Learning the Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is the first scale any guitar player should learn. It is the easiest, and also the most important. Even if you never learn another scale in your life, if you master the pentatonic lol scale, you’ll go far – it’s that important!

A Pentatonic Minor Scale PatternThe scale in this video is the minor pentatonic scale, and the scale pattern for it is below. The numbers represent your fingers; index being 1, pinky being 4. The red gaming note is the root, and the others are octaves of that same note.

E:  |–1–|—–|—–|–4–| — 1st string
B:  |–1–|—–|—–|–4–|
G:  |–1–|—–|–3–|—–|
D:  |–1–|—–|–3–|—–|
A:  |–1–|—–|–3–|—–|
E:  |–1–|—–|—–|–4–| — 6th string

The tab starts at the 5th fret (Am Pentatonic position)

You can see the whole fretboard in the diagram on the right. The red notes are the root notes. Try to get used to seeing how the scale repeats itself. Every time you see a red note, that’s the octave, and it means the scale is starting over again.

The minor pentatonic scale I just showed you in this video is really only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re ready to truly learn how to use this scale to create heartfelt solos, checkout my Box 1 Blues Soloing course.

Questions or Comments? Leave one below! And start ripping it up with that pentatonic minor scale!

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  1. Hello,Just wanted to let you know
    The tab for this video shows you playing the 8 fret on the a string. The video shows you playing the 7 fret, a string.
    Thank you for your time for putting this together it does help.

  2. Hi Buddy – I just checked and I’m pretty sure the tab is ok. This tab isn’t true tab – I did it this way to indicate which finger to use on which fret. Kind of a wierd way of doing it I guess. I’ll try to come up with a better graphic.

    So on the A string, with your index finger anchored off the 5th fret, you would play with your 3rd finger on the 7th fret.

    Hope that helps.

  3. I play scales A LOT!!! Do you have any advise on how to make it more enjoyable? I improvise through them and practice alternate picking. Anything else?

    1. Hey Eroc – improvising over them is where I get the most enjoyment from my scales. You could also try finding and playing the notes from the chords in that key out of the scale, and arpeggiating them. Not sure where you’re at with your theory 🙂

      Another great practice technique is taking your box patterns and finding ways to transition between them. I’m thinking of doing a lesson on this soon.

  4. this is good stuff ive been playing for 40 years +. country music mostly ive been wanting to pick up on the blues and this is great keep it up man !!! you can teach an old dog new tricks !!!!! thanks

  5. Hi Jonathan,
    I am very new to utilizing scales, so my question might sound kind of dopey, but here goes.
    WHere exactly can I practice soloing with this scale pattern? Is is just for AM songs, GM songs, CM songs..etc?
    I like the pentatonic, it is easy enough to get comfortable with, but I do not think I would get to use it much if it is just for ‘minor’ chording songs.
    Could you clarify this, in case I am completely wrong.

  6. Hi Maggie – the pentatonic scale can be used in major or minor keys. Am Pentatonic sounds great in the key of C major, because Am is the relative minor of C major.

    If you want to play in a different key, simply move the pattern up or down the fretboard to the key where you want to play in. It’s the same pattern, wherever you go!

  7. Just fabulous, I am going to have lots of fun with this, and it will definitely help me discover my bar chords quicker.
    When you say I can use the AM pentatonic with the Cmajor chord, do you mean that I can stay on the 5th fret and use it for A ‘or’ C improvising? If so, that is interesting, as I do that when I play harmonica with my guitar, I found that by chance.
    This is really going to be fun.

  8. Yes, you can use Am pentatonic with the C major chord, however more broadly you can use it over anything that is being played in the key of C, or the key of Am for that matter.

    So if a song is in the key of C, you could improvise during the whole song in the Am pentatonic scale.

