You can jump straight into the videos but I recommend you read the text below before watching videos.
The Pentatonic Scale is probably one of the most recognized concepts in music theory. This is usually the first scale pattern people learn accompanied by some blues style playing. It’s important though to point out the difference between the Pentatonic Scale and the Blues scale. The Blues Scale is the Pentatonic scale(usually minor) + the blue note.
The first position, or the general form of the scale seen above, is either a Minor or a Major pentatonic shape depending on whether you start playing from the minor root; 6th, or the major root; 1st, of the major scale system. Remember that I always talk about music theory from the perspective of the Major Scale. The Pentatonic scale is really just a 5 note simplification of the Major scale. Fewer notes with stronger musical ties or punch, for example, by removing the 4th and the 7th intervals from the Major Scale system. You need not get lost in an egg vs hen debate on the relationship of the Major scale and the Pentatonic scale you can either think about the Pentatonic shape as a simplification of the major(minor) scale or the major(minor) scale as a more complicated version of the same inherent musical relationship found all over the world. Both in musical systems with more or less notes then the typical 12 note system in western music. The Minor root is the note in the bottom left hand corner of the picture above or the top string on the left from the perspective of the guitar. The major root is on the bottom right hand corner of the picture or plainly on the top string(low-e) to the right. Now remember; the shape is either minor or major in different keys. On this site the videos and scales are in G – Major which has the relevant E-minor scale attached. This means that the pattern above, assuming you play that pattern from the nut of the neck(from fret zero or with open strings) is either a G Major Pentatonic or E Minor Pentatonic depending on which root you decide to accentuate.
To emphasize. The G-Major Pentatonic(5 notes) can be perfectly superimposed on the G-Major Scale(7 notes) and it is basically the Major Scale without the fourth and the seventh interval. So instead of seven notes it has five, which of course explains the name of the scale: Penta, the greek word for the number 5(pentagram, pentagon..) and “tonic” as in tones. You could look at it as a stronger harmonic relationship carved out of the Major Scale a five note version of Major or Minor so to speak.
- The Pentatonic Scale is the 5 note version of the Major Scale (minus the 4th and the 7th) – Penta = 5 =>Five Tone Scale
- The main pattern (shown in the videos below) is either a major or a minor pentatonic depending on which root note you start on. In this case the pentatonic pattern is a E-minor pentatonic if you start on the E note but a G-major pentatonic if you start on the G note. Take a look at the difference between the first video below featuring the E-minor pentatonic and the second video on the page featuring G-major pentatonic and compare.
The video contains, probably, the two most used scale pattern variations on the guitar; the E-minor Pentatonic scale firstly played from the root note of the low-E string and secondly played from the root note on the A string.
Now we have the G-Major Pentatonic Scale version of this same scale pattern. The difference here being only that I start the scale from the G note on the third fret instead of the E note on the open E-string.
Pentatonic Scale covering the fretboard in 5 positions
Now we want to add to the use value of scale by learning where these five particular notes are covering the whole neck(fretboard). We do this by learning the scale in positions starting on the root note, in this case the E-minor pentatonic, then we proceed to the next position that starts from the second note of the scale and so on.
Again the same Scale but different key this time now you can see the same patterns moved up five frets starting on the A note. The first pattern is Am pentatonic position one etc. Am is the 6th of C – Major which means that the video below is A minor- or C Major Pentatonic covering the fretboard.
Blues Note – Devils Note – Blue Note
Finally we have to look at the famous blues scale which really is just the pentatonic scale with an added so called blue note(devils note).