Full Minor Pentatonic Scale (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

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

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 9:20Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:13) Full Minor Pentatonic Scale Once again, Dave MacKenzie is back in action with more scales. Scales are the essential building blocks of all music. For this reason, it is paramount that you learn as much about scales as possible. Learning scale patterns isn't enough. You must learn how a scale pattern can be applied to a practical musical context. This includes learning the music theory pertinent to each scale.

Music Theory

The JamPlay administration team is currently hard at work on a totally comprehensive library of scales. This section will be available to all members in the coming weeks. For now however, here is an excerpt from the Minor Pentatonic scale page:


The minor pentatonic scale consists of five notes. The prefix "penta" means five. "Tonic" means tone. Thus, pentatonic means five tones. The five tones that comprise the minor pentatonic scale are derived from the corresponding natural minor or Aeolian mode of the same letter name. The minor pentatonic scale consists of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th scale degrees of the parent natural minor scale. In the key of A minor, these notes are A, C, D, E, and G.

When learning any new scale, it is very important to analyze it from a vertical, harmonic standpoint. If the notes in the minor pentatonic scale were stacked on top of one another, they would form a min11 chord. It is important to realize that scales are chords and vice versa depending on how they function within a piece of music.

Features of the Scale:

Since this particular pentatonic scale is minor in quality, the third scale degree is a minor third interval above the root note. The fifth scale degree is a perfect fifth from the root. Thus, the minor pentatonic scale contains the tonic triad of the same name. For example, the A minor pentatonic scale contains the notes that comprise an A minor triad: A, C, and E.

Please visit the Scale Library for more music theory pertaining to the minor and major pentatonic scales. This library also includes information about how these scales can be used in the context of an improvised solo. The Scale Library can will be accessible through the "Teaching Tools" tab on the left side of the homepage.

Learning the Minor Pentatonic Scale

In Lesson 24, you learned a one octave pattern of the A minor pentatonic scale. This time around, you will learn some fretboard patterns that span two full octaves. Before you begin to practice the new two octave pattern, review and memorize the one octave pattern from the previous lesson.

Similar to Lesson 24, Dave demonstrates the minor pentatonic scale in the key of A minor. This is the easiest minor key to improvise in, because there are no flats or sharps in the key signature. For this reason, A minor is often the first key taught to beginning students.

Two Octave Pattern

The one octave pattern begins in third position and ends up in fifth position. The two octave pattern also begins in third position and continues in fifth position until the tonic note is reached on the high E string. Watch Dave closely as he demonstrates this pattern. For additional help, tablature to the scale patterns presented in this lesson can be found in the "Supplemental Content" section.

Whenever you practice any scale, you must ascend and descend the pattern. Begin on the tonic note and play until the highest tonic note in the pattern is reached. Then, descend the scale back down. Remember Steve Eulberg's scale mantra, "what goes up, must come down."

Remaining Pentatonic Patterns

This is just one possible way of playing a two octave minor pentatonic scale. The possibilities are really endless. However, there are five patterns or boxes that are commonly recognized by most guitarists. These patterns do not feature any position shifts. Tablature to these patterns can be found in both Brad Henecke's Phase 2 Classic Rock series and Matt Brown's Phase 2 Rock series.
Chapter 2: (02:35) Alternate A Minor Pentatonic In order to improvise effectively, you must be able to play a particular scale anywhere on the fretboard. Watch some videos of your favorite guitarists playing guitar solos. Does he/she stay in one position the whole time? Chances are, the soloist changes positions several times throughout the solo. Learning only one pattern severely limits your options and the range of notes available to you.

For this reason, DMAC demonstrates another two octave pattern of the minor pentatonic scale. Notice how this particular pattern contains several "open" notes. Although this pattern contains the same pitches as the pattern demonstrated in the previous scene, the two patterns sound quite different due to where each pitch is played on the fretboard. For example, compare the sound of the open A string to the sound of the A note played on the sixth string / 5th fret. How would you describe this difference in sound?

The Next Step

From this point, learn the other patterns of the minor pentatonic scale. Make a note of where these patterns overlap. For example, which notes are contained within more than one pattern? These notes are great places to transition from one pattern to the next. Also, practice these patterns in other keys. Simply move the location of the patterns in this lesson so that you are beginning and ending on the appropriate root note.

Once you have learned the patterns, begin to experiment and improvise your own lead lines.
Chapter 3: (03:22) am Demonstration (Backing Track in Supp. Content) A backing track is included with this lesson. This track can be found in the "Supplemental Content" section as well as in JamPlay's backing tracks player. This player can be accessed through the "Teaching Tools" tab on the left side of the home page.

This track is great for practicing improvisation with the A minor and A major pentatonic scales. It is very common to mix the major and minor forms of the pentatonic scale in a single solo. This happens very often in blues, jazz, and rock and roll.

In this scene, Dave improvises a solo over the backing track. This will hopefully inspire you to develop some pentatonic licks of your own. Notice how Dave often shifts to higher areas of the fretboard to access higher notes.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

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

Alexander10Alexander10 replied on July 7th, 2018

nice lick and track

poppy wallspoppy walls replied on December 16th, 2011

Dave your the man! Nice Jam. . . I fairly use all five patterns, from what I understand the major and minor pentatonic scales can be mixed. I hope this correct. I thought I could see you change patterns several times during the track. This adds a whole new bag of tricks. Thanks

marshall laneymarshall laney replied on July 26th, 2010

I see what you mean sidk , but the thing that needs to be remembered is that that notes are the same.the C played on the 8th fret in most commonly shown minor Pent. scales is the same note on the 3rd fret , 5th string as Dave has shown here.

sidksidk replied on November 21st, 2009

Hi Dave, I'm a little confused with the A minor pentatonic scale. In other books i have read it shows it a little differently. the pattern is one four on the 6th, one three on the fifth, one three on the 4th, one three on the 3rd, one four on the 2nd and one four on the first...

parsanparsan replied on March 17th, 2009

David! Like your lessons a lot. Struggeling with my scales... Wondering what is the reason for playing 2nd string 3rd fret insted of 1st string 8th fret on the Minor Pentatonic? 1st and 8th seems more simple to me… And again what exactly means Pentatonic scale? I know you said it, but I cant seem to find where… Thanks!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on January 8th, 2009

i always view things a little different than the formal music world, so the way i look at those 2 patterns of the A minor pentatonic scale is the scale starting on the open A string is the usual pattern or perhaps the 1st postiion, and the second pattern starting at the 5th fret/6th string as the second position. that may not be technically correct but that is my viewpoint only. starting points is probably a better term for the way i present it. same notes, just different starting points i suppose. i hope that does'nt confuse you, and helps.

byronblackbyronblack replied on January 7th, 2009

Cool lessons Dmac - I was wondering, with your improv at the end of the lessons, you were you using different patterns for the Aminor pentatonic - are these the same as 'positions'? The two patterns you teach in the lesson, would I be correct in thinking they are position 1 & 2?

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


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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