Pentatonic scales are an effective way of giving melodies an appealing, accessible sound. If you are unfamiliar with them, they work by skipping one note after the next in sequence.
These scales eliminate dissonant intervals found in major and minor scales, meaning they will work well over any chord progression.
The Root Note
As with any scale, it is key to begin and end each pattern on its root note in order to reinforce tonal center of each position and make learning it easier. For instance, A minor pentatonic scale’s root note can be found at the fifth fret of low E string; find that note in these diagrams before moving up or down scale.
One of the hallmarks of major pentatonic scale is that its patterns don’t have an assigned key (unlike minor and melodic minor scales). Instead, each pattern contains a moveable root note which can be moved up and down the fretboard to play any major key imaginable! You can even use one pattern across both major and minor keys! Having this tool in your arsenal of guitar licks makes this an invaluable one to have!
Root notes of each scale position form a triangular pattern, making it easier to memorize and locate their location on the fretboard. For instance, in position one you will find root notes on strings 1, 2, and 4. Therefore it may be beneficial to use open ring finger-and-index finger combinations on these strings for greater efficiency.
One of the greatest assets of a major pentatonic scale is that it does not include any semitones or half steps – an invaluable quality since half steps are often considered dissonant and can sound harsh when played over chords. By eliminating the major 7th interval found in most major scales, major pentatonic eliminates this issue entirely.
Each scale position in a major pentatonic scale contains root notes as well as major 2nd and perfect 5th intervals, giving the major pentatonic its characteristic major flavor, making it suitable for major chords and progressions as well as dominant chords as it includes a major 6th interval.
Once you understand all five scale shapes, you can combine them to form extended licks by linking their root notes together. For instance, second and third scale positions share their root note on the fifth string; using this connection as a basis, they could form a major pentatonic scale on 6th and 5th strings with the same pattern from first position.
The major pentatonic scale is an indispensable part of a guitarist’s fretboard knowledge, used extensively in various licks and melodies as well as being essential when it comes to improvising or creating original music. Knowing it well allows you to instantly create riffs and melodies for any chord progression or song you are working on; plus making jam sessions or just playing music together much simpler!
Major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales differ primarily by virtue of containing a major third, giving the former its major tonality and lending your licks a more melodic sound that fits better with major chords you are playing over.
Major pentatonic scales differ from regular major scales in that they omit the fourth and seventh notes that give it its familiar sound by eliminating fourth and seventh notes from regular major scales, creating more tension-filled sounding licks than using full major scale would do – this makes the major pentatonic scale an attractive choice when soloing over major chords in songs.
The intervals of a major pentatonic scale consist of whole steps and half steps, following an analogous pattern to that found in CAGED systems discussed previously by KillerGuitarRigs guides. You can see root note patterns for each string below in the diagram; note how first and second strings have identical shapes due to this being based on regular major scale but lacking 4th and 7th notes respectively.
As previously discussed, the major pentatonic scale is an extremely flexible scale and can be applied in all keys. We used C major pentatonic to demonstrate its use but all of what you learn should transfer easily to other keys simply by moving its root note and changing scale shapes accordingly. Extend these patterns together into extended scale lines of your own to see how you can apply this knowledge when writing your own riffs and melodies!
The Scale Positions
The pentatonic scale, with only five notes, makes it an accessible scale for beginners to play and learn quickly. Furthermore, its flexibility means it works great over any chord structure; mastering it and being able to perform licks from any part of the neck sets apart true musicians from everyone else.
Learn the patterns created from its root note on each string when playing the pentatonic scale, such as G major (for our examples). Use these patterns to create exciting licks! We will use G major here, but all this information applies across key signatures.
At first, we will tackle the most basic pattern found in position 1, consisting of root notes on the 5th, 3rd and 2nd strings and played using fingerings 1-3 (index and ring). Next up are patterns 2-4 which add quite an interesting lick! Finally there is the third pattern which often uses both first and third fingers, or sometimes just the first finger; all are great positions to start out learning with!
The fifth and final pattern can be more challenging as it requires playing with both your ring and pinky fingers. If you have the flexibility, this pattern is fantastic; otherwise it is useful as it can be combined with the previous four patterns to form unique compositions. Add flair and enhance the appeal of your solos by learning patterns – don’t just memorize them – take time to understand what intervals they contain as well. As you solo over chords, this technique will provide safe anchor points and resting spots when soloing over them, keeping your scale movements sounding connected and in tune with the backing chord. To gain a better feel for this, play through each of the seven positions of a major pentatonic scale by starting from its root on each string, ascending and then descending it.
Owinging to its complexity, playing major pentatonic scales may take some practice before becoming second nature; once your hands have found their position on the fretboard there are some essential facts you need to keep in mind when approaching them. Perhaps most significantly is that this scale does not contain semitone intervals (half steps), like those found in major scales like 4th and 7th intervals which create dissonance by disrupting harmony when used in guitar solos – this prevents discordant sounds from ruining an otherwise harmonious sounding solo performance!
Furthermore, the major pentatonic scale does not use the “falling” seventh found in major scale music as another source of potential dissonance; instead it features a flat seventh that gives more stable and melodic notes, making for an ideal pairing with different genres of music.
While the major pentatonic scale may not be as popular, it still frequently appears in popular music. It’s particularly effective over power chords and major triads due to being neutral, so as not to clash with their roots; and can work well over some altered chords (although not as effectively as its minor pentatonic counterpart).
Major pentatonic scale differs from its minor pentatonic counterpart by not employing any open strings, making it simpler for beginners to learn. Fretted notes allow novice players to practice patterns without constantly moving up and down the neck – ideal for practicing fretted patterns without risk of moving their fingers up too often on the neck! Furthermore, advanced guitarists use major pentatonic solos when creating fast, dynamic solos such as those found in songs by Led Zeppelin (How Many More Times) or AC/DC “Back in Black”, among many others.
Once you’ve mastered the basic shapes and positions, adding color to your playing can be accomplished through combining various scale patterns together. Each scale position shares certain root note patterns with those above and below it, so it should be easy to form a full scale by combining these patterns together.