One of the oldest scales is the Pentatonic Scale. Much of modern rock is based on it.

The Pentatonic Scale is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th degrees of the Major scale, or you could think of it as the Major scale without the 4th and 7th degrees.

It’s often used for soloing because these notes are “safe” to play over whatever else might be being played in the same key by another player.

Here is the Pentatonic scales below the Chromatic and Diatonic scales from the Scales and Key Signatures lesson, so you can see how the Pentatonic Scale is derived from the Major Scale.

Pentatonic Scale

Week 1

Here is the C Major Pentatonic Scale, which shares the same notes as the Am Pentatonic Scale.

fretboard pentatonic 1

Tip: Notice there are 3 notes which are one fret back from the front line (D, A E), and
notice that the Major root is on the back line on the 3rd string (C).

It is a movable pattern, just like the bar chords are movable.

  • If the song is in C Major or Am you can use this pattern at the 5th fret to play lead or solo.
  • If the song is in G or Em, you simply move this pattern to the open position.
  • If the song is in F or Dm, you simply move this pattern to the 10th fret and play on.

Here are a couple of exercises to help you get this pattern down.

Pentatonic_Scale_-_Exercise_1

Pentatonic_Scale_-_Exercise_2

“Penta” means 5. There are 5 notes in the Pentatonic scale, which means there are 5 places on the 6th string to start a “Box” pattern. You should identify each “Box” by where the root note lies within the pattern. Practice each pattern until you have it down, maybe for a whole day, or ideally a whole week before moving to the next.

Week 2

Here is the next “Box” shown for the C Major or Am Pentatonic Scale. Notice it is adjacent to the previous pattern at the 5th fret.

Tip: Notice there are 0 notes which are one fret back from the front line. Since strings 1 and 6 are the same (A),
you can think of this as 5 notes which are one fret back from the front line (A, E, C, G, D), and
notice that the Major root is on the back line on the 5th string (C).

fretboard pentatonic 2

Pentatonic_Scale_-_Exercise_3

Week 3

Here’s the next pattern, shown for the C Major or Am Pentatonic Scale.

  • Notice it is adjacent to the previous pattern at the 2nd and 3rd frets.
  • Note also, that even though this falls on the open position, it repeats at the 12th fret just like everything else
  • It’s better to practice the boxes away from the open position until you get them down.

Tip: Notice there are 2 notes which are one fret back from the front line (A, E), and
notice that the Major root is on the back line on the 2nd string (C).

fretboard pentatonic 3

Again, don’t rush through these patterns. They take time to sink in.

Week 4

Here is the next pattern for the C Major or Am Pentatonic Scale, adjacent to the previous pattern at the 12th fret.

Tip: Again, since strings 1 and 6 are the same (E),
you can think of this as 4 notes which are one fret back from the front line (E, G, D, A), and
notice that the Major root is on the back line on the 4th string (C).

fretboard pentatonic 4

Week 5

And here’s the last pattern for the C Major or Am Pentatonic Scale, adjacent to the previous pattern at the 9th and 10th frets, and adjacent to the first pattern above at the 7th and 8th frets.

Tip: Notice there is only 1 note which is one fret back from the front line (E), and
notice that the Major root is on the back line on the 1st string (C).

fretboard pentatonic 5

Week 6

While the 5 box patterns are an effective tool for learning the Pentatonic Scale and getting it under your fingers. Start moving between adjacent boxes.

  • Play one box, then immediately play the next box below it.
  • Keep going until you wrap around and get back to the box on which you started.
  • Now reverse the order, play a box and then immediately play the next box above it.
  • Keep going until you wrap around and get back to the box on which you started.

Can you identify the root note in each box?

  • Think about each root note as you move to each box. Review the Tips above to help you remember.
Week 7

Next, it is important to start breaking the boundaries of the boxes. Adding a few notes from adjacent boxes builds fluidity and is the next step in “seeing” the Pentatonic Scale pattern across the entire fretboard at once. For example, here is the first box we learned above with some notes added from the adjacent boxes on either side.

fretboard pentatonic 6

Apply this to all the box patterns eventually extending the patterns to cover 3 full octaves, starting from any box, at a moment’s notice. You may find it helpful to chart them out on fretboard paper so you can plan your practicing.

blank fretboard sheet.pdf

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