Pentatonic Scale

Major And Minor Pentatonic Scales
This lesson is to help you learn the major pentatonic, and minor pentatonic scales. They are used in many genres, but you will find them in rock, or classic rock the most. A wide range of players from Kirk Hammet toJimmy Page use these scales, and are a staple in every beginners bag of tricks. These are also the first scales that many people use when beginning to improvise. In this lesson I will teach you how to make these scales, then I’ll give you some box patterns that you can move around to suit your pentatonic needs. Understanding of the major scale and intervals is required here (will insert theory lesson when posted), but learning those don’t take long if you’ve never heard of them.

Minor Pentatonic

I’m doing this one first because it appears more commonly in mainstream music than its major counterpart, from what I’ve seen. It’s also more popular with the beginners and experienced players alike.

Your Minor Pentatonic scale formula is: 1 b3 4 5 b7 1. In A, that’s A C D E G A. You can find all the scales for what ever key you want, but you might prefer boxes. There are 5 box patterns for the pentatonic scale. I’ll give you one for minor, one for major, and then the other 3. The most common one for minor being:


The O’s represent the root notes, and the lower case o’s represent the other notes. This is the most common box and is used in rock, blues and any other genre with distortion, really. Although you can turn the distortion off and play some jazz with this scale, it also sounds good with heavy metal alike. Try experimenting with it to see how it fits your style. A common choice for using the minor pentatonic is over power chords (_5), or in blues songs with dominant chords (_7).

Major Pentatonic

The major pentatonic is like the minor pentatonic, in the way that the relative minor/majors share the same notes. Ex. C major pentatonic has the same notes as Am pentatonic. The formula for major pentatonic is 1 2 3 5 6 1. In C, you have C D E G A C. You can find those notes on the neck and here is your major pentatonic box pattern.


The major pentatonic is used where ever you might find the minor pentatonic. The major pentatonic sounds happier, and more upbeat than the minor pentatonic, but can still be used in a rock context. This sounds good over major chords, and power chords a like. You can use this in a jazzy song even.

The other 3 Box Patterns, of the minor pentatonic. If you want to make them minor, all you have to do is change the root note to the relative major. (See link in introduction)




So practice those 5 boxes until you feel comfortable with them, and expand them, by knowing what notes are in the scales, and finding them on the fret board. By being able to use these scales in your playing, you’ll be on your way to be the next AC/DC/Led Zeppelin/Any classic rock act in no time, as the pentatonic scale is one of the fundamentals in rock.

Using the pentatonic scales in riffs and solos.
Here are some classic riffs that use the pentatonic scale, and then I’ll give you some homemade pentatonic licks to impress your friends with First, heres the minor pentatonic extended:


This box is slightly harder to remember, but it adds more notes to the box, so that you can extend your playing in general with the pentatonic.
Here’s a link┬áto interactive Tab Pro tab on Ultimate Guitar – feel free to pratice!

Black Dog – “Led Zeppelin”

Chances are if you’ve heard this song, you think it’s hard. It really isn’t, and is built from the minor pentatonic scale, with some added notes, for flow. Here it is:

2/4 4/4 5/4
E E E E E E Q Q E E E E E E E Q Q E E E E E E E E +Q

Try that out and see how you like it.

AC/DC – “Back In Black”

Try looking at some solos by AC/DC, for some good pentatonic licks, as Angus Young likes to use the minor pentatonic. Here’s part of the solo of “Back In Black“.

|--3--| |--3--|
S S S S a +S a +E a +S +E S S S S S S a

+E S a +E S a S +S S S S S E. +E S S

Now here’s some licks to impress your friends!




Also, just by playing in those boxes, you can make some nice solos, and riffs, but you’ve got to be creative and experiment with adding notes, or even changing notes. It’s all up to you, but uses the pentatonic with discretion, as it is used a lot in rock music today, and years ago.

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