Major Pentatonic Scale Theory

The 5 note Major Pentatonic Scale can be thought of as a traditional Major Scale with the 4th and 7th degrees omitted. The result is another extremely powerful, forgiving, highly usable and therefore much played series of box patterns. Ust the chart below to memorize and copy the formulas and spellings for a C Major Pentatonic Scale.

The Major Pentatonic Scale is best described as having a sweet, melodic and unusually pretty sound. Players associated with this sound include BB King, Robin Ford and the Allman Brothers.

Major Scale Note Names
Do
Re
Mi
Fa
Sol
La
Ti
Do
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
C Major Scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
C Major Pentatonic Scale
C
D
E
G
A
C

Ear Training

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The Big Picture

This lesson is certainly intended to get the sound of the Major Pentatonic Scale in your ears and the feel of the scale patterns in your fingers. Ultimately you want to be able to play all over the neck, freely changing between scale patterns while musically exploring the higher and lower notes in the scale, this is called developing range. Developing range is the only way to avoid ruts or becoming stuck in the one or two common knowledge fingering patterns that everyone knows. With the play along exercise located here, plan your work and work your plan.

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Root 6 And Root 5 Thinking

Our next step would be to listen to, learn and play the two ‘go to’ versions of the Major Pentatonic Scale;

  1. Root Note On String 6
  2. Root Note On String 5

Use the diagrams below to help you memorize the two most important ('first line of defense') fingering patterns for the Major Pentatonic Scale. Once again, these two 'first line of defense' fingering patterns for the C Major Pentatonic Scale below are in the same position as the most commonly used C Major Chords.

Five Positions Of C Major Pentatonic

Open Position...

We'll begin our ear training and visualization work in the Open Position, where we find a scale fingering pattern which may remind of the C Major Scale in the Open Position, the first scale presented in this course. As before, first listen to the accompanying recording, then practice until you can play in perfect unison with that sound file.

 
 

The C Major Pentatonic Scale in the 2nd Position is one of our 'first line of defense' presented above. Remember, these are ear training and visualization exercises designed to make your mind and fingers comfortable with the sound and shape and to make your ear and fingers capable of quickly and easily copying the accompanying sound files.

 

In position five the C Major Pentatonic Scale turns out to be a well-known and highly favored form of a box pattern. Don't let the similarities between this and any other fingering pattern or scale shape you may know distract you. Focus on the ear training and visualization aspect of your work with this scale in this key. For now, let's keep working and just remember that many things on the guitar can have more than one name.

 

The C Major Pentatonic Scale in the 7th Position is also one of your 'first line of defense' fingering patterns presented above. The white numbers inside the scale patterns indicate the suggested fingering. The slight position shift indicated below will make the scale easy and comfortable as fingers one and three are your fastest and most powerful fingers.

 

Perhaps the least known and played of all the box patterns, this little guy can be an excellent transitional scale if your playing a solo or lick which covers a wide range. The C Major Pentatonic Scale in the 10th Position can be easily managed with a slight position shift as is shown by the white numbered fingering indications in the diagram. The C Root Note on String 6 is shown as a point of reference.

 

Another little known and seldom played box pattern, this version of the C Major Pentatonic Scale in the 12th Position is of particular interest because of where it falls, the 12 fret which is in the perfect range for lead guitar playing, not too low and just high enough. Additionally, you've spent a lot of time in this course, and hopefully in your other studies, learning to play in the Open Position. This Open Position playing experience makes playing in the 12th Position seem natural and logical.

Guided Practice......
Open this page to find additional play along and phrase training exercises.
Guided Practice......
Open this page to work with a beautiful and often overlooked variation of the Major Pentatonic Scale.
Conclusion......

The thing to remember about this aspect of the course is that these exercises are designed to be ear training and visualization exercises for the system of 5 interconnected Major Pentatonic Box Patterns. You should be very comfortable with:

  • Finding C Root Notes on the fifth and sixth strings and assigning Major Pentatonic Box Patterns to them.
  • The general sound quality and flavor of the Major Pentatonic Scale.