Full Version: The Major Pentatonic Scale
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Andrew Cockburn
The Major Pentatonic Scale

Introduction

Our next scale is the Major Pentatonic scale. Closely related to the Minor Pentatonic scale, it can be regarded as a Minor scale with a couple of notes missing.

The Major Pentatonic Scale

The Major Pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale, built using the formula: 2 2 3 2 3

Lets have a look at how we would build a scale of G Major Pentatonic. Our root note is G, and building up from the formula we get the following notes:

G + 2 semitones = A
A + 2 semitones = B
B + 3 semitones = D
D + 2 semitones = E
E + 3 semitones = G

Giving us the notes G, A, B, D, E, G, and as usual you can apply this formula with any other root note to get the exact scale that you want.

On the Fretboard

How do we play this on the guitar? Well, sticking with our G Major scale, we can construct 5 different boxes, one for each note of the scale.

Here they are:

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I give you the Major Pentatonic scale!
redwing
Andrew, Thanks for sharing your knowledge. One question, what's the C# on the 1st string in the fourth example? Shouldn't that be a D? Also, do the different modes of the pentatonic scale have names, like the ionian, dorian, etc. of the diatonic scale? Thanks.
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (redwing @ Jul 9 2007, 06:59 PM)
Andrew, Thanks for sharing your knowledge. One question, what's the C# on the 1st string in the fourth example? Shouldn't that be a D? Thanks.

Yeah,that should be D,but no big deal cause you figured it out already
Andrew Cockburn
D'oh Thank guys - fixed now (those dots drive me insane) ...
sb81
More Theory, yay!

Andrew, what genres of music does the Major Pentatonic suit well?

Thanks
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (sb81 @ Jul 9 2007, 01:39 PM)
More Theory, yay!

Andrew, what genres of music does the Major Pentatonic suit well?

Thanks

Rock man! Aything with a Major feel will work well with Major Pentatonic - I think it has a happy kind of feel to it, and also if you play it right an oriental kind of sound.
Eat-Sleep-andJam
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Jul 9 2007, 10:18 AM)
Rock man! Aything with a Major feel will work well with Major Pentatonic - I think it has a happy kind of feel to it, and also if you play it right an oriental kind of sound.

Great Great Great. So this G major Pentatonic is the same as minor except the shapes are in a different order, hence the Major sound ?

- John
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Eat-Sleep-andJam @ Jul 14 2007, 06:44 PM)
Great Great Great. So this G major Pentatonic is the same as minor except the shapes are in a different order, hence the Major sound ?
- John

Correct, but don't look at it that way. You can reuse the patterns to save you learning new ones, but don't thik of them as being the same scale. For instance, C major pentatonic box 1 is the same pattern as A minor pentatonic box 2, but you can't compare them becuase one is in the key of C and the other is in the key of A minor (they are in fact modes of each other). Think in terms of the 2 different formulae or you won't fully understand the differece.
Eat-Sleep-andJam
Ok Thanks. This is helping so much !

- John
Jeffrey
Hey andrew,

First off, I love your lesson on Pentatonic Major scale. I have written some theory down(just some basic stuff.) and I wanted you to look at it and tell me if im right. the way u explain the M Pentatonic is a different from what everyone has been telling me. I've just put together little pieces of everyone's work to get something I can comprehend=P Maybe I can e-mail it to you?

-Jeffrey
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Jeffrey @ Jul 17 2007, 11:44 AM)
Hey andrew,

First off, I love your lesson on Pentatonic Major scale. I have written some theory down(just some basic stuff.) and I wanted you to look at it and tell me if im right. the way u explain the M Pentatonic is a different from what everyone has been telling me. I've just put together little pieces of everyone's work to get something I can comprehend=P Maybe I can e-mail it to you?
-Jeffrey

Sure - I'll PM you my email.
ReverandFender
How do I know when to use the Minor Pentatonic or the Major pentatonic.
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (ReverandFender @ Aug 23 2007, 12:19 AM)
How do I know when to use the Minor Pentatonic or the Major pentatonic.

