Pentatonic Scale (Guitar Lesson)


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David MacKenzie

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 5:48Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (05:09) Pentatonic Scale Introduction to the Pentatonic Scale

The minor and major pentatonic scales are the most frequently used scales in rock lead guitar. Many rock riffs use the major and minor pentatonic scales as well. "My Girl" is a fine example of a riff derived from A major pentatonic. This riff simply ascends the A major pentatonic scale in a catchy rhythm.

Scale Construction

Understanding the construction of the major pentatonic scale enables you to play the scale effectively in a musical context. The prefix "penta" means five. "Tonic" means tones or notes. So, the pentatonic is a scale comprised of five notes. These five notes are derived from the major scale which you have already learned. The major pentatonic scale omits the 4th and 7th scale degrees from the major scale. In the key of A, the 4th and 7th scale degrees are the notes D and G# respectively. Consequently, the A major pentatonic scale is spelled as follows: A, B, C#, E, F#, A.

Note: For more music theory information pertaining to the major pentatonic scale, please refer to the JamPlay Scale Library. This feature of the site can be accessed through the "Teaching Tools" button on the left-hand side of the homepage.

Playing the Major Pentatonic Pattern

The pattern that Dave demonstrates in this scene is most commonly used major pentatonic pattern. Watch carefully as he demonstrates an A major pentatonic scale at about 01:50 in the lesson video. Make a carefully note of the fingering that he uses. Do not deviate from this fingering when practicing through the scale. Start on the root note played by the second finger. This note is A. Then, ascend through the pattern up to the next highest A note. This note is located at the 7th fret of the fourth string. Finally, descend the pattern back down to the lowest root note. Play the scale along with Dave to ensure that you are playing the correct notes.

One Octave Pattern

This scale pattern spans a single octave across the three bass strings. You will learn a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale in a future lesson. The pattern presented in later lessons spans two octaves.

Note: Tablature and notation to the major pentatonic scale can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab. Proper left-hand fingerings are included in this document.

Changing Keys

The scale pattern that Dave demonstrated for A major pentatonic is a movable scale pattern. You can play the scale in a different key by simply shifting the pattern up or down the fretboard. As a result, this single pattern can be used to play the major pentatonic scale in all 12 possible keys. At 03:30, Dave shifts the scale to the key of B major. He begins the pattern he taught for A major two frets higher. This transposes the scale to the key of B.

Pentatonic Pattern 2

The A major pentatonic scale can be played in a total of five different patterns. When these five patterns are connected, they span the entire length of the fretboard. This allows a lead guitarist to utilize the entire range of the instrument when playing a melody or solo. For this reason, it is important to learn and memorize all five patterns. Take your time with this process. Tackle a new minor or major pentatonic scale pattern each week.

Second Position

The majority of this particular pattern is played in second position. The first finger plays the notes that are located at the second fret. Unlike the pentatonic pattern that Dave demonstrated earlier, this pentatonic pattern cannot be shifted anywhere on the neck. This is due to the A note played with the open fifth string. However, if this tonic A note is played at the 5th fret on the sixth string, a movable scale pattern is formed.

Note: Tablature and notation to this pattern is located under the "Supplemental Content" tab. Proper left-hand fingering is included.

Preview of Next Lesson

Dave switches gears from the major pentatonic scale to the minor pentatonic scale in the next lesson. He explains the basic theory and construction of this scale. You will also learn some common fretboard patterns for the minor pentatonic.

Until next time, memorize and practice the major pentatonic patterns Dave has taught you. Transpose both patterns to a wide variety of keys. Also, practice the scale along with a metronome to ensure that you can play it in time.

Video Subtitles / Captions





Supplemental Learning Material

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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


jnc51jnc51 replied on October 9th, 2012

Thanks Dave. I've asked people(musicians) what notes were omitted to form a Pentatonic out of a major scale and never got a straight answer. The 4th and 7th; easy enough. I'm always surprised how great musicians don't really know theory. I guess from me being a technician I always felt I had to know why and how something worked.

metalmoogmetalmoog replied on May 17th, 2011

Great lesson Dave. Always enjoy your lessons.

