Learning Your Pentatonic scales

  Most musicians categories guitarists into two groups: solo and rhythm guitarists. The rhythm guitarist is the one that plays riffs or chords, while to solo guitarist is the one who plays individual notes over these chords.


Solo is the melody that is played over the chords or riffs. The best idea is to first learn the chords and to have a basic understanding of music theory behind them, before moving onto solos. The thing about solo is that it is not just theoretically more complex but it is also technically more demanding than playing chords. 

The basis of becoming a solo guitarist is understanding the scales.


What is the scale? 

The simplest explanation is that it is a set of notes that sound natural when you play them over a particular chord. If you go through the notes of the scale while the chord is ringing, you’ll see that there is no dissonance; it all sounds smooth. 

Of course, there are numerous songs that don’t have a solo part. Even some rock bands have almost totally excluded solos from their songs (for example Ramones or System Of a Down). However, if you want to make progress, you should definitely invest effort into learning solos. 

There are different kinds of scales, but the most common one is the pentatonic scale. This is the scale that I first teach all of my students. It is used widely, so some guitarists learn only this scale. 

Like in the case of any other scale, there are also two kinds of pentatonic scale – minor and major. 

Let’s check them out.


Minor Pentatonic

  Welcome to the minor pentatonic scale. Some of you that are used to seeing numbers within these circles may be confused. The numbers usually represent the fret on which the string should be pressed. 

However, there is no need to put any numbers on this tablature, because the shape of the scale is the same, no matter where you put it on the fretboard. You will move this shape depending on what is the chord over which you play the scale (in other words, on the tonality of the song). 

A lot of my students prefer the other type of tablature, so I will also represent the pentatonic scale in that way. Of course, in order to put this scale in the standard tablature, we have to include the fret numbers. For this example, let’s take the 8th fret. Because the first note of this scale is C, this is the C minor pentatonic scale. It is as simple as that! . 


Ok, so in order to practice guitar properly, this is what you should do. Start from the lowest string (as you can see, it is the 8th fret on the sixth string) and play ascending noted until you reach the highest one (i.e. the 11th fret on the first string). When you do this, go in the opposite direction, from the highest to the lowest note. 

To start off with, you just want to memorize the general “shape” of the pentatonic scale and how it feels under your fingers. If you have a specific preference when it comes to your picking hand, whether that’s using your fingers or pick, it doesn’t matter. We can work on picking technique separately. 

It’s also a good idea is to use a metronome. This way you will keep your tempo constant and besides that, you will also have an insight into your progress. Start with a slower tempo and then gradually speed it up when you feel comfortable


The Major Pentatonic Scale

  This is how the major pentatonic scale looks like. Like in the case of the minor pentatonic scale, you can move this shape up and down the fretboard because it is the same regardless of tonality. 

This is the tablature representation of the major pentatonic scale: 


  You should practice it the same way as the minor pentatonic scale; start slowly, use up and down picking and also use the metronome if you have one. 

If you have any more questions or want more exercises about them, if you are looking for a London guitar teacher, then contact us and we will help you find more ways to get practicing these and actually apply them in your guitar playing. 


 Minor and major pentatonic scales are definitely among the most frequently used scales. When you learn them, you will have a tool that will allow you to jam or improvise in basically any musical contexts. 

The fact that these scales are so universal allows you to find a variety of backing tracks for practicing. After you memorize the scale and get familiar with it, I suggest you to find a backing track from your favorite music genre and start jamming!

About author: Guitar Tuition East London is a London guitar school that helps students of all ages to improve their guitar playing. Whether they are complete beginners who want beginner guitar lessons or more advanced. As long as they have a passion for music and guitar. That’s what will help them succeed.