any exercises, no one without prior experience in scales will know what to do with this. So, avoke, you have either been playing very little, or you just suck at life.
    thesmartguy50
    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.
    CHAIguy151
    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
    WantToLearn
    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?
    riteshk
    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
    Mareng
    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? ; )
    blinkkink182
    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.
    blinkkink182
    oh wait nvm that mareng dude just made me get it. i understand scales now. sweet. thanks man
    axe-maniac
    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
    irobin11
    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!