guitarists quickly become familiar with the elementary major pentatonic
and minor pentatonic scales. But there are many different pentatonic
scales you can learn to harmonise with more specific chord types.
As you probably already know, pentatonic
simply refers to a scale with five
On guitar, those five tones can theoretically be any from the twelve
tone chromatic scale. This gives us a huge list of possible scales we
can build to accent certain chord tones. This lesson will cover some of
the most usable and interesting variations.
So why use pentatonic scales?
of pentatonic scales as the skeleton of larger scales. For example,
major pentatonic can be seen as a stripped down version of the
major/Ionian scale, Mixolydian scale and other major scales.
Minor pentatonic can be seen as a stripped down version of natural
minor, Dorian and other minor scales.
combining pentatonics with fuller, seven note scale phrases, you
instantly give your solos more variation and, because most pentatonic
scale patterns use just two
notes per string,
you can inject quick runs that sound less "linear" and make use of the
most important notes. Think of pentatonic scales as half way between
using arpeggios and full scales.
Major pentatonic scales
All major scales contain the root (1),
major 3rd (3)
and 5th (5),
as these intervals make up the major triad - the foundation of all
major chords. Most of the time, good old major pentatonic will be our
choice of "stripped down" major scale...
there are different major chord types whereby a slight modification of
the above scale would harmonise more effectively. Let's have a look.
Dominant Pentatonic Scale
over: dominant 7th chords (1 3 5 b7) because of its flat
with: Mixolydian scale. It's also typically used in blues
progressions along side the minor/major pentatonic and blues scales.
to use these scales fluidly and musically across the
entire fretboard by developing 5 essential skills. Click
here to learn more
Minor pentatonic scales
All minor scales contain the root (1),
minor 3rd (b3)
and 5th (5),
as these intervals make up the minor triad - the foundation of all
minor chords. The most common pentatonic choice for minor chords is...
But as with major, there are pentatonic scales better suited to certain
minor chord types, based on the intervals being used.
Minor Major 7th Pentatonic Scale
over: minor triads (1 b3 5) and minor major 7th (1 b3 5 7)
Harmonic and melodic minor scales. Both these scales are characterised
by their use of the major 7th
(7). The major 7th gives the minor sound more tension.
over: minor triads (1 b3 5) and minor 6th (1 b3 5 6)
with: Melodic minor and Dorian scales. Both these minor
scales use the major 6th (6).
try mixing different pentatonic scales by ascending using one scale and
descending using another. The more variation the better.
Minor #4 Pentatonic Scale
over: minor triads (1 b3 5) and half diminished (1 b3 b5
with: Natural minor, Dorian and other minor scales that
use a b7. Use the #4 as a passing tone. That means don't emphasise/hold
it too long over minor chords, rather use it as part of a larger phrase.
Some scales do not use a major or minor 3rd, which means they're more
suited for playing over root-5th power chords or suspended chords (1 4
5 or 1 2 5). They're not really suitable for playing over progressions.
over: suspended triads (1 4 5 or 1 2 5) and power chords