  9. This is like getting a ‘double dip’ and winning. I will just work it with C and AM for awhile, just play and play until I have a comfort zone, two for one, very nice. This is a great scale to begin with, it is such an easy fit, the concept is clear, and the possibilities are pretty limitless, with some healthy creative skills.
    thanks a lot:)

    1. Awesome Jonathan! Can you run the relative minor part (down 3 frets) by me once more in relation to the scale? Will this concept work no matter where I start the scale?

      1. Yes, anywhere you start a major scale, (on the 6th string) if you go down three frets, you can start the relative minor pattern from there. Basically you’re dropping your starting point by a minor third (three semitones). I explain this much more in my Unlocking I IV V and Guitar Scale Patterns courses.

  10. Hi Jonathan,

    First, off topic, but I want thank you for the great crash course on guitar theory. I’ve been getting together and playing with 3 guys for over a year and they’re always referring to these concepts, and I’ve always had a “deer in the headlights” look on my face. It was exactly the foundation I needed. Well worth the $18 and great that I can replay the lesson again when needed.

    I’ve also been working with a book called “Fretboard Logic” by Bill Edwards, and finding it very helpful. Among other things, he teaches what he refers to as the C-A-G-E-D scale forms. For example, if I play the G scale form at the 5th position I get a C Scale that can be used to play lead patterns for songs in the key of C.

    This is exactly the same scale you are teaching here in this lesson and which you refer to as the Am Pentatonic Scale. Curious how it got to be called Am. Can you explain?


    1. Hi Jim, I’m not completely familiar with the C-A-G-E-D system; though it looks to be a easy way to think of some of the fifth intervals.

      Pentatonic minor is the proper name for this scale… though it is sometimes referred to as the blues scale as well. You can move the scale form all over the fretboard and the letter names will change; however it is still a pentatonic minor. This particular one in the video is the A minor pentatonic. I get into this in a bit more detail in my Guitar Scale Patterns lesson.

  11. You are right on about Griff Hamlins course Unleashing the blues. The course I got is not for beginners & I also found out I wasn’t as skilled with chords as I had thought. Especially the 7th & 9th chords. I’m really picking alot of good stuff up. Looking forward to working with you also.

  12. I have already been working on my pentatonic scales and have some questions. There are 5 forms of pentatonic scales.. if they can all be moved, what is the reason to have 5 of them? I have heard that the major and minor pentatonic is the same scale but the root note is different and that you don’t have to start on the root note. The one shown here is the first form. The minor root is the 6 string 5 fret and the major is 6 string 8 fret. What is the musical difference between the two of them as they seem the same to me especially since you don’t need to start on the root. I also have been wanting to learn how to move between the forms, but don’t understand how to do that yet.

    I really love the rifs from your previous lessons.. The 4 note blues one and the one in the key of G using the scale. Excellent stuff. Thanks for the lessons.

  13. I also have been a “Thumper” for quite awhile & have always wanted more so this will be a blessing for my learning curve.. Thanks much & keep up the good work,, I’ll be practicing.

    1. Hi Jonathon, Thank you for your reply. You reinforced my thoughts on the importance of the Minor Pentatonic scale. Best Wishes.

  14. Jonathan,
    I’m just curious because I’m trying to grasp the theory of how Am is a relative minor of Cmaj. I know Am works with the key of C simply because the note “C” is the result of lowering the 3rd of “A” by a half step. But I also know that in any key, usually its the root note, 4th, and 5th and for “C”, “A” is a 6th of “C”. Can you explain if you know please?

    1. Hi Adam,

      I get into this in more depth in my lesson on I IV V, at OneFourFive.com, but basically the A is the 6th (VI) note of the C scale. So you can look at it as going up to the 6th, or coming down three semitones from the octave; same difference in the end. The relative minor scale goes through exactly the same notes from the C major scale, but the only difference is that the minor scale starts on the 6th note. Hope that helps a bit. Cheers.

  15. I don’t know how it’s going to help just yet, but I’m sure it will. The only other scale I know to date is the Gmaj scale. I’ve been doing the Chimp thing for 30 years. I just returned from a vacation in Nashville. I’m determined to learn the neck of this guitar.

