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Minor Pentatonic Scale (Guitar Lesson)


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DJ Phillips

Minor Pentatonic Scale

Time to take a break from the 12 bar blues and start mastering some lead techniques. This all starts with the minor pentatonic scale.

Taught by DJ Phillips in Blues Guitar with DJ seriesLength: 8:13Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (08:13) Minor Pentatonic Scale Intro to the Minor Pentatonic Scale

The minor pentatonic scale is probably the most important tool when building a blues solo or a blues riff. It is also widely used in all genres of music for solos, melodies, riffs, etc.

Music Theory

The minor pentatonic scale receives its name because it contains five notes. The prefix "penta" means five. "Tonic" means tone or note. These five notes are derived from the natural minor scale. The second and sixth scale degrees are omitted from the natural minor scale to form the minor pentatonic scale. For example, the A natural minor scale contains the following notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. If the second and sixth notes are taken away, the notes left are A, C, D, E, G, and A. These notes comprise the A minor pentatonic scale.

Note: For more music theory information pertaining to the minor and major pentatonic scales, please visit the JamPlay scale library. This feature can be accessed from the "Teaching Tools" section on the left side of the homepage.

Pentatonic Patterns

There are five patterns for the minor pentatonic scale. Occasionally, you may hear other guitarists refer to the five pentatonic patterns as the "pentatonic boxes." DJ teaches the most frequently used pentatonic pattern in this lesson. Each of the five patterns span two octaves. Also, all five patterns feature two notes on each string. This feature makes the pentatonic scale patterns easier to memorize than their seven note diatonic counterparts.

A Minor Pentatonic

DJ teaches the first pentatonic scale pattern in the key of A minor. Throughout this series, all of the musical examples have been presented in the key of A major. Although the minor pentatonic is minor rather than major in quality, it can be applied to melodies and solos within the context of the major 12 bar blues progression. In other words, you can play a blues solo in the key of A major using the minor pentatonic scale. The minor third interval within the scale creates a rich, blues-y sonority when played against the major third of the tonic chord.

Fingering the Pattern

When practicing through this pattern, adhere strictly to the left-hand fingerings that DJ demonstrates in the lesson video. These fingerings will allow you to play the scale with maximum control and speed. The first finger is used to play all of the notes at the fifth fret. The third finger plays all notes at the seventh fret. Finally, the pinkie is used for notes played at the eighth fret.

Alternate Picking

Use strict alternate picking when practicing through any scale pattern. Alternate picking allows you to play scalar lines at high tempos that cannot be played with downstrokes or upstrokes alone. Make sure that your downstrokes and upstrokes are identical in tone and volume.

Ascending and Descending the Pattern

Always ascend and descend when practicing a scale pattern. Ascend the pattern up to the highest note, which is the note C, played at the 8th fret of the high E string. Then, descend the pattern starting with the note A.

Practice Time!

When you begin to practice the scale, play as slow as you need to. Strive for rhythmic and tonal clarity. Practice all of your scales like you are playing a piece of music.

Once you have memorized this pattern and can play it in time with the metronome, practice the scale along with DJ at 04:12 in the lesson video. He plays through the scale again at a slightly quicker tempo at 05:03. At 05:35, DJ plays through the scale a final time at an even faster tempo.

Transposition

Similar to chords, all scale patterns that do not contain open strings can easily be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. To enhance your knowledge of the fretboard, you will eventually want to play all five of the pentatonic patterns in all 12 keys. Pay close attention to where the root notes occur within this pattern. These notes are used as a guide when transposing the scale to other keys.

To provide an example of the transposition process, DJ demonstrates how to play the pentatonic scale in the key of G minor. The key of G is one of the most commonly used keys in the blues genre. When transposing this pattern from A minor to G minor, simply slide the entire pattern back two frets. Now you are beginning this pattern at the 3rd fret with your first finger playing the tonic note, G. In this key, the pentatonic scale is comprised of the following notes: G, Bb, C, D, F, G.

Learning all of the note names across the low sixth string will enable you to transpose the pattern anywhere on the fretboard. Simply begin the pattern on the appropriate root note. For example, DJ demonstrates how the scale can be transposed to the keys of D minor and C minor. These root notes are located at the 10th fret and the 8th fret respectively.

Preview of the Next Lesson

In Lesson 6, DJ provides some exercises that will begin to apply the minor pentatonic scale to a practical musical context. These exercises are an excellent stepping stone towards improvising your own blues melodies and solos.

