Pentatonic Major Scales

Today’s lesson focuses on the 5 major pentatonic scale forms. These forms are the main scales used in rock, blues, metal  and country music, so it is essential that you learn them thoroughly.

We will be using these scale forms in the coming lessons along with the Understanding Keys Lesson material to form a complete picture of Pentatonics in every key all over the guitar neck.

Try to follow the picking indication from the video for now and don’t forget the PDf download for the lesson as well.

Major Pentatonic Scale Forms PDF

The next lesson will focus on alternate picking exercises using the Pentatonic Scale Forms. Stay tuned!!

Please support all the time, money, effort, blood, sweat and tears it requires to bring you all of these free video lessons by supporting the site as a Premium subscriber or by making a donation. Your support will help keep GuitarLessons365 the best resource of it’s kind on the internet. Thanks! Carl..

Pentatonic Major Scales

25 Responses

  1. ian hall says:

    Carl. Can,t get my head round how these scales are formed ie what does shape built from 2nd,3rd etc mean?
    I can easily follow the tab and i know what all the notes are but don,t know why i,m playing them. Probably making no sense! I can play and name the major scale notes but playing the other shapes is causing me real stress!!

    Ian

  2. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Ian, all the pentatonic scale forms represent are all the notes in a pentatonic scale within a small area of the neck. So if you can spell all of your major scales all you have to do is choose the key that you would like to play in say G Major. The 5 notes of the major pentatonic scale are just the 1st(root), 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th tones of the regular major scale. So as you can see we just remove the 4th and the 7th from the standard major scale to get major pentatonic. Then all you need to do to play in G Major pentatonic is take the shape built from the root and play it starting on the note G on the six string. That will give you all the G Major pentatonic notes in that area of the neck. Then moving up you would play the shape built from the 2nd starting on the note A on the six string and THAT will give you all the notes in G Major Pentatonic in that area of the neck. You keep going up the scale using all of the scale forms until you eventually cover the entire neck in G Major pentatonic. Hope this helps you understand. Let me know if you still need some help. THANKS!!

  3. T-Dog says:

    Hi Carl,
    I took a look at this diagram and managed to work out that you were playing
    patterns from the CAGED system. I was confused initially. I can see this is about learning the shapes/patterns but, the roots move elsewhere within positions 1,2,3,4,5. The first one you explain seems to be the E shape form from the CAG(E)D chords shape system. The second one you explain seems to be the D shape of the CAGE(D)chord shape system, etc, etc. It all seems to correspond with this diagram but starting a fret lower on all the patterns:

    This area has given me a lot of confusion like Ian above but, I’m beginning to decifer it now. I just need to go apply it & remember it!

  4. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey T-Dog,

    I feel that it is best not to look at scales using the CAGED system. It is true that the scale root notes line up with the root notes of those movable CAGED system chord shapes, but I think it creates a situation in your playing where you are always chasing root notes across the neck. You need to simplify your thinking a little bit because I think you are imagining that everything is much harder than it really is.

    In the Major Pentatonic scale system that you learn here on this site, you will use your knowledge of keys to understand where to play the 5 pentatonic shapes. And if you know major pentatonics then you also already know your minor pentatonics, because they are the exact same shapes. No matter what method that you use to figure out how to apply your pentatonic scales, you will always see the exact same 5 pentatonic forms. It really has nothing to do with the CAGED system, people just try to label them with their corresponding CAGED system chord, that is all. But pentatonic is pentatonic no matter what method you use.

    In my method here on the site all you need to do to play all of your major pentatonic scale forms in any key you want is be able to visualize the notes of any major pentatonic scale on the 6th string. So if you want to play G Major Pentatonic all you do is visualize that scale up the 6th string which will be G,A,B,D,E at 3rd,5th,7th,10th,12th frets respectively.

    Now since G is the root note you would play the shape built from the root starting on the 3rd fret G. Then the shape built from the 2nd from the A of the 6th string and so forth. I feel this system will have you thinking musically and free you up to play any where on the neck quite freely.

    After playing the shapes a while you will get used to how they connect to one another. The last note on every string for one shape is always the 1st note on every string for the next. They all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, and they do it the exact same no matter what key you are playing in.

