The Pentatonic Minor Scale

The pentatonic minor scale is the first scale any guitar player should learn. It is the easiest, and also the most important, of all the guitar scales. Even if you never learn another scale in your life, if you master the pentatonic scale, you’ll go far — it’s that important!

A Pentatonic Minor Scale Pattern

.The scale in this video is the minor pentatonic scale, and the scale pattern for it is below. The numbers represent your fingers; index being 1, pinky being 4. The red note is the root, and the others are octaves of that same note.

E:  |–1–|—–|—–|–4–| — 1st string
B:  |–1–|—–|—–|–4–|
G:  |–1–|—–|–3–|—–|
D:  |–1–|—–|–3–|—–|
A:  |–1–|—–|–3–|—–|
E:  |–1–|—–|—–|–4–| — 6th string

The tab starts at the 5th fret (Am Pentatonic position)

You can see the whole fretboard in the diagram on the right. The red notes are the root notes. Try to get used to seeing how the scale repeats itself. Every time you see a red note, that’s the octave, and it means the scale is starting over again.

The Next Step

If this pentatonic scale has shown you a small glimpse of what is possible with scales and patterns on your guitar, then go checkout the Guitar Scale Patterns lesson.

Before you stop and say “But a 2 hour lesson on scales?? B-O-R-I-N-G!” consider that plenty of people have written to tell me that these patterns are making a difference in their playing that they never though possible before.

Once you begin to see how the guitar works, it becomes far from boring to learn about the fretboard – in fact, I bet you become as amazed at the fretboard as I am!

Click Here For The Scale Patterns Guitar Lesson

Leave a Reply 61 comments

Bud Thompson - February 19, 2010 Reply

I thought this was the Pentatonic major?????

    Jonathan - February 20, 2010 Reply

    Hi Bud,

    No, this scale is the pentatonic minor…

      Scoots - September 14, 2018 Reply

      I think Bud meant, “Isn’t the Major Pentatonic the most important?”

        Jonathan Boettcher - September 14, 2018 Reply

        Ah, yes well that’s an interesting question too. I suppose the first thing to realize is that neither the pentatonic major or minor are inherently more important than the other, musically speaking, as they contain the exact same notes. They just use different starting points. For instance, if you play the A pentatonic minor pattern shown on this page, but skip the A and use the C as your starting point, you will effectively be playing the pentatonic major scale.

        So if the two are of equivalent importance, musically, who do I prefer the minor? Simply for how the SHAPE is so convenient on the guitar. Using all the notes on the same fret is a great feature, as your first finger never has to “remember” where to go. So all you really need to remember is what the third and fourth fingers are meant to be doing on the string you’re on. That’s why I believe this is the most accessible scale pattern for beginners, and therefore the most important one to start with.

capokevin@gmail.com - March 19, 2010 Reply

Love the scale pattern instruction I bought. Little question what are you referring to (the cheat sheets) when you note Root 5 or Root 6 in a box pattern or scale ? I presume it has to do with the mode but please clarify for me, thanks.

    Jonathan - March 20, 2010 Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    Root 6 means the root note for that scale pattern is found on the 6th string. Root 5 means the root note is found on the 5th string.

    So in a way, this does end up referring to the mode you’re using, though it is a different way of referencing it.

peacefulhours@gmail.com - March 30, 2010 Reply

Hi J.
I have a question regarding scales. This might sound ‘lame’, but I am theory-challenged.
When I am playing a scale (which I am not doing yet, but I am considering the possibility of taking the class ) , I am confused about something. If I am playing along to a song in the key of C, and I am playing the C scale pattern, do I move my scale pattern to different frets as the chords are changed, or do I remain where I am?

