How to play the pentatonic scale with a guitar ? What are its uses ?

How to play the pentatonic scale with a guitar ? What are its uses ?

What is the pentatonic scale ?

The pentatonic scale is a must-learn to all guitarists ! It’s often the first scale they learn to play ! I Allow me to guide you on a path to discover the secrets of the pentatonic scale : how its made and how to play it.

First of all, the word pentatonic is made of two concepts : penta, which mean « five » and tonic, meaning « note ». Thus, this scale is made of 5 notes that will repeat at different heights, octaves. There are many existing pentatonic scale. The one, most-used, is the pentatonic minor scale of A (or A minor pentatonic scale).

We draw a scale this way on a guitar neck. This is a scale diagram for guitar.

A minor pentatinic scale This scheme represents the guitar fretboard. Dots refers to the notes composing the scale. Set on the guitar neck. To play this scale, you have to start from the thickest string. From left to right, before jumping to the next string… and still left to right. Each « dot » is a note to be played, a string to be picked on

The A minor pentatonic scale

A minor pentatonic scale

To well understand how the scale works, you have to understand the notion of step, half-step, and intervals.

This scale is made of the following leaps :

1,5 step, 1 step, 1 step, 1,5 step, 1 step.

Thus, starting from an A, we get A, C, D, E, G and so forth. 5 notes which will repeat in the minor pentatonic scale. Here we find a minor third of 3 half steps, meaning 1.5 step, so the pentatonic scale is minor.

To complete the position of the notes on the guitar fretboard, we will simply look for their octaves, so similar notes of an higher or lower pitch.

The A major pentatonic scale

Voici la gamme majeure pentatonique. Voici sa notation, on y remarque a major third .

major pentatonic scale The intervals of the major pentatonic scale :

1 step, 1 step, 1,5 step, 1 step and 1,5 step.

Starting from an A, we find the following sequence : A, B, C#, E, F# and so forth with their octaves. The leaps between A and its third, C# is two steps. This is so a major third note.

A well know example is the pentatonic scale

These scales are a lot used in rock, blues and metal. On this topic, the A scale is the most well-known, to the point that whenever we speak about a pentatonic scale, it’s the first one that comes to mind. Now, we still need have to learn how to use it to improvise.

Here’s an example of Eb minor pentatonic scale in the style of Jimi Hendrix on Voodoo Child (from 00:08)


Example of the different forms of the minor pentatonic scale

Each scale encases as much position as it has notes in it. In this case, it means 5. Don’t bother learning them all. They’ll come naturally to your fingers when you’ll improvise. We name those forms and schemes with a roman number : « Form I » « Form II » and so forth until V (5 in romans number) Below, you’ll find the A minor pentatonic scale

Minor pentatonic scale, form I
Minor pentatonic scale, form II
Minor pentatonic scale, form III
Minor pentatonic scale, form IV
Minor pentatonic scale, form V

You can shift from a form to another to furnish  you guitar solos ! Give it a try ! 🙂

Now that you master the pentatonic scale like a real professional, it’s time to reflect on the different modes to be used according to the scales. Know that we offer exercises and video guitar lessons on climbing and descending of pentatonic scales. With our system that detects the notes you play and the possibility of slowing down the rhythm we can assure you they are very efficient !

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