1.3 The Minor Pentatonic Scale

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

This is one of the biggest secrets in the Popular music and for good reason too! The majority fo the most popular riff's you have heard will more than likely stem back to this iconic scale. Everything from Jimi Hendrix to Arctic Monkeys, this series of notes gives that iconic sound of a guitar that most of us think of. Here is a clip of it in action:


[insert sound clip of a jam in a minor pentatonic scale]


It's called the Minor Pentatonic scale for 2 reasons. Number one: It uses Minor intervals to give it a darker sound; number 2: it uses 5 notes which is where the name 'pentatonic' comes from. But how do we get that sound? The easiest way to learn the Minor Pentatonic scale is with shapes, or as we usually call them "positions". There are 5 positions to remember. The best thing to do is start on one of them and move up when you have remembered the first thoroughly. The good think is that  they all connect together. If we take a look at the first position:

We can see there is a bit of a pattern there.

Firstly, there are only 2 notes on each string.

Secondly, there is only ever 1 or 2 frets difference between the notes; we just need to realise which order they are in.

Lastly, Strings nearby can share the same pattern.

In our example, on the E and the A string, they re the same pattern with 2 frets in between them. Next, the D, G, and B  strings have 1 gap in between them and have the same pattern. If we look at shape 2, you will see that they overlap where the other set finishes and the new shape starts. Here, have a look:

Pattern 2 is a little different to pattern 1, but it still stands by the 3 main rules we said earlier. Memorising the shapes will help you when playing along, so take your time with learning them. It's important you learn them properly the first time and really think about what you are playing. You can use this shape as a skeleton for your solos. It sounds great, it's pretty straightforward when you know the shapes, and lets you roam all along the fretboard! As we look at pattern 3, notice how they overlap again. This is something you will see in all of the shapes we do!

Pattern 3 is quite easy to remember. All the notes are almost all aligned apart from the ones on the G and B strings, which have 2 gaps between them. Following that on from the previous one should make this one pretty easy as all the 2nd notes line up with the exception of the 2nd note on B.

Pattern 4 is very close to the first, but the main difference being on the B string again. There is only a 1 fret gap between the 2 notes, and the position is moved down a fret, making a familiar shape that's very close to the first!

And lastly pattern 5 which is easy to remember compared to the others. Just remember that all of the second notes line up together in a straight line on the same fret. If you know pattern 4 well enough, it should make this pattern easily do-able, as you just need to add the 2nd notes which are already in a line!

So there we have it. The 5 patterns of the Minor Pentatonic scale. Remember to carefully learn each one. It will go a lot further if you take your time learning them individually because these shapes will be a huge learning block when learning other scales and intervals in future. But for now, enjoy playing them, try playing them in different positions and head over to the backing tracks page if you want to give them a try and brush up on your solo skills! To finish up, I've put a picture of all of the shapes together. See if you can spot where they overlap and see which patterns are where!