Thanks for any help.
Magie

jboettcher@shaw.ca - March 30, 2010 Reply

Hi Magie,

In that example you’d stay in the C scale for the entire song… no need to change positions. Cheers.

peacefulhours@gmail.com - March 30, 2010 Reply

This makes is seem quite possible that I could get something very worthwhile from the Scale Pattern course. Any discounts on the web that you are aware of for this class? I missed the big discount for I IV V, so I don’t want that to happen with this class, if there is one I would definitely use it. If not, ah well.
thanks,
Magie

jboettcher@shaw.ca - March 30, 2010 Reply

Hi Magie – I’m not sure if you’re on my list or not, but the price of the Guitar Scale Patterns lesson is increasing on April 1st. So if you get in before then, you essentially save $10.
http://www.GuitarScalePatterns.com

peacefulhours@gmail.com - March 30, 2010 Reply

See you there.
Maggie

jimbob - March 31, 2010 Reply

Kevin Swift’s question – took a while for me but it’s referring to the 5th string, and the sixth string

brandon - April 7, 2010 Reply

i learned this as a blues specific scale…

    Jonathan - April 8, 2010 Reply

    Hi Brandon,

    The pentatonic minor scale is probably the first scale that was ever used, historically. It is universal – all types of music use it. I recently noticed a set of wind chimes that was using the pentatonic scale, for that matter.

Dennis - April 9, 2010 Reply

I have used this pattern for all of my leads and have tried to show others how versitile it is, but they just don’t get it. thanks

Don E - April 28, 2010 Reply

Very good Jonathan, I’ve used the Pentatonic Scale for years, I was actually using it before I even knew what it was.

Jonathan - April 28, 2010 Reply

Hi Don – The pentatonic minor scale just ‘makes sense’ to the ear… it is very intuitive. From what I’ve read it was the first scale that was ever developed… thus they were using it before they knew what it was too! 🙂

ton80darts@aol.com - April 28, 2010 Reply

Is this scale box 1 I have seen it called a number of different boxes 2,3 ect. is there a standard name some of the other lessons on line call it box 2 and on one lesson they said if you move down 3 frets and play the same pattern it would be the major pent pattern R5 of that note but that doesn’t make sense 2 me I thought the major pent of A would be 57 47 47 46 57 57 and what box nunber would that be called
thanks
Dave

Churlocker@msn.com - April 29, 2010 Reply

Johnathon,
New to your site, I am liking it so thank you for your efforts. I am a bit confused on your fretboard above you show the B string 3rd fret as a F, its seems like it should be a D, what am
I missing?

thanks
Collin

easthill49@verizon.net - May 1, 2010 Reply

Scales: Boring?

I was told once:
“If scales are boring, you’re playing them wrong.”
Gotta breath life into the notes you play – ALL of them.

Compliments and Regards,
jte

    Jonathan - May 1, 2010 Reply

    Hi JT – excellent advice indeed!

    @ Collin – yes, you’re right, that should be a D. I caught that quite a while ago on my PDF version, but only just realized it was uploaded here as well! Thanks for the catch…

    @ Dave – I’ve seen guys call the box patterns all kinds of wierd things, so I prefer to stick to the actual names of the scale. The one on this page is an A minor pentatonic scale, and the pattern you’ve mentioned is the A major pentatonic scale. If you moved the minor pattern down three frets you’d have an F# minor pentatonic scale.

edanderson@edanderson.us - May 2, 2010 Reply

HI Johnathon,
I purchased both yout tutors and really learn a lot.
I just started playing again after 40 years. Fingers are a little tight. LOL
I have a dumb question to ask as I am a little confuse. What makes the scale Minor? A major is (if I am correct)A B C# D E F#
G# A. A minor is A C D E G A.
Also are you planning on creating any more coarses?
Thanks
ED

Jim - June 8, 2010 Reply

Do you know of a web site like yours for the mandolin. I read what you send me and it makes sense, any insight on converting to mandolin?

    Jonathan - June 8, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jim – I don’t know of any for the mandolin, though the theory is the same. I’m not sure what the tuning is on a mandolin, but you basically just use the same theory with the different string tunings to come up with the patterns that will work on there.

tobey4 - July 29, 2010 Reply

The major version uses 5 tones in the major scale.
in the key of A the notes would be A B C# E F# A.
It is not nearly as fun to play as the minor version and doesn’t have the warmth either.
I would put it back in the tool box and play the minor one in the correct position, per song key.

Phil Reschly - August 8, 2010 Reply

This is just the website I to have, because I don’t have that set up or anything yet. This looks & sounds wonderful, I’m sure I’ll use this a lot in the future. Thanks a bunch! Keep it real, y’all. Peace.

Del - September 8, 2010 Reply

Jonathan,

I have played by ear for years. It seems to me that if you use the pentatonic scale in the position you have shown it is minor. However, if you use it behind the root, it becomes major. Is this true and can I then use all those shapes throughout the neck?

