This 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.