  16. Thank you John for making the Am Pentatonic scale playing so simple and interesting that I am sure will encourage me to practise hard.


  17. I’m a 58 year old wanna be. I taught myself some cords at a teen and have been playing and singing ( not always good ) off and on since. Feel it is about time to learn some finger playing. I will practice the scale and see what happens. Love the blues.

  18. Hey, I’ve just subscribed to these lessons and this is the first one I’ve watched. I can already see that I’m going to learn a lot from them, thanks. I’m a relative rookie in guitar scales and riffing etc. I’ve been more interested in the easy chords stuff before.
    I think this scale is great for Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis. I was just playing along with it there and almost all the riffs are within this scale. Can you recommend any other songs I can use to help me practice this scale?

  19. Hi Sean – the cool thing about the pentatonic scale is you can use it nearly anywhere. So I’d recommend putting on another song you like, figure out which key it is in, and then try the pentatonic scale over top of it. You might be surprised how well it works!

    1. Ok, thanks. Looking forward to my next lesson! I try a lot of solos for various songs but never really took a notion as to what key it’s in or anything like that so I think a lot of things will fall into place by watching these videos.

  20. I went to watch the video and, no video. I enjoyed reading yours, and others comments though. It did display the tableture, so that’s something I can work on. Thanks

  21. I have been receiving your daily emails and I am looking forward to getting started. I currently don’t have a guitar, but I am planning on getting one in the next few weeks. I got rid of my guitar years ago because I have been playing bass for a long time. I see your lessons also helping me to expand with my bass playing.

    Looking forward to these lessons, thanks.

  22. hi johnathan
    i am a beginer to playing guitar and have received your weekly tips my problem is my computer died and i lost all the info and now i have anew computer and this is the only lesson i have is it possible you can send me what i lost i was learning chords and strumming and dont know what else i had from you i just save everything and go one at atime thank you for all your help

  23. Hey Jonathan, Joanne here,I am enjoying your guitar tips. I am making sure I have time to practice now, and take my guitar with me to all my gigs as well. My aged residents who have known me for some time are very happy with my guitar playing and singing. So I am wrapped with everything so far. Thanks Jonathan

  24. I found this video awhile back when searching for vids teaching the scale, So, I’ve had plenty of time to practice and improve. Thanks for your help and support.

    1. Many thanks Jonathan.I just watched my first lesson from you, on the Am Pentatonic scale.Very interesting.You make it look so easy .Looking forward to more lessons.

  25. showing me these scales reamps my desire to play guitar the correct way. thanks for giving them free,at least to start with. if i have something that shows i’m going above where i was yesterday or last week, then you have my attention. i’m a electrican and travel from my home 70 percent of tne time. something like this keeps me from going to bed with the chickens and putting more knowledge in the ole coconut is a very positive thing. thanks for letting me take the ride. michael lamb

  26. Thanks john, my question is if I learn one pentatonic scale can I use it to play in all keys since its movable if yes then why do I need to learn all the others
    thanks, waiting for a reply, Iam a beginner..

    1. Hi Cosmas, yes, the pentatonic scale is moveable.. however the pattern only gives you access to a portion of the fretboard in each key. If you want, you can use that same pattern in every key, just moving it around, however you’ll not get the full range of the fretboard in every key, as you would if you learned additional patterns.

      That is the kind of thing I cover in my Guitar Scale Patterns course… http://www.guitarscalepatterns.com

  27. hi Jonathan im 66 been playing with the scale pentatonic for 6 months now know the the 5 boxs can tie them our go from 1 to 3 but still cant play a song can hammer out a few blues licks but take a rock song nothing help ty

  28. I am a happy musician in Texas! I am so glad I ran across your pentatonic scale video, I will be, how do they say in da hood… get er’ dun! This is a great video! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Keep em’ coming… GOD BLESS

  29. It’s awesome!!!!!!!!on the roads of playing blues!!!!!!i m knowing the chords & strumming!!!!!so what will be the next step after pentatonic scales??????

