Root 5 Pentatonic Minor

These 7th chords are sometimes called fence-sitting chords which means that because of their structure, they can lean towards either the major or the minor. For this reason, you actually have two options in choosing which scale to solo with over this track. You could choose an A minor scale, or an A major scale. I’ve chosen to work with the A major scale, and my reasoning for this is that I really like the sound of using the major triads over top of the 7 chord, as you’ll discover in the lesson.

It’s not wrong if you want to use A minor as your starting point, it just means that you have access to a different set of notes, which will create a different feel and sound in your solo.

To my ear, the major ends up being more melodic, because I can target the chord notes more directly.

I should also mention that even though I’m using A major, the scale pattern we’re starting with is a minor pattern. This may be confusing at first, until you realize that F# minor is the relative minor of A major, and thus they are perfectly related to each other. In fact, the F# minor scale is an exact replication of the A major scale, but starting from an F# instead of an A.

This Root 5 Pentatonic Minor scale is sometimes called a fourth-position pentatonic pattern, or a C-shape pattern, and it has other names as well. The main thing is to recognize the pattern for what it is, know where it’s root note is, and how to relate it to the key you’re playing in. For this reason, I like calling it the Root 5 Pentatonic Minor scale, because that lays out all the information I need to use it correctly.

If you have any questions on any of this, please ask them in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer there.

Leave a Reply 9 comments

Darwin Peterson - August 17, 2021 Reply

You talk about the A major pentatonic scale and explain that the F# minor scale is the same except it starts from a different location. I clearly understood this after checking my charts which I made from information that I found on many different sites. Then you refer only to the F# minor scale in your next explanation. But when you identify the position of the scale, you say it can be the third position. It was my understanding that the minor would be the fourth position and the major “A” would be the third. Since you did not mention the A major scale, am I incorrect?

    Jonathan Boettcher - August 17, 2021 Reply

    Do you have a time stamp I could check?

    In general, Position 1 of the pentatonic correlates to the relative minor scale in a diatonic key. So in the key of A, that would be F# minor. If we continue this same thinking, the A major scale (diatonic) would correlate to Position 2 of the pentatonic. You can also call this A pentatonic major.

    Generally speaking, all five positions utilize the same notes, and therefore all are simply extensions of the minor pentatonic across the fretboard. Does that help?

Darwin Peterson - August 17, 2021 Reply

Thanks for the prompt response to my question. I am trying to understand all of the relationships, so this gives me another slant on the pentatonic scale.

    Jonathan Boettcher - August 17, 2021 Reply

    I could have been referring to the root 5 minor? If so, that would be Position 4. If you look at that pattern, starting from the 5th string, you will see that it is exactly the same as Position 1, but moved up a string.

    On the diatonic side of things, I’ve never got in the habit of calling scales by their mode names, and so Root 5 minor always made more practical sense to me for that pattern.

Darwin Peterson - August 18, 2021 Reply

I found the exact location on the fretboard, and I used your fretting to get the 5th string root for the F# minor scale. The use of the 5th string as a scale root was a new idea for me. Thanks for a new way of viewing a pentatonic scale.

    Jonathan Boettcher - August 19, 2021 Reply

    That’s great to hear!

Thomas DeBacker - May 12, 2023 Reply

Hi Jonathan,
I’m enjoying your teaching style. I’m 74 and just fascinated with learning the guitar. Question. On page 2 of pdf, can you clarify statement, “Some call this a third position pattern, or a C shape box, if you come from a CAGED background.” I understand CAGED, but I don’t understand why ‘third position pattern’.

Thank you.

Thomas DeBacker - May 12, 2023 Reply

I think I just figured it out — third position of A Major pentatonic!

    Jonathan Boettcher - May 12, 2023 Reply

    Yeah, that’s right. You can think of each note of the scale as a starting point for a new position. This is easiest if you think of the scale as it goes up along just a single string. Each of those notes from the scale (say on the 6th string) can become a launching point for a new position of the same scale in that local area of the fretboard.

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