The Pentatonic Minor Scale

The pentatonic 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!

Am Pentatonic Scale

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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 (59 comments So Far)


  1. Bud Thompson
    5 years ago

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


  2. Jonathan
    5 years ago

    Hi Bud,

    No, this scale is the pentatonic minor…


  3. Kevin Swift
    4 years ago

    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.


  4. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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.


  5. magie
    4 years ago

    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


  6. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    Hi Magie,

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


  7. magie
    4 years ago

    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


  8. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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


  9. magie
    4 years ago

    See you there.
    Maggie


  10. jimbob
    4 years ago

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


  11. brandon
    4 years ago

    i learned this as a blues specific scale…


  12. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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.


  13. Dennis
    4 years ago

    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


  14. Don E
    4 years ago

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


  15. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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! :)


  16. Dave
    4 years ago

    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


  17. collin
    4 years ago

    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


  18. JT Easthill
    4 years ago

    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


  19. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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.


  20. Edward
    4 years ago

    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


  21. Jim
    4 years ago

    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?


  22. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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.


  23. tobey4
    4 years ago

    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.


  24. Phil Reschly
    4 years ago

    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.


  25. Del
    4 years ago

    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


  26. Jonathan
    4 years ago

    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.


  27. william rees
    4 years ago

    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


  28. Stephen A. Reilly
    4 years ago

    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!


  29. ziggy
    4 years ago

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


  30. Keith Bramwell
    4 years ago

    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 ????


  31. Jon
    4 years ago

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


  32. Ray Medlock, Sr.
    3 years ago

    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


  33. alisina
    3 years ago

    it is really great


  34. tom gaither
    3 years ago

    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


  35. Elusiverick
    3 years ago

    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.


  36. Elusiverick
    3 years ago

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


  37. Jesse
    3 years ago

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


  38. david
    3 years ago

    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


  39. david
    3 years ago

    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


  40. Beth
    3 years ago

    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.


  41. Jonathan
    3 years ago

    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.


  42. Bob Vincent
    3 years ago

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


  43. Mani
    3 years ago

    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


  44. Robert
    3 years ago

    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


  45. Hugh Mohr
    3 years ago

    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


  46. erdogan
    2 years ago

    thank you good lesson.keepon pickig.


  47. Tom M.
    2 years ago

    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.


  48. mason
    2 years ago

    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”?


  49. Jonathan
    2 years ago

    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?


  50. Frank Ruffins
    2 years ago

    Thank you for the work out today nice scale


  51. Frank Lutz
    1 year ago

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


  52. les cleaver
    1 year ago

    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


  53. Rita McVey
    1 year ago

    I love your lessons and tips. Might have to sign up for the course.


  54. les cleaver
    1 year ago

    this is a good lesson I’ve learned all the patterns and there are 5 in major and minor and they are the same patterns the only difference is in this lesson the Minor the pattern he’s playing is the first position/pattern for minor and if this were major pentatonic this would be position/pattern 5…. its all good


  55. Don Tittle
    8 months ago

    Great lessons. I’m a bit confused & I ask, what is the difference in major & minor scales. If someone is playing in A minor, can I play along with them in A major or what & why?

    Thanks, Don


  56. Jonathan
    8 months ago

    Hi Don, major and minor scales are different, and it has to do with the spacing pattern between each of the notes in the scale. There are parts of each scale that line up with each other; however other parts are different. In the course I get into more detail on those patterns, but to briefly answer your question, if one person is playing in A major, and the other in A minor… it ain’t gonna go very well! :)


  57. Don Blevins
    8 months ago

    Very informative and you teach in away that is easy to follow. Keep up the good work.

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  59. Tbone
    2 months ago

    5 minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master.

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