  30. You have come out of nowhere (it seems to me) & established yourself as THE Online Guitar Teacher that takes the time & CONSISTENTLY makes the effort to GIVE & I thank you Jonathan.
    When I read the comments like the ones from MAGGIE above you are connecting on a very personal level & REALLY teaching people valuable things.
    The world needs more Jonathans.

  31. Hi Jonathan,
    I have a question here that I think I missed up till now. When you are doing the Penatonic Scale, do you always leave the B and F notes out of the scale? Whereas, using the Diatonic scale you include them all in? For some reason, I have been missing something in this, and I wonder if I am on the right track now with this question.
    Thanks Jonathan for your help.

    1. Hi Jesse, I assume you’re talking about the A pentatonic minor… and in that case, yes. Of course if you shifted keys, you’d be leaving out different notes and possibly including the B and the F. Those are the two notes you drop: the II and the VI from the diatonic minor scale.

      1. Hi Jonathan,
        Thank you for your response.
        So depending on what Key you are in, you would leave out the ll and the Vl?
        I think I am getting it now. Your efforts are paying off for me, so once again thank you.

  32. Hi Jonathan,
    I’m self-taught and have been playing for about eight months. I’m well practiced in the minor pentatonic as far as improvising and alternate picking. My question is what’s the best way to play the major pentatonic scale to get comfortable to solo on it? I know that the Am pentatonic is the relative minor to the CM pentaonic but I can’t seem to find a good way to play it, I can’t seem to get the flow that I can with the minor pentatonic even though they’re the same notes. So what would you recommend to learn to improvise over it? Also what are other good scales for soloing to rock and blues progressions?

    Thanks for all the help,

    1. Hi David,

      I personally find it is more difficult to play the major scales on the guitar as opposed to the minor scales. The minor ones just line up better. That said, we need to know all of them, so practice is really the ticket here. Remember, when you’re using a major scale, you don’t go with the relative – ie in the key of A, you can solo with A major pentatonic or F# minor pentatonic.

      Once you’ve got your pentatonics under control, I’d add the diatonic major and minor, because you’re already nearly there already.

      You can also checkout my 30 Blues Backing Tracks if you’re looking for material to solo over:

      1. Hi Jonathan,
        Thanks for the advice. Due to your lessons, I have learned all the pentatonic positions and can solo on them fluently. And thanks to your lessons, I now understand the relative major
        and minor in every key.
        Thanks again,

  33. Hi Jonathan,
    Now I understand it much better now with the penatonic and diatonic scales in this area of which notes to leave out. You saved me a little more hair now, however, not much left anyway. lol

  34. Just suscribed to GTW and love it already. I am picking my guitar back up since a too long hiatus (went to the International Blues Challenge and really got inspired)I’m sure this will help me get back in the groove. Thanks so much, and don’t be shy about bringing on the blues.

    1.  You’d have to start the pattern on an E.. so either open, or at the 12th fret. I’d recommend checking out my Guitar Scale Patterns course for more on the scales.

      1. I have your your guitar scale pattern course, but this wasn’t explained or i missed it.  I’m kind of confused on which pattern to play at which time. Do i move the pattern around when the song changes keys, or can i stay in the same place (root position)?

        1. Hi Mason, I’d recommend going back through the course; a lot of people tell me they pick up a lot the second (or third) time through it, as there is a lot packed in there.

          You don’t have to move the pattern around; you can stay in that exact same pattern, in the root position, while the chords are changing all around you. Down the road, when you’re more advanced, it is of course possible to move patterns, but just getting started there is no need to add that extra complexity.

    2.  Hey Mason, first thing is that you must know the names of the notes on the 6th and 5th strings down to the 12th fret.  Then you can this lesson in any key,ex 8th fret, Cm, 3rd fret,Gm. pretty simple.  Frank

  35. You cover the pentatonic scale very well thanks. A lot of lesson’s I’ve watched online didn’t show close up of fingering patteren on guitar, you did!!!