Del

    Jonathan - September 14, 2010 Reply

    Hi Del, If you want to play from behind the root, you’ll need a different pattern. I talk more about the pentatonic scale in some of my free lessons over at GuitarTipsWeekly.com.

williamrees12@yahoo.com - September 19, 2010 Reply

Johnathan I am a bass player (Old Bass Player) Iam learning alot from your guitar site. I have a couple of questions to ask about the pentatonic scale. First is how many minor pentatonic scales and major pentatonic scalse are there of each. Second question Does the pentatonic scale notes come from the minor scale and the major of a diatonic scale. I enjoy your videos, but I am a senior citizen and Iam on a limited income so if I can get some money ahead I will try to order this from you. I have been playing for years and taught myself to play, buy using records, tapes or anything I can get my hand on to figure out the tunes. It is a long hard process over the years. I taught myself theory, but never could figure out this part of it until lately and I stay confuse over this issue. I took two years of college for music and learned the ruediments there, but could never apply them to my playing. So any help from you would be greatly appreciated by me. Thank you for your Course they are good to get insite on things. Bill Rees

Stephen A. Reilly - October 14, 2010 Reply

Hey – this is great! I want to do often and take lesson here. Jonathan great job on the pentatonic scales. Keep teaching you do it with simplicity that’s a nach. I want more!

ziggy - December 21, 2010 Reply

Thanks alot you have helped me out. love the lessions..thanks..

dkbramwell@yahoo.com - February 8, 2011 Reply

Jonathan I’m starting to see a little daylight down the fretboard tunnel but i’ve got a question the cord progression for the AM Pentatonic would be the same pattern for the key of D at the 10 fret and then at the 12 fret for key of E if the song pattern went A D E . 5, 10, 12 ????

Jon - February 13, 2011 Reply

Jonathan,
Thank you so much. Your lesson on the AM Pentatonic was so easy to follow
and so valuable. It made my day.
Jon

onecountry@earthlink.net - March 22, 2011 Reply

Jonathan:
The very best instruction I have seen in over one-half of a century looking!
Your unique instructional approach will give folks another shot at playing the guitar …

Sincerely,
Ray

alisina_bassgiutar@yahoo.com - March 29, 2011 Reply

it is really great

tom gaither - April 20, 2011 Reply

Jonathan,
Very nice video, a simple melody played within that minor pentatonic scale would explain to some how scales are utilized.
I don’t seem to be able to use the diminished scale all the time but have trouble implementing the augmented scale.

Tom

Elusiverick - April 20, 2011 Reply

Thanks once again Jonathan, May I request a lesson on the Major scale with utilization of it applied to Bluse please?
Your killing it please keep it up.
Elusiverick.

Elusiverick - April 20, 2011 Reply

P.S. did I say Major, should that be Diatonic ? & you did say that is planed so thanks.
Regards,
Rick

Jesse - May 12, 2011 Reply

Great info john, you are very helpful and I think i’m going to enjoy working with you. Thanks again. JD in NM

david - June 6, 2011 Reply

those people wanting to know major and minnor scales take the am that hes shows you start ur root on the 8fr now have a c major i think changes as u go up are down enjoy

david - June 6, 2011 Reply

wtg jonathan i think ur are really helping future guitar players i know you do it for the love good luck and god bless because there are few people like you in this old world

mbgaisford@sbcglobal.net - August 3, 2011 Reply

Great lesson, as always. One thing you might want to mention for your beginner students is right hand alternate picking. That one technique made a huge difference for me, and may not be assumed by the beginner.

    Jonathan - August 3, 2011 Reply

    Hi Beth, alternate picking is indeed important, and I teach it pretty early on. However I find that for many beginners, it is enough work to try to remember the scale pattern… I like to add the challenge of alternate picking just after they’ve got the scale pattern down.

bobrgv@btinternet.com - September 5, 2011 Reply

Just the way i like to see theory/lessons at my learning stage so as to crystallize the wood from the trees.

mthx1138@msn.com - October 3, 2011 Reply

Hey Jonathan, Mani here and thanks so muich for this little lesson , it was the world for me since I’ve been trying to find someone to show me how it goes. Thanks a bunch. I hope to keep learning from you. Mani

Robert - November 11, 2011 Reply

If I see the quality of the video’s and sound in it of your voice I worry tjat your full course has the same horrible quality. Although I love to take the course I hesitate on listening to this poor sounding
samples that you have put on your site.
please answer me. Jonathan

greetings Robert

easthill49@verizon.net - November 11, 2011 Reply

The Vid / Audio quality of the “Scale Patterns” Course is just fine, certainly more than adequate.

