Major Pentatonic Guitar Scale

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Learn How To Play The Major Pentatonic Guitar Scale!

Major Pentatonic Scale Guitar LessonThis lesson is all about the major pentatonic scale. Once you become familiar with the sound of this scale you will start to recognize it in all different kinds of music. Country, jazz, bluegrass, rock, metal and praise music all use major pentatonic scales. First we are going to learn one of the most common shapes for the major pentatonic scale and then we will learn exactly how a major pentatonic scale is made. We will do this by starting out with a major scale shape and taking two notes away to create our major pentatonic scale.

The G major pentatonic scale shape presented here has its lowest root note on the 3rd fret of the low E string. Take a look at the tab and scale diagram and practice this shape slowly until you get this shape under your fingers. The root notes of the scale are black. Be sure to pay attention to the finger numbers on the scale diagram. The first note of the scale should be played with your 2nd finger. Make sure that you are practicing the scale up and down. Remember to use alternate picking. Be careful, because unlike most major scales that have mostly three notes per string, pentatonic scales generally have only two notes per string. This may seem a bit awkward to your picking hand at first, but you will get used to it.

Now that you have seen the basic shape for the major pentatonic scale, we need to learn how this scale is made. Let’s start out by looking at the G major scale shape that this G major pentatonic scale shape is taken from. A G major scale has seven notes in it, G A B C D E and F#. In order to make this G major scale a G major pentatonic scale, all we have to do is take out the 4th and 7th note of the G major scale. This would leave us with G A B D and E. You can see from the diagram below that making a major pentatonic scale shape is as easy as removing the 4th and 7th scale degree from a regular major scale shape.

Remember that you can move this shape around and play it anywhere on the fretboard. For example, if you started the scale with your 2nd finger on the 5th fret you would be playing an A major pentatonic scale. Grab a recorder or friend who can play guitar. Have them play a G major chord while you practice your G major pentatonic scale. Experiment with this scale in different keys and with all kinds of music. Now you have one more tool to use in your solos. Have fun!

If your really like the sound of the major pentatonic scale check out some of Eric Johnson’s recordings. He does some really incredible and creative things with major pentatonic scales.

Learn more guitar scales, and more pentatonic guitar scale shapes in these guitar lessons!

This Lesson Has 17 Comments

  • Bob says:

    So, are the major scales and major pentatonic the same scales?

    • Victor says:


      They are the same in that the pentatonic is part of the major. With a pentatonic you are playing the major, but leaving out the 4th and 7th notes in the scale.

  • Jerry says:

    This is so great i can’t stop. my finger are blistering! : )))))

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  • Andy says:

    I’m just beginning to learn guitar. I’ve tried the above exercise, but how come Nate’s fingers, index to pinky, seem to spread effortlessly between the second and fifth frets? Do your fingers grow lots as you practice…..?? I find if I fret the second with my index, I can’t seem to reach across to the fifth with my pinky far enough to make the note sound true. Any tips?

    • Katy says:

      It’s because he’s been playing guitar for so long. As you play, your fingers grow more flexible and are able to stretch across the fretboard more easily. They don’t really grow, they just stretch out. All you can really do is keep practicing until the note sounds true and your fingers stretch better. There’s certain ways you can stretch out your fingers before you practice too that sometimes help, but honestly, just playing scales over and over is what I’ve found to be the best. Good luck!

  • chais says:

    A few answers to questions above.

    Major scale and pentatonic are not the same scale, but the pentatonic major is built from the major.

    Here is how.
    All major scale comprises 7 notes

    Example C Major = C D E F G A B
    Example G Major = G A B C D E F#

    All major scales have this pattern:
    whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, and half step back to the root.

    The Pentatonic Major is simply playing 5 of the 7 notes of a Major scale leaving out the 4th and 7th notes of that major

    So here are the pentatonic scales for C and G for example.
    Example C Major = C D E _ G A _
    Example G Major = G A B _ D E _

    Note the pentatonic minor is built from the minor scale, also playing 5 of the 7 notes in its scale.

    My Advice to guitar players who want to learn scales.

    1. Learn a minor and major a pentatonic well, because it is used soo much it’s ridiculous… in a good way. Once you know it, it can be moved any where on the fret board, which means it has the same pattern but you are technically playing in different key.

    And learn 1 major scale on the fret board from the open strings to the 12th fret by positions or boxes, this will teach you more then you know about scales on guitar, including 7 modes and minor scale without realizing it. Looking at the diagram above, the G major scale illustrated is box 1 for G Major.

    Hope this helps

  • Newbee says:

    Okay, so I learn a G major pentatonic scale. I can move it around to to different root notes to change the key, but does this mean that I change with each chord in the song? For example, if I want to play a solo in a song that is played in the key of G, can I just play over the G major pentatonic scale no matter which chord is being played. Or does it have to be moved?

    Thank you,

  • Sanskar says:

    Well, that depends actually, over how your solo sounds over the chord. For example if you have a G7 chord and want to make a lead using the G Blues scale, you have to experiment over which notes sound good over the chord. It’s not necessary to change the chord, only change the notes you’re playing in a scale. Just experiment and have fun.

    Hope this helps.
    Nice lesson as usual, Nate. Thanks!

  • john says:

    great, listened to eric johnson’s cliffs of doves and then broke my guitar over my face in frustration.

  • Jack Steed says:

    Stretching your fingers by playing 12th thru 9 frets and 1st thru 4th string. Use index finger to move down to the 8th fret and play again. Move next finger down to 9th fret. Repeat all the way down to the nut where you get a stretch.

  • Ricky023 says:

    Hey I can not find anywhere else to put this. I was looking at the scale and I do not have any FORUMS any more. What Nate?

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Ricky. Yeah, we took the forum down because people were using the commenting system way more, and it was easier to keep track of the comments because they are always in the context of a particular lesson. The forums were rather dead and unused. :)

  • john anzolletti says:

    Very informative cleared up more than a few things for me. I have messed
    around with the guitar for years but now I am learning so much REALLY UNDERSTANDING THINGS !good info thanks

  • Jimmy Stevens says:

    I have been out of music for over thirty years and have retired. I am determined to get back to playing. this lesson reminded me of what I used to know, thanks.


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