  36. I’ve tried this pattern and it doesn’t sound good for me. According to the lesson, unless I missed something, if you start this pattern on the 3rd fret (G note) this would be your root note. You should be able to play a song thats is in the key of “G” but this doesn’t work, it sounds terrible. It does sound good if the song is in the key of “Bb”, which “G” is the relative minor for “Bb”. Am I wrong or have I missed something?

    1. Hi Mason, you’d use this pattern as a the relative minor of the key
      you’re in. For instance, if you’re in the key of “G” then you’d want to
      use this pattern, starting on the “E”. Em is the relative minor of G, an
      easy way to find that is to just go down three frets from your tonic.

      So your explanation is correct, using G as the relative minor of Bb.

      1. Is there a scale starting on the 4th string, 5th fret (G) note that could be used when playing in the key of G? if there is, can this pattern be moved starting on other notes of the 4th string?

        1. You can create patterns starting from any point you choose, by why not just look at it as part of the G major pattern that starts on the 6th string, 3rd fret? That pattern has a G at the spot you mentioned, so you can simply continue in the same pattern…

          Alternatively, if you really want something different, simply write down the scale and the notes that are being used in it, take a close look at your fretboard, and identify a new pattern that fits your needs… then yes, whatever pattern you end up with can be moved around into different keys.

  37. Hiya Jonathan,
    Thanks for the great lessons. Really enjoying them.
    Just noticed in the diagram above that the 3rd fret on the B string should be a D not an F.
    Cheers – Frank

  38. Hey Jonathan i want to tell you bro’ even though i haven’t got my guitar yet i just order it and hopefully it will arrive soon’ i am hopefully going to learn to play the acoustic guitar’ its been my dream since i was 14 i am 25 now’ so now i can do this and take my time on it 🙂 so i want to say thank you’ hopefully i can create a song’ to lift people spirit up 🙂 thats what i really want the most

  39. Thank you so much for the lesson , I really like it . I start to play guitar sine I was 17 , but I do not know where to start to solo , I am 48 now , I am on my way . Thanks again . I am waiting for the next lesson .

  40. Hi Jonathan, your lesson is really great and I loved the thing you showed in the video. I am just a super basic beginner 😀 but I really wanna become perfect when I can play solos 🙂 Can you tell me what exactly is the Pentatonic Scale? I mean what benefit will it have if I practice this? I really can’t find the connection how this helps in playing songs 🙁 🙁

    Please help!

    1. Hi Swayam, learning the scales won’t really help you as you’re strumming through songs, however as soon as you want to start playing riffs in between your chords, or play solos, then you will need the scales. If you want to play melody on guitar, you will need the scales.

      Keep on playing! 🙂

  41. Hey there!

    Just wanted to say how helpful this lesson was. I am actually blind, and i am taking guitar at my school. Sadly my teacher doesnt even know how to play guitar and i have been teaching myself. Its challenging even though i play piano. My buddy who is also blind suggested these lessons. Right when i watched this video, it all clicked! Also, you do a fantastic job describing how too play and where to put your fingers.

  42. Jonathon , Thanks this lesson was one of those, Ahaah moments for me. It brought together a lot of scale lessons I’ve seen before. Again thanks. I just wish your scale charts were mirrored for us lefty’s .

  43. Just started playing the guitar and I am very green at playing it. I really want to learn to play it and I am pleased that you are willing to work with me to get to that level.

  44. Hi Jonathon

    I am a 67 year old newbe and I have found your instruction into the minor pentatonic scale excellent and they sound so bluesy. I am busy trying to master these.

    I have taught in schools and you are a natural teacher.

    Keep up the great work


    1. You can apply this rule whenever you’re playing in a major key, and want to find the relative minor scale. It does work for every key, but it only applies to finding the relative minor pattern.

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