We did not, however, spend a heck of a lot of time on the Pentatonic Scales or the Five Box structure and the relationship to Major and Minor scales.

rtcooper
Boston

erdogan - June 4, 2012 Reply

thank you good lesson.keepon pickig.

Tom M. - June 26, 2012 Reply

nice….if a guy cant learn the pentatonic scale from this he might should sell his guitar & give it up
I didnt think that scale was that important but now I know. Thanks for the simplicity of instruction, good job.

mason_kilgore@sria-fla.com - October 3, 2012 Reply

Johnathan, I’m really confused now. You are are calling this the “A” minor pentatonic scale and playing it with the root note on “A”. In your video, I thought to use this scale in the key of “A” you moved down to the relative minor (3 frets) and the root note would be “F#”. So if the root key is “A” can I play this scale starting on the 5th fret with my index finger, or move down three frets with my index finger on the “F#” note, or can I play either position if the root key is “A”? Or are you actually playing this scale in the root key of “C”?

    Jonathan - October 3, 2012 Reply

    Hi Mason, the key here is differentiating between major and minor keys. In this video, I teach the A pentatonic MINOR scale… so the root note is indeed A. If you want to relate it to a major key, then you’d have to go UP three frets to find the relative MAJOR, which as you said would be C major.

    Personally I prefer soloing out of the minor scale, so if the key is minor to start out with, that’s cool, I just use the minor scale of that key, which starts on the same root note. If the key is major, then I go down three frets to the relative minor, and use that minor scale to solo out of.

    Does that help?

Frank Ruffins - December 1, 2012 Reply

Thank you for the work out today nice scale

frankalutz@gmail.com - April 28, 2013 Reply

As usual, another useful and helpful lesson by Jonathon. Thank you.

les cleaver - May 27, 2013 Reply

good lesson but there are 4 more positions that need to be taught for minor pentatonic ..but its a good lesson I always went to the 5th position ( up the neck) or to the 2nd position down the neck from patern 5

Richard - January 22, 2016 Reply

Greetings,
I have been learning the whole notes in the 5 positions of the fretboard starting at the – open, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th frets. How does this work into playing song ? Or is this just an exercise to learn where the notes (whole, not sharp or flats) are on the fret from those positions (open,3,5,7,9) ?
Thank you,
Richard

    Jonathan Boettcher - January 27, 2016 Reply

    Hi Richard, the scales give you the best notes to use in a given key. So they are the notes you want to use for a solo, for riffs, or for pretty much anything else you can imagine. The melody notes will come from the scale, the harmony notes… everything.
    One little correction to your terminology – “whole” note usually refers to how long a note is played (a whole bar). I think the term you’re looking for is “natural” which means it is neither sharp nor flat.

terry - March 7, 2016 Reply

Jonathan, your example is back to front or in reverse, all other pentatonic scales start on the left and go up the neck but you are saying read from the right and follow to the left.
Just something else I have seen is the pentatonic starting on the C 8th fret and then on the A 5th fret the teacher plays it that way and he names it A Minor Pentatonic the flavor starts as C Major and winds up as A Minor it clearly sounds wrong thanks for reading my rant.

    Jonathan Boettcher - March 9, 2016 Reply

    Hi Terry, yeah, the diagram in the video corresponds to the way it is played on the fretboard shown in the video. I figured it would make it easier to follow what my fingers are doing. Of course, if you’re expecting something else, you have to get past that first 🙂

Dave - September 20, 2019 Reply

Question
When playing the scales, can you jump around on the different notes or do you stay strictly on the pattern? Like playing a, c, e, d, g in sequence or playing a, c, d, e, g?
Just comes across your material. Very clear and impressive .

    Jonathan Boettcher - September 20, 2019 Reply

    Hi Dave, you can absolutely jump around on the notes. Perhaps try thinking of them as a palette of colors you might use when painting a picture – there is no set sequence that you MUST use – the application is up to your own interpretation.

Dave - September 21, 2019 Reply

Thank you

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