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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.


blind dog taylorblind dog taylor replied on June 15th, 2015

file is corrupted

jcbroth71jcbroth71 replied on May 24th, 2013

DJ, I learned that the formula for the minor pentatonic scale was R, b3, 4, 5, b7. You have no flats in your scale. Aren't you really playing the major pentatonic scale? R, 2, 3, 5, 6?

tjctradertjctrader replied on December 31st, 2015

The flats are in relation to the A major scale - the 3rd of which is A# which is flattened to A in the minor scale and the 7th is G# which is flattened to G. Desi Serna has written a couple of good books on fretboard theory if you want to find out more.

jcbroth71jcbroth71 replied on May 24th, 2013

The light bulb went off! For the A minor scale, A=R, C=b3, D=4, E=5 and G=b7.

ronweb71ronweb71 replied on January 29th, 2011

DJ, I have a question about the minor pentatonic scale you show: You show the vrsion that I originally learned but when I took Dave MacKenzie's class he showed a different version of the Minor Pentatonic. I can play them both but now I'm a bit confused. I thought the pentatonic was a standard shape.

dj.phillipsdj.phillips replied on February 1st, 2011

Thanks for the question! There are actually FIVE different positions for the minor pentatonic scale in each key. They are all the same notes, just in different positions up the neck. In this lesson we're just exploring one position. Starting in Lesson 9 of this series, we begin looking at the different positions of the minor pentatonic scale. You can get another visual representation in the scale library here: http://www.jamplay.com/members/guitar/tools/scale-library/minor-pentatonic-scale.html I hope that helps!

floorshakerfloorshaker replied on December 18th, 2008

Hi DJ. Just wanted to thank you for lessons 5 and 6. I have been waiting for lessons like these and will be practising them repeatedly over Christmas and driving the family mad. More please as I want to be able to solo the way that you do (given time). Keep up the good work. Chris

blizzardblizzard replied on October 24th, 2008

I've been following Hawkeye's Blues lesson, and now yours. You helped me with a few things I was missing in Hawkeye's lesson. I'm loving Hawkeye's lesson's and yours are a great addition and a big help in my quest to learn to play the guitar

dj.phillipsdj.phillips replied on October 8th, 2008

Not a dumb question at all. To clarify, the notes in the A minor pentatonic scale are: A, C, D, E and G. Five. The A's occur at the 5th fret on the 6th string, the 7th fret on the 4th string and the 5th fret on the 1st string. It can be a bit confusing to call say that there are "5 notes" because we are playing the scale over multiple octaves. Once we get up to the G, we actually begin the scale over again an octave higher and keep going up. And in this particular position (we will cover playing the same scale in different positions on the neck in future lessons) the highest note is actually a C (8th fret on the 1st [high E] string). So, the notes played in this scale are: A, C, D, E, G, A, C, D, E, G, A, C and then back down. You pick 12 times, yes. But there are only 5 DIFFERENT notes. I think the confusion comes with the fact that we are not starting and ending on the same note. Does that help to clarify?

knapper32927knapper32927 replied on October 7th, 2008

Ok.. this might be a dumb question lol.. but pentatonic - five, yes? But when you count from the A.. I am picking 12 times. And I'm picking 6 times before it returns back to the A again. So.. I'm abit confused ... ?

Blues Guitar with DJ

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

DJ Phillips will teach you everything you need to know to become a master of the blues with an emphasis on fast-paced techniques & playing.



Lesson 1

Series Introduction

Meet Mr. DJ Phillips & learn what he's going to teach you throughout this series.

Length: 2:30 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

12 Bar Blues

Learn what makes a chord progression a blues progression as well as the basics to the famous 12 bar blues.

Length: 13:18 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Rhythmic Variations

Time to take the 12 bar blues progression you've learned and add in some rhythmic variations.

Length: 8:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

12 Bar Blues Chord Variations

Now that you've learned the 12 bar blues and some rhythmic variations, it's time to throw in some chord variations.

Length: 6:22 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Minor Pentatonic Scale

Time to take a break from the 12 bar blues and start mastering some lead techniques. This all starts with the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 8:13 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Minor Pentatonic Scale Variations

Now that you've learned the minor pentatonic scale, it's time to learn how to move it around.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

SRV - The House Is Rockin'

Learn a handful of new blues techniques while learning to play Stevie Ray Vaughn's "The House Is Rockin'".

Length: 49:58 Difficulty: 3.0 FREE
Lesson 8

Funky Blues Rhythm

Now that you've mastered some SRV, DJ is going to show you some funky blues rhythms that use the 9th chords.

Length: 8:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Minor Pentatonic in Open and First Position

DJ begins a discussion of the minor pentatonic scale patterns. He demonstrates the A minor pentatonic scale in first or "open" position.

Length: 12:16 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Minor Pentatonic in Second Position

Continuing on with the minor pentatonic scale, DJ covers the second position. As with lesson 9, he provides a few exercises and riffs along the way.

Length: 10:11 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Minor Pentatonic in Fifth Position

Continuing with the A minor pentatonic scale, DJ returns with a lesson on the fifth position pattern.

