There's no doubt that the major pentatonic scale is among the most popular and favored scales in the rock/country music scene. It is often used in country music, blues, folk country, rock and also jazz to some degree.
The reason for its huge popularity and widespread among all these genres is because the scale creates a more melodious, happy and cheerful sound, in addition to being relatively fairly easy to learn and memorize.
The five shapes of a major pentatonic scale on guitar are the same as the minor pentatonic scale; however, the root note for the major scale is located somewhere different.
It is advisable to learn to play the guitar in different positions on the fretboard, learning the scales all over the neck. The purpose of this is to allow you to have the freedom of improvisation with your music using the entire fretboard.
We can utilize this technique equally, and build tons of exercises to learn and master all of the five patterns or shapes of the major pentatonic scale on the guitar, it's a GREAT and proven method to improve your fingering, your visualization, and your musical ear.
The Lesson & The Exercises [Video]
GuitarTricks have an amazing series of lessons that are designed for one purpose: To make you master all of the five shapes of the major pentatonic scale on the guitar.
You can watch the first parts of it completely FREE, which include an introduction to the scale and the technique they will be using, and a few exercises as well. Highly recommended!
Watch the Video Below:
Names of the Shapes:
Each and every shape has its own name; C, A, G, E and D. the names are derived from the CAGED system. Just remember that the name of these shapes having absolutely no relation whatsoever with the keys of the scale. The names simply refer to the chord shape surrounded by the shape of the scale.
Root Notes in the Major Pentatonic Scale:
Check the scale diagrams that I give you below. The red dots in the diagram indicate root notes whereas the green dots show the remaining of the chord notes. The root notes are responsible for determining the name of the scale. The example we have for you below show all scale shapes in the key of G, therefore all these root notes will be G notes.
All shapes are moveable allowing you the freedom of playing them in every key. You can play in the key of
Remember: when you are learning to improvise using the shapes, you should rest on the root notes or the chord tones to be on the safer side and avoid any weird notes. Let your ears be your judge here.
Here are a few tips that you should, however, remember before learning to play:
- Always practice each scale shape avidly and thoroughly before you move on to the next one.
- Always practice using a pick and alternate between your picking techniques (up, down, up, down, etc.)
- Always take your practice slow and ensure each of your note sounds clear and clean.
- Build your speed up only when you have become comfortable playing a slow tempo.
- Always practice with a metronome.
- Always practice different scale shapes using different keys.
Make sure you take a good amount of time to learn all the shapes by heart. You need to practice regularly and repeat notes until you get a hang of what you want to play while you improvise. You will get there gradually but it will certainly take a lot of practice.
E SHAPE / POSITION 1:
D SHAPE / POSITION 2:
C SHAPE / POSITION 3:
A SHAPE / POSITION 4:
G SHAPE / POSITION 5:
Fingering the Scale Correctly
With each and every scale, it is preferred that the player learns fingering the scale. There might be a number of approaches for this but as long as you can find a logical one, one that you are comfortable with, it doesn’t matter how you do it.
There isn’t a defined system that works. One thing might work well for one, while it wouldn’t for the other. Therefore it is essential that you experiment what works for you best. The aim is to play and play well.
However, if you're a beginner and still don't know your way around the fretboard and how to efficiently position your fingers, I recommend that you just follow the instructions given in the video guitar lesson found at the beginning of this article, and with time you will learn to develop your own reasoning, and your own way of fingering that work best for you.
For now, follow the professional! It works best with most of the students.
Finally, Important Notes to Keep in Mind Always!
- My recommendation is to start at the end of the lowest root note so your ears can be trained to identify the sounds of the scale.
- Start always on the lowest root note. Alternate between lowest and highest.
- Don’t fold your fingers. Always use the tips. Never ever use Barres. Not at any point.
- It’s recommended to be able to use a single scale shape first.
- Play it solo and see if you’ve acquired it before moving onto the next.
- Make good music that everybody enjoys, especially you yourself.
- When you get acquainted enough with the scale, try playing it with a backing track or a drum machine and improvise. OR you can find any rock song that you like and practice it with a backing track.
- GuitarTricks have plenty of jamming tracks that you can use to practice the major pentatonic scale at your own pace, many of which are part of the lesson we showed in the beginning above. You can also use the vast internet to search for some free jamming tracks that suit this type of exercises!
The pentatonic scale, in general, is really a fun and, relatively simple scale to play. Most of the time it is the number 1 choice for guitar instructors to introduce the scales to beginner guitarists!
That being said, without sufficient practice you won't be able to learn it properly and fast enough. Focus your mind on it, dedicate some free time to exclusively practice the scale and all of its five shapes we showcased here, be serious about it but don't forget to have fun in the process, and you'll be amazed how fast you can learn to play this scale and build some beautiful melody and music upon it! It's one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever encounter while learning to play the guitar, that I assure you.
Have Fun! 🙂