YucatanEdYucatanEd replied on May 6th, 2010

I was just fooling around with the pentatonic scale starting on the 3rd fret, and discovered that this pattern works all the way up the neck! This is a major discovery for me. If you dont believe me play the opening riff to the Temptations "My Girl" starting on the 2nd fret and every fret there after. It works! Thanks DMac!

raoelraoel replied on April 25th, 2010

what do you mean with 4th and 7th note exactly?thanks

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on April 26th, 2010

what i mean by 4th and 7th note is if we compare the scale to the major scale, we are taking away those two notes to help create the pentatonic scale. sorry, i am nor even sure i clarified that enough. hope that helps!!!

raoelraoel replied on April 27th, 2010

okeee but where do you remove the 4th and 7th note from?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on April 28th, 2010

play the A major scale in its entirety. then take away the 4th note of the A major scale, and the 7th note of the A major scale. you now have the A major pentatonic scale. does that help?

packetpacket replied on July 24th, 2008

If you know major pentatonic scale then you already know the minor pentatonic scale. The 5 patterns are the same. An easy way to remember is if your playing the aminor pentatonic scale from pattern 1 (index finger on 5th fret Low E string) you can then move that pattern back 3 frets and you will then be playing the A Major pentatatonic scale (or the F# minor penatonic scale).

mingofallsmingofalls replied on July 17th, 2008

Good lesson Dmac, that helped me understand the pentatonic scale in major. Thank you Sir!

rockerdonrockerdon replied on July 16th, 2008

Great lesson. Rock onDMAC!!!

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.



Lesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Chord Exercises

David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practice and Discipline

In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

Length: 6:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Double Stops

Double stops can bring new life to your rhythm and lead playing. David provides a short tutorial on what double stops are and how they can be used.

Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

Length: 8:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Basic Bends

David MacKenzie gives a crash course on bending in this lesson. Bends can add a lot of soul to your playing.

Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Cool Rock Licks

David MacKenzie teaches two rock licks inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen and Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Hammer-On Exercise

David returns to the world of hammer-ons with a fun new exercise. This lesson includes a JamTrack.

Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

David returns to the world of pull-offs with a new exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 12:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Practicing Bends

David MacKenzie returns to bending technique in this lesson. This lesson features a backing track that is designed for bending practice.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Basic Vibrato

Integrating vibrato into your guitar playing is a great way to add emotion and soul. David MacKenzie explains the basics of vibrato in this lesson.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Full Major Scale

David MacKenzie explains a two octave pattern of the major scale.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

David teaches a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Cool Lick

David MacKenzie teaches several licks based on common arpeggio patterns. This lesson also includes a backing track to jam with.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Rhythm Basics

David MacKenzie introduces some important rhythm basics in this lesson. This lesson also includes a backing track exercise.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Cool Lick Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces some new amazing licks.

Length: 29:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Tapping Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 22:44 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Lesson 34

Tapping Exercise #2

David MacKenzie teaches another amazing tapping exercise.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Tapping #3: Adding Open Strings

The third tapping lesson elaborates on the previous lesson by adding open strings.

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Tapping #4: Diminished Lick

The fourth lesson in Dave's tapping series deals with a monster diminished lick.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 37

Tapping #5

In lesson five of his tapping mini-series, DMac provides backing tracks that you can tap over.

Length: 8:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Tremolo Technique

In lesson 38, DMac demonstrates some tremolo techniques to add to your repertoire.

Length: 13:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Tapping #6

DMac returns to his tapping instruction with more advanced techniques.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Chord Structures

In lesson 40, DMac teaches you how to play various D chords all the way up the neck.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 41

Octaves

In lesson 41, David discusses the octave and its uses while playing.

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

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