Guitar Tricks Blog

5 Ways to Play the Pentatonic Scale

pentatonic scale

The pentatonic scale is a five-note musical scale used by guitar players to solo, improvise, create riffs and licks. It may also be the most popular guitar scale because the box pattern is movable and playable all over the neck. 

There are a lot of ways to play this scale, including minor, major, or adding notes to make it sound bluesy. However you play it, you cannot go wrong. Here are 5 different ways you can play the pentatonic scale on guitar. 


Minor Pentatonic Scale

The minor pentatonic scale has only five notes to memorize, which is why it’s called a “penta” tonic scale. The minor pentatonic scale is easy to remember thanks to its box pattern and it’s moveable up and down the neck. Here’s what a minor pentatonic scale looks like:

1 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b7

Remember, 1 is always the root note! Let’s take a look at the box pattern for the C minor pentatonic below.

If you want to learn how to play this scale, check out the lesson below where Gary will show you how to play an E minor pentatonic. E minor pentatonic scale is a great first scale to learn because you can play it easily even on the open strings.


Major Pentatonic Scale

The major pentatonic is just like the minor but instead of the two flatted notes, it’s a much simpler arrangement. Check it out below.

1- 2 - 3 - 5 - 6

Check out these box patterns of a C major pentatonic scale.

The black notes are the root notes, in this case the C note. 


Minor Blues Scale

The minor pentatonic, as noted above acts as the base for what guitar players call the minor blues scale. This scale uses the same pattern except there’s one difference. There’s an additional note, the b5, or the flat 5. Here’s what a minor blues scale looks like:

1 - b3 - 4 - b5 - 5 - b7

Here’s what a simple, A minor blues scale box pattern looks like.


Jazz Pentatonic Scale

Using a simple A minor pentatonic pattern, you can jazz up your scales and licks by simply moving your scale up and find notes that you can land on. In this example, Anders plays an A minor chord and then proceeds to play an E minor pentatonic scale instead of the predictable A minor pentatonic scale. Playing a higher scale may sound a little off, but it’s important that you resolve it with the correct notes. Check out the lesson here


Playing the Pentatonic Scale on One String

Anders will show you how to play with a single string by using the F minor pentatonic pattern. Simply choose an open string to play on, and also keep in mind what the scale sounds like in your head. Hum along to the scale if you need. Find those sounds on the string of your choice. It may take some practice but all of the notes can be found on a single string. Check out the lesson here


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