About The Minor Pentatonic Scale

Guitar Scales – The Minor Pentatonic Scale

Now that you have bought your first electric guitar, and taken your first electric guitar lessons with LB Music School, let’s start learning your first guitar scale!

Many guitarists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, all use the minor pentatonic scale in their guitar solos.

You can hear this guitar scale in songs like Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, or Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love”, played with a slick Fender Stratocaster and an overdriven Marshall guitar amp!

So what is the minor pentatonic scale?

The minor pentatonic scale is a group of 5 notes that is used when creating guitar solos and riffs. It is a simple guitar scale that beginner and intermediate guitarists can learn if they are interested in song-writing, improvisation, or even playing their favorite guitar songs.

Here are 4 steps in how you would practice the minor pentatonic scale on guitar using the open E position.

Step 1: Learn the note names

The minor pentatonic scale is made up of 5 notes:

  1. the root note
  2. the flat 3rd note
  3. the 4th note
  4. the 5th note
  5. the flat 7th note

In the key of E this would translate as follows (also see diagram below):

  1. E
  2. G
  3. A
  4. B
  5. D


Each of these five notes are separated by note gaps called intervals, and as they follow the same pattern of intervals, every pentatonic scale may sound similar.

However, the name of the notes are largely dependent on the key of the music you are playing to.

Consult your music teacher at LB Music School in identifying what key your piece is in, and thus, what are the notes of the minor pentatonic scale in that key.

Play the first 5 notes of the minor pentatonic scale, ending with an E on fret 2 of the D string.

Step 2: Find similar notes on the fretboard

The minor pentatonic scale is not just famous for its simplicity of five notes. It is also famous for being accessible across all areas of the guitar fretboard.

In the diagram shown on thebelow, you can see that E is located on the open 6th string, fret 2 of the D string and the open 1st string.



They may sound different, because they are the same note but in different registers.

For example, the E on the 1st string is set one octave above fret 2 of the D string, and 2 octaves above the open 6th string.

By learning the pentatonic scale in the open position, you will be learning two octaves of the same scale on the guitar, one higher and one lower.

Step 3: Practice ascending and descending

Now that you know the notes of the pentatonic scale on the guitar, practice fretting each note of the scale – once going up the scale (ascending), and once going down the scale (descending).

You may choose any finger to fret the notes, but generally I would follow this fingering – fret 2 is fretted by the 2nd finger (middle finger), and fret 3 is fretted by the 3rd finger (ring finger).

Step 4: Practice with a metronome and with varied picking

Turn on your metronome and set the metronome to crotchet = 80.

Practice the pentatonic scale using the following patterns:

  • Ascending, using downstrokes on each count
  • Descending, using downstrokes on each count
  • Ascending, using upstrokes on each count
  • Descending, using upstrokes on each count
  • Ascending, using alternate picking on each count
  • Descending, using alternate picking on each count



Above: a guitar tab version of the E minor pentatonic scale

By practicing multiple picking patterns on the guitar, you will slowly build up confidence with the pentatonic scale, and start to freely express yourself using the notes of this scale.

In guitar solos, you do not always have to start on the note that the chord underneath is named after.

Instead, you can imagine, improvise and create your own guitar solo using any of the 5 notes we have learned, in order whatsover.

How cool is that?!

Happy soloing!


Justin teaches guitar, piano and singing lessons at his own music school in Melbourne, Australia – Leaders of Rock. At Leaders of Rock, we help young musicians of all ages and abilities go from garage to stage in 6 months, by improving their knowledge of music theory, technique and showmanship.


Mike Doyle