The pentatonic guitar scales are the basics for anyone interested in playing lead guitar or just plain jamming with a friend.
These scales are really only shortened major and minor scales. These notes are the most often used in melodies and improvising. They leave out two notes from the major scale and the natural minor scale which is in the major scale.
They are also the Blues scale minus one note. The Blues scale can be combined with the Pentatonic scales for improvising.
A little theory, every major and minor chords are used in three different major scales. Any major chord can be the I, IV or V and any minor chord can be the ii, iii or vi of any major scale.
The upper case Roman numerals are for major chords and the lower case are for the minor chords.
This is important because the pentatonic scales are used to improvise over these basic chords.
Major Scales – Major Pentatonic Scales
The C chord is in the C, F and G scales.
The major Pentatonic C scale is C D E G A. Below are the major scales that the C chord is in.
See how the C major pentatonic guitar scales can be used to improvise over any C chord no matter what key you are in. It misses the B♭ and the F♯.
The B♭ would give a dominant 7th sound and the F♯ would give a flatted 5th sound neither of which would fit with the C major except in a Jazz-Blues fusion.
Patterns for the Major Pentatonic Scale
Natural Minor Scales
Minor Pentatonic Scales
The Am chord is in the C, F and G scales.
The Pentatonic A minor scale is A C D E G. Below are the natural minor scales that the C chord is in.
The A minor pentatonic also misses the B♭ and the F♯. Meaning that you can use the A minor pentatonic scale on any A minor chord no matter what key you are in.
Scale patterns for the Minor Pentatonic.
Pentatonic Guitar Scales
I call the pentatonic scales safe scales because of the notes that are left out from the major scale.
These scales can be used to improvise on any major or minor chord despite what key you are in. No wonder they’re so popular.
The major C penta scale contains the triad notes C E G and the 6 and 9, A and D which can be added to any major triad.
In the minor penta the scale contains the minor triad A C E and the 4 and 7, D and G. In this case the 4 or D is used as a passing tone, in other words don’t use it as a “home” note.
Major and Minor Have the Same Notes
The C major pentatonic and the A minor pentatonic have the same notes. The difference is how you play them. On a C chord your home note is C and with the A minor the A is the home note.
This is similar to the major scale where the A minor natural minor scale is the same as the C major scale. It just starts on a different note.
Pentatonic Guitar Scales-Improvising
What you can do with these scales is change scales as the chords in a song change. This will let you play with the changes instead of playing over them by staying with the pattern for the first chord in a song, that gets boring.
Use passing tones as you change your scale. You can use notes that are in between your chords as you change from one to the other.
If you are playing an A minor chord and it’s changing to a G play a G♯ right before the G change or use E♭ before the change to lead into the next chord. This will make your playing sound more professional.
Always be aware of the chord changes so you can tailor your playing to them. Start your lick on the up-beat instead of on the one down beat, be unpredictable but tasteful. This is easier said than done and will take some practice but this is just part of the journey, enjoy it.
Learn Them Faster
There is a very good product to make learning and how to use pentatonic guitar scales much easier
It has a day by day practice guide for 150 days. You should be pretty good by then
It also has over 270 example licks written in notation and tab with audio so you know your’re playing it right.
You also get detailed instruction on bending and playing hammer ons and pull offs in time with the music and not just random
You will learn how to use the scales not just learn the scale plus lots more on creating ideas for your leads and playing with the chords and not over them
You can also use this course along with your teacher if you are taking guitar lessons.
There is One Catch – You Have to Practice – No Two Ways About It
This is a good course to use and get your basics down before going on to the blues course.
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This course has text,audio and video to aid your learning
It tells you how and when to use the major and minor blues scales.
It’s pretty straight forward all you have to do is apply yourself and get the patterns embedded into your brain. Learn and practice little bit every day. This approach works good.
Check out my page on how to practice to make the most of practice time.
It’s written by guitar teacher/performer, Griff Hamlin from southern California. You probably have seen him in Videos around the web. Good guitarist, likes the Stratocaster.
Playing Through the Blues
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