Length: 7:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Minor Pentatonic in Seventh Position

In this lesson, DJ covers the A minor pentatonic scale in 7th position. He includes licks and riffs to help with skill building.

Length: 8:49 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Minor Pentatonic in Ninth Position

This lesson covers the 9th position of the A minor pentatonic scale. DJ provides licks, riffs, and a string skipping exercise.

Length: 15:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Moving Positions

Now that DJ has covered all five patterns of the minor pentatonic scale, he explains how to shift from one pattern to the next.

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

Major Pentatonic

Now that DJ has covered the minor pentatonic positions, he shifts gears to the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 17:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Moving Across Positions

In this lesson, DJ demonstrates a number of major pentatonic licks that feature position shifts.

Length: 5:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Combining Major and Minor Pentatonics

DJ demonstrates how to combine the major and minor pentatonic scales. He provides a number of combined scale licks for you to learn.

Length: 12:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Solo and Lead Lines

In this lesson, DJ demonstrates how to build an effective guitar solo.

Length: 9:13 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Rhythm

This lesson details the importance of rhythm within solos and lead lines.

Length: 6:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Improvising

DJ talks about the art of improvising in this lesson. Always begin with a grand entrance and end with a big finish.

Length: 7:59 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Building Chords on the 6th String

DJ begins a discussion of colorful dominant chord voicings. He demonstrates how to build chords from a root note on the 6th string.

Length: 9:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Building Chords on the 4th and 5th String

Continuing on from lesson 21, DJ explains how to build dominant chords from root notes on the 4th and 5th strings.

Length: 8:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Using Different Voicings

In lesson 23, DJ demonstrates how various chord voicings can be used while playing rhythm or lead over a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 4:49 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Mute Raking

With lesson 24, DJ begins a short segment on tricks of the trade. First, he discusses and demonstrates string rakes.

Length: 5:08 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Organ Licks

DJ explains how B3 organ licks can be played on guitar.

Length: 4:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Volume Swells

In this lesson, DJ talks about volume swells and how they can be used.

Length: 4:37 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Walking Bass and Upstroke Shuffle

Continuing with his "tricks of the trade" lessons, DJ demonstrates a walking bass line and the upstroke shuffle.

Length: 6:51 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Slide

In this lesson, DJ discusses and demonstrates the basics of slide technique.

Length: 5:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Wah Pedals

DJ demonstrates some of the subtleties of using a wah pedal in the blues style.

Length: 3:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Harmonics

DJ discusses and demonstrates natural, artificial (harp), and pinch harmonics in the blues style.

Length: 8:37 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Aspects of Tone

DJ delves into tone in lesson 31. He discusses how and why certain tones are achieved.

Length: 21:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Minor Blues

With lesson 32, DJ introduces the minor form of the 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 4:57 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Using the Dominant V7 Chord

Building on his minor blues set, DJ discusses how to utilize the dominant V7 chord to spice up the standard progression.

Length: 4:14 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Minor Turnaround

DJ demonstrates a couple turnaround techniques that can be applied to the 12 bar minor blues progression.

Length: 6:13 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Minor 7 Voicings

In this lesson, DJ discusses some minor 7 voicings with roots on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Minor 6th Voicings

Much like lesson 35, DJ discusses minor 6th chord voicings with roots on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings.

Length: 8:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Extensions of the V7 Chord

DJ explains how altered extensions such as the b9 and #9 can be added to the V7 chord within the context of a minor blues progression.

Length: 8:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 38

Scale Options

DJ discusses the scale options that can be used over a minor blues progression.

Length: 2:21 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

Minor Scale Positions

In this lesson, DJ builds upon lesson 38 and covers the minor scale positions across the entire fretboard.

Length: 5:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

T-Bone Walker

DJ profiles blues guitarist T-Bone Walker in lesson 40.

Length: 31:23 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 41

T-Bone Shuffle

Profiling T-Bone walker, DJ will demonstrate the T-Bone Shuffle.

Length: 29:26 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 42

Skills and Concepts of T-Bone Walker

DJ discusses and demonstrates skills acquired from learning T-Bone Walker's material.

Length: 17:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 43

Bo-Diddley

DJ will take a look at Blues guitarist Bo Diddley and teach you the "Bo Diddley beat."

Length: 13:26 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 44

Blues with DJ: More Bo Diddley

Dj is back yet again with more on the style of Bo Diddley. Here is will dive more into his style of solos as well as an in depth explanation of how the songs are played out. Get comfortable everyone and...

Length: 22:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 45

Implementing Bo Diddley's Style

Dj brings a kicking finish to the style of Bo Diddley by teaching you how to implement his style of playing to your's. With a quick review of what he has taught so far, Dj will play the backing track as...