    Hope this helps you understand everything a little but more. Let me know if you need more help. Cheers!! Carl :D

  5. T-Dog says:

    Hey Carl,
    Thank you for the time and great effort in replying to my comment. I noticed the link I put on showing the diagrams no longer shows. I tried to copy it without the URL web link but it didn’t work. I expected it may be deleted!
    I think I understand what ‘ya saying here. The video and pdf just confused me and I still don’t understand ‘em!
    Your explanation above seems to give a better understanding. I recognise that I do need to memorise and try to visualize the scale patterns & notes.
    As with a lot of music theory, it can be interpreted and presented in many ways that result in confusions. I will apply what you have advised and report back.
    Thank you very much for your kindness in taking the time out to reply back to me.
    Once I fully understand these concepts and apply them with confidence, I will create a Youtube video. I’ve decided not to do song videos because it stops Guitarists getting students. Seriously, it’s screwing up livelihoods.
    Thanks.
    Tony

  6. T-Dog says:

    Wow! I see I’ve been making something far more complex than it actually is.
    I’ve just checked to see if different keys work to the same patterns aling the fretboard and, they do! That’s astonishing. I never realised that these patterns are the same. I can see why it’s pattern emphasis rather than note letter names. I used the counting of 1,2,3,4,5 for a Minor pentatonic scale of Am then, tried a G minor penta. Then I looked at a Major Penta pattern.
    I can hardly believe how I missed this! I’m assuming it’s Modal based/playing rather than root or CAGED?
    It was very reliant on accurate conversion/extraction of the Major to the Penta scales. One mistake at this point really does screw up the system and
    reinforces mistakes and confusions.
    Well, I just need to go practice this bunch of time consuming patterns and get fluent at ‘em!
    Thank you Carl for your understanding and patience.
    Tony
    UK

  7. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Great!! I am glad I could help you understand it more. Let me know if you need any help at all! Good Luck!! Carl..

  8. T-Dog says:

    Hi Carl,
    I’m a bit stuck again! I’m probably causing confusion by inaccuracies of something. Anyway, it’s these shapes/patterns I’m blocked on. If I use the G major scale rooted along the 6th string (G on the 3rd fret, A on the 5th fret, B on the 7th fret, C on the 8th fret) the patterns seem to work until I reach the D on the 10th fret. I read somewhere that there are only 5 patterns because 2 of ‘em are shared/virtually the same but, it didn’t say which ones! I recognise that I’m playing these Modal when rooted from the 6th string. I can see how the G,A,B,C fit the EDCA shapes from the CAGED system too but, this D and F# don’t seem to.
    I could work out the D scale notes from the 10th fret but, I’d prefer to know if what pattern to use so I can use it for other keys scales.
    Once I understand this area, I’ll be able to concentrate on the leeson you have on keeping within one area of the neck.
    Thanks Carl.
    Tony
    UK

  9. T-Dog says:

    Hey Carl,
    I think I might have found what I was looking for in a strange kind of way. It doesn’t answer the question I put but, it expresses what I was meaning. Here it is and, it’s on your lessons & pdf:
    http://guitarlessons365.com/advanced-guitar-lesson-3-notes-per-string
    This will keep me busy for a while but, if you do get time to and you are able to answer the previous question, I’d be grateful. I’m assuming there are 5 patterns because 2 of them are shared but, I can’t seem to work out and apply it to prove it.
    Thanks again Carl.
    PS
    I will subscribe to your premium lessons when I’m back in work. I’m not working out of choice, until I am of a standard I consider good, competent, confident and, knowledgeable enough to teach high standards. That’s when I’ll need some songs to learn from your lessons.
    Cheers.
    Tony
    UK

  10. T-Dog says:

    Sorry to message again,
    Just to let ‘ya know, I’ve sorted my confusion over the scale pattern positioning. The 7 position way of learning is just as I thought and, easier to understand. I won’t put a URL web link but, here is a small quote that put me on the path of better understanding, taken from Streetmusician:

    ‘The 5/7 Scale Positions
    These minor scales can be chopped up into 5 or 7 easy to manage pieces. Learning one piece at a time is the best way to learn without stressing yourself out. In my opinion, although you might think it is more hassle, I prefer to learn the scale using 7 positions instead of 5. This is because each of the 7 positions slightly overlap one another meaning they are much quicker and easier to learn and form a stronger connection in your mind when moving between them.

