Scale Quality

The major pentatonic scale is another highly functional, easy to play, box pattern. It's thought of and used in the same way as a minor pentatonic scale except that the outcome is a completely opposite one. The major pentatonic scale is known for a sweet, tuneful sound -not a rockin' and bluesy one. The scale is comprised of 5 notes derived from a major scale, all of which are beautiful and indicative of the major pentatonic sound as is demonstated in the listening exercise below.

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Basic Major Pentatonic Scale Theory

Work with the table below as you solidify your theoretical understanding of the C major pentatonic scale. Note that the 3 notes from a C Major triad, C -E - G are contained in the scale.

Chord Tone
Sweet Tension
Chord Tone
Chord Tone
Sweet Tension
2nd/ 9th
6th/ 13th

It is a very good idea to do your theory studies with a pencil and a music writing note book, your finished work should like something the music below.

Ear Training & Fingering

Listen to and play the scale exercise below. Once again, treat this exercise as if it was a great musical line you just have to play, taking great care to learn the sound of the scale.

pay attention to the rhythm of the exercise and how the root note of C is the beginning of all the phrases, or musical sentences in the exercise. By the way, a phrase is generally caused by a rest or pause of one and one half beats.

Listening Exercises

If a song, or its solo section, is in the key of C, or simply cadences to a C major chord, the C major pentatonic scale is the scale of choice for a sweet, tuneful, bright sounding solo. The major pentatonic scale is more forgiving than the major scale and is remarkable in its ability to easily and quickly yield good sounding solos. Its important to have a good concept of the sound quality, the character and flavor, of every scale you plan on using.

Below are simple, stepwise solos designed to be ear training exercises for learning the sound of the major pentatonic scale. All solos are played with the C major pentatonic scale with its notes in the correct order (stepwise motion). The first and last note of each solo is the C  root note. Its important to listen to the sound and general overall musical effect of each solo and, if possible, reproduce it on your guitar, listening for and playing changes of direction in your stepwise, or scalewise play along efforts. Listen to the smooth and beautiful C major pentatonic scale as its sounded against some basic chord progressions and cadences in the key of C major.

Rock Sound

Pop Sound

Jazz Sound

The Country Scale

The sound of country, and Nashville style lead guitar is very friendly to the major pentatonic scale sound. I first learned this scale as the ‘country music scale’ from my first instructors and friends because countless examples of major pentatonic solos are found throughout the wide spectrum of the country style.

This solo adheres to my method and is meant to be ear training and familiarization with the sound of the scale -another listening exercise. As before, solos are played with the C major pentatonic scale with its notes in the correct order (stepwise motion). For ear training purposes, the first and last note of each solo is the C root note. Listen to each solo and then copy it on your guitar, listening for musical effect and change of direction.

Country Sound

Convert To One

Convert to one means that, as a soloist, you would view all the chords in a progression in the same way as you view the one chord (I chord). In terms of basic, square one chord scale relationships if you are soloing over C major, the one chord in the key of C, your first pick as a soloing vehicle is going to be the C major scale. If you are converting to one you are applying the same treatment, in terms of scale selection, to all of the chords in the progression. The concept of 'convert to one' is illustrated in the table below.

Harmonic Analysis I IV V
Chord Symbol C F G
Scale Choice C Major Pentatonic C Major Pentatonic C Major Pentatonic

The notes in a C major pentatonic scale are all very friendly to and accommodated by a C dominant 7 sound. The table below shows how the major pentatonic scale degrees can be analyzed as chord tones and tensions of a C dominant 7 chord structure.

Do Re Mi Sol La
Chord Tone: 1 Scale Degree: 2nd or 9th Chord Tone: 5 Chord Tone: 5 Scale Degree: 6th or 13th

The C major pentatonic is also accepted by all 3 chord in a C blues song, and many players are known to play the scale over the entire song form. This idea is demonstrated in the final listening exercise of this lesson.

Blues Sound

Play Along Training

Begin soloing along to the backing tracks found below using only the notes the notes of the C major pentatonic scale and simple rhythms consisting mostly of eighth notes, like you heard in the listening exercises. This is called 'running' the scale. Use the diagram below to review the scale shape and fingering pattern for the c major pentatonic scale found in the seventh position.


Country Rock Play Along Track

Electric Blues Play Along Track


After you are in rhythm when running the scale, play a solo like the ones that are on the recording. Play your solo until you're comfortably nailing it with each pass of the band. As you practice, try treating the backing tracks like they were little instrumental songs or important solos you are authoring, starting on time, playing logical, coherent musical phrases and ending the solo in perfect sync with the recording.

These play along tracks are short for the purpose of learning how construct complete solos. This is the art of phrasing. To practice with a longer backing track in the key of C major click here.

Major Blues Scale.

Sometimes the major pentatonic scale will include the addition of one extra note: the flat 3rd degree, also called the minor 3rd of the major scale and a flat 3 blue note. This practice of using both the major 3rd and minor 3rd is at the heart of blues, rock, jazz,popular music and modern guitar playing in general. By including a flat 3 blue note in the major pentatonic scale you get a smooth, moving, emotional and very interesting musical effect. The major blues scale is also called

  1. The Secondary Blues Scale,
  2. Blues Number Two.
Use the interactive diagram below to learn the sound of the major blues scale in your ear and the feel of the scale in your fingers. Revisit the two play along tracks above using the major blues scale.