Length: 10:59 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 46

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #1

DJ returns to his blues guitar series with the introduction of a complete blues solo. Through the next 12 lessons, DJ will provide a phrase-by-phrase breakdown of the solo. By the end of this mini-series,...

Length: 3:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 47

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #2

DJ is back with Phrase #2 of the Swing Blues Solo. This lick is designed to outline the IV chord.

Length: 3:10 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 48

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #3

DJ is back with another phrase of his swing blues solo. The third phrase of the first solo is also your first turnaround. In this lick, you'll outline the chords that bring us back to the top of the form.

Length: 3:22 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Lesson 49

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #4

The fourth phrase of your first solo has a lot of pentatonic influence in it. You've also climbed the neck to the upper register to help build your solo.

Length: 2:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 50

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #5

We're back to the second phrase in the long form blues again. This lick picks up where the last left off and continues to build suspense in the upper register.

Length: 3:11 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 51

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #6

DJ is back with the sixth phrase of his Swing Blues Solo. We're now at the second turnaround of the long form. This lick incorporates chromaticism to build tension.

Length: 4:26 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 52

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #7

We're back to the top in the 3rd chorus of the blues solo. This lick starts to amp up the solo by adding more bends and a few double stops.

Length: 3:47 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 53

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #8

DJ is back with the eighth phrase in the swing blues solo. The second phrase of the 3rd chorus incorporates hammer-ons.

Length: 3:14 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 54

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #9

DJ is back with the ninth phrase in the swing blues solo. For the third time, we find ourselves at the turnaround. This lick plays on the idea of a repeating figure followed up by a scale run.

Length: 4:46 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 55

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #10

We really start to add some gusto to the solo for our final three phrases. This lick uses open stringed double stops and position shifting to create a long build up towards the solo's climax.

Length: 3:40 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 56

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #11

The eleventh phrase of our long form blues solo continues to build on the previous phrase. This time you'll be using a repeated but slightly varied figure along with double stops to create more build-up.

Length: 3:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 57

Swing Blues Solo - Phrase #12

DJ is back with the final phrase of the swing blues solo. This turnaround lick uses quick bends, repeated figures, and a chromatic walk down to twist your ear before finally resolving back to E.

Length: 5:42 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 58

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #1

Now that you've completed the first solo of a long form blues, it's time to tackle the second solo. This next blues is played in straight eighths and starts off with some chromatic notes, bending, and...

Length: 3:13 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 59

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #2

Dig into the second phrase of our straight blues solo! This one uses double stops, bends, and vibrato to kick the solo into high gear!

Length: 3:10 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 60

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #3

The first turnaround in our straight blues solo uses a low walking melody along with a scale run that brings us back up to the top.

Length: 2:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 61

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #4

As we return to the top for the second round of our long form, we hear a familiar melody. This one is stolen right from the last phrase, only it's been transposed up into a higher register.

Length: 2:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 62

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #5

We're getting into the meat of this solo and it's time we started rocking! We amp up the energy by using some down picking and scale lines.

Length: 2:59 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 63

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #6

We've now reached the second turnaround of our long form blues. This phrase gets a little funky with some position shifting and double stops.

Length: 4:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 64

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #7

Here, we return to the top and continue the funky feel from the turnaround. This lick features chromatic runs with vibrato and a repeated figure.

Length: 3:41 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 65

Straight Blues Solo - Phrase #8

The next lick in our long form straight blues is all about syncopation and getting that dirty tone from the amp. Careful rhythmic placement of rests and the use of double stops help us accomplish this.

Length: 1:59 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About DJ Phillips View Full Biography Like many guitar players who began playing around the same time, DJ began plunking out Nirvana and Soundgarden tunes when he first picked up the guitar in the mid-nineties. While these grunge-y roots certainly have their merit, it wasn't until DJ's eldest sister took him to a Led Zeppelin laser light show that the full potential of the guitar began to come into focus.

With Jimmy Page's Les Paul pyrotechnics as his inspiration, DJ began fervently practicing for hours on end in the suburban jungle of Southwestern Ohio. This newfound passion (combined with his complete lack of athletic prowess and physical coordination thus completely ruling out all sports) led him to form rock bands in junior high and high school. He grew to love the performance aspect of music and soon decided on it as a career path.

College led him to Nashville, Tennessee where he began to pursue a degree in Commercial Music at Belmont University. He also started another band and got his first professional theater gig the following summer. Since that summer, DJ has spent nearly every waking hour finding ways to play music and avoiding a real contribution to society in any other way.

He moved to Minneapolis after college, rocking out between theater gigs with his current rock band Brother Big Bad. He has now convinced the band to move to Nashville where music flows like water.

DJ is elated to be a part of JamPlay and is thankful for everyone's warm welcome and says "Now, let's ROCK, people."

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Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"
 

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!


Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"
 

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


Bill

"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."
 

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on JamPlay.com. Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.



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