    Below are two sections of the G minor scale. Start with the first beginning on the G note, and practice until you can move up and down the pattern with ease and fluidity. Remember the position of the orange root notes as they will become important later on in your training’.

    (The site then showed fretboard diagrams)

    I hope to now put this behind me after applying it to practical expression. I’ll then move on and understand more of your advanced lessons.
    Cheers.
    Tony
    UK

  11. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey T-Dog, the thing I think you are doing wrong is placing one of the scale forms on C at the 8th fret. There is no C in a G Major Pentatonic Scale. You get a major pentatonic scale by removing the 4th and 7th scale degrees from a regular major scale. That will give you G A B D E. That is why when you see the names of the scale forms you will see Shape built from Root, Shape built from 2nd etc., but you won’t see any shape built from the 4th or 7th scale degrees because they are removed in a pentatonic scale.

    I think I mentioned in the video, can’t remember really that it is easier to play pentatonic scales physically, but they can create more confusion when applying them to the fretboard through all keys because of having to keep track of which notes to remove to create the 5 note pentatonic scale. The only reason we have only 5 pentatonic shapes is because we only have one shape for each note in the scale and that is all the pentatonic scale has. Doing the 3-note per string major scales allows you to place a scale form on every single one of the 7 notes of a key without worrying about skipping certain notes and so forth. So even if the 3-notes per string forms are a little bit harder to play physically, I think that people can apply them to the fretboard without much confusion quite easily.

    Hope this helps clear up some of the problem. Let me know if it doesn’t. Cheers!! Carl..

  12. T-Dog says:

    Hey Carl,
    Thank you once again for your kindness in replying and helping me try get my tangled up scales unravelled!
    I’d sent a message to someone on Youtube too and his answer helped too. Here is his 2 messages:
    Hi Topdoginuk,

    Let me try to explain. First, A minor pentatonic has A, C, D, E, G. . . but no F. To me different positions are only a crutch to get around the neck with the end goal being to know the notes, intervals, tones, etc. So if you study the patterns closely, what they allow you to do is play that same A, C, D, E, G all over the next. You may start off from different notes other than A, say D for example but, you will always play A, C, D, E, G if you follow the patterns. That’s it really!
    There is know real connection to the CAGED that I know of. CAGED is one of the most confusing concepts in music. Perhaps I’ll try to tackle that with a video some time. They “overlap” because, again, it is one continuous pattern if you think more like A, C, D, E, G, A, C, D, E, G, A, C, D, E, G, etc.

    The major scale and its associated modes and, the positions that let you play them all over the neck are the same concept I explained to you about the pentatonic, If you play the G major scale starting on the 6th string, 3rd fret, in one octave, how would you play that same G major scale from any G note anywhere on the fretboard? The answer is to know the 7 patterns and, it REALLY helps if you know the names of all the notes on the fretboard, right.
    The difference between 7 or 5 patterns . . . there are 7 distinct patterns as I show in the video but, since two are completely “related”, meaning adding a 1/2 step in each case and everything else is the same, you only need to memorize 5 patterns and the other two are sort of given if you look at the difference between ionian and locrian and, between Phrygian and lydian. And once you know the major scale pattern (ionian) and memorize the other patterns (modes), now you can play the major scale and all it’s modes in any key, from any note anywhere on the fretboard . . . pretty powerful. Hope that helps.

    Well, I think all the great advice I’m getting from you Masters is fantastic and very appreciated. I now have to continue to unravel my spaghetti infested mind of mixed up scale/mode/CAGED concoction and, slot in place a ordered system. Then apply it to the Guitar!
    Thank you Carl and Wayne.

  13. Kieran says:

    Hey Carl. I’m really appreciating your site/vids. Your PDFs are really helpful, I like how you use music notation like beams to convey timing (something that TAB in general sorely needs).

    With this particular vid there may be an encoding error as your right hand shot in the upper left section of the screen doesn’t match what your left hand is doing (it appears as if you’re picking before you’re fretting).

  14. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hmm, I will have to check this out. Thanks for letting me know!!

  15. steve maitland says:

    Hi Carl
    any chance if adding Haitian Divorce,steely Dan
    to your song lessons, its a bit tricky learning it by ear

    Best

    Steve

  16. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    I will do it if I get a lot of requests for it. :)

  17. matthew accetturo says:

    I noticed on the pdf you put a shape built from the 6th which is minor penatonic. I don’t understand why this was done, could you give me some insight.

  18. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    You may recognize that shape as the familiar minor pentatonic shape built from the root because the natural minor scale (where minor pentatonic is derived from) is built from the 6th note in a major scale.

    However, what you need to understand is that all 5 of those pentatonic shapes represent both a major pentatonic scale and a minor pentatonic scale. If you study relative keys you will see that.

    I have some lessons on understanding minor keys in the theory section of the site that will probably clarify it for you a bit. It will demonstrate things like if you are playing an A minor pentatonic scale you are also playing a C major pentatonic scales. What you actually call it all depends on the chords or harmony that you are soloing over.

    Confused now??? :D

  19. nathan says:

    hey Carl thank you for this site, really appreciate the work you have put in. a quick question say i want to play A major pentatonic i could play the shape built from root starting at A (5th fret on 6th string) or from 2nd starting from B (7th fret on 6th string) now if i wanted to play to play from the 3rd which is a C do i start from B (7th fret) or C (8th fret)?

  20. Billy says:

    Hey Carl,

    So are the minor pentatonic scales just like the natural minor? So if I take Bmaj relative G#min would the B note keep its integrity and still have the 1st position played over it, or would the G# note have the 1st position played over it now? If neither, then does the 6th position become the new root, or 1st position and the original 1st position become the 6th position in the scale? Just as far as the order that they’re played as far as roots go.

  21. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Billy, if I am understanding your question correctly, the notes of the B major and G# minor pentatonic scales are indeed identical.

    The way to look at it is this. If the chord progression your are improvising over is in B major it will sound like you are playing B major pentatonic.

    If the chord progression is in G# minor playing that same scale will then sound like you are playing G# minor pentatonic scales instead.

    It all just depends on the context of the music you are playing over and how those same 5 notes relate to it.

    But yes, if it becomes minor the G# note is now considered the tonic or first note of the scale and all others will be counted after that.

    In other words: B major pentatonic = B C# D# F# G# & G# minor pentatonic = G# B C# D# F#

    Carl… :)

  22. Billy says:

    Indeed, so it all just depends on the contextualization of the material underneath the scale you’re playing, thank you Carl. I’ve only been playing for 8 months and with your teachings and material on music theory and scales etc.. its allowed me to be as good as some of my friends who have been playing for 3 to 4 years. Thank you so much, truly from the heart!

  23. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Awesome Billy, keep on rockin’! Carl..

  24. Justin Marinelli says:

    Hey, Carl. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I am extremely confused. What do you mean when you say that there is a shape built off every note in the scale? I’m trying to learn more about theory, so I have started to watch some of the intermediate lessons, as I already know everything in the beginner section (I have been playing for a little over a year, but I am just now starting to want to learn more about theory). I have learned the CAGED system and have memorized how to know which sharps and flats are in each key, but I’m not sure on how that is progressing me as a guitarist. After I got an understanding on those lessons I came to this one because I always hear about pentatonic scales, but never know what they’re about. Now I am super lost. What do I do?

  25. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Justin, I answered a question of yours on the “Understanding Major Keys” lesson and think you should probably study the lessons I point you to in my answer there before trying to visualize the pentatonics using your theory.

    The major scales I feel will help you grasp the visualization concepts easier, then you can come back here and do the exact same process you did with major scales to these pentatonic scale shapes. The only difference is that with the pentatonic scales you will be missing a couple of notes from the major scale which can be a bit confusing if you aren’t very familiar with the visualization system yet. :)

    So go read that answer and work on those lessons first. I think you will understand what you need to do after that.

    Hope this helps!

    Carl..

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