You need to pay attention to the key the song is in. If it is in a major key you can use Major Pentatonic (or Major for that matter) if it is in a minor key you can use Minor Pentatonic (or Minor). You can also use Minor pentatonic against a mjor chord progression when you are playing the blues. So the overall answer is that it it is interrelated with what chords are being played. There is a lesson that describes the relationship between chords and scales here.
ReverandFender
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Aug 22 2007, 09:32 PM)
You need to pay attention to the key the song is in. If it is in a major key you can use Major Pentatonic (or Major for that matter) if it is in a minor key you can use Minor Pentatonic (or Minor). You can also use Minor pentatonic against a mjor chord progression when you are playing the blues. So the overall answer is that it it is interrelated with what chords are being played. There is a lesson that describes the relationship between chords and scales here.

thanks that cleared it up a bit.
fatstrat
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Aug 23 2007, 12:32 AM)
You need to pay attention to the key the song is in. If it is in a major key you can use Major Pentatonic (or Major for that matter) if it is in a minor key you can use Minor Pentatonic (or Minor). You can also use Minor pentatonic against a mjor chord progression when you are playing the blues. So the overall answer is that it it is interrelated with what chords are being played. There is a lesson that describes the relationship between chords and scales here.

so for instance, say the certain song we are playing is in the key of C, could we still use the same pentatonic scale shown above even though it is in the key of G? the scale that you showed us seems to encompass all major notes of the scale?
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (fatstrat @ Sep 1 2007, 10:48 PM)
so for instance, say the certain song we are playing is in the key of C, could we still use the same pentatonic scale shown above even though it is in the key of G? the scale that you showed us seems to encompass all major notes of the scale?

The simple answer is no, you need to make sure that the keys of the song and scale match. In this case, I gave you the boxes for G, if you want to play in C, you need to move the boxes up so that the root notes (marked in beige) are C, not G, i.e. you have to move each box up 5 frets.
fatstrat
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Sep 2 2007, 11:20 PM)
The simple answer is no, you need to make sure that the keys of the song and scale match. In this case, I gave you the boxes for G, if you want to play in C, you need to move the boxes up so that the root notes (marked in beige) are C, not G, i.e. you have to move each box up 5 frets.

i appreciate the help greatly! one last question that i have would be- can the boxes themselves be interchanged with one another, or will they always remain constant in that order? for example: can box 1 be replaced with box 3?
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (fatstrat @ Sep 2 2007, 11:41 PM)
i appreciate the help greatly! one last question that i have would be- can the boxes themselves be interchanged with one another, or will they always remain constant in that order? for example: can box 1 be replaced with box 3?

When you are playing a solo you can pick and choose which box you use at any one time - that givcs some variety to your performance, playing higher and lower phrases. The boxes themselves have to stay exatly where they are shown for that scale (and you can move them as I described in my previous post). If you move them relative to each other they will become different scales (and you can always tell which scale they have become by checking what note the root note in the box is).
bart m
ok...let me throw something at ya'

so assuming the first box of the G Minor Pentatonic Box is "Box 1" and the next the next 4 boxes are box 2, box 3, box 4, and box 5 respectively..does that mean there are 5 pentatonic scales for any give root note?

for instance:

Root Note = G in box 1 = G Minor Pentatonic Scale = 3 2 2 3 2 = G Bb C D F G
Root Note = G in box 2 = G Major Pentatonic Scale = 2 2 3 2 3 = G A B D E G
Root Note = G in box 3 = G ???? Scale = 2 3 2 3 2 = G A C D F G(Mixolydian Pentatonic)
Root Note = G in box 4 = G ???? Scale = 3 2 3 2 2 = G Bb C D#(Eb) F G(?????)
Root Note = G in box 5 = G ???? Scale = 2 3 2 2 3 = G A C D E G(G Minor/Major??)

Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (bart m @ Sep 6 2007, 09:41 PM)
ok...let me throw something at ya'

so assuming the first box of the G Minor Pentatonic Box is "Box 1" and the next the next 4 boxes are box 2, box 3, box 4, and box 5 respectively..does that mean there are 5 pentatonic scales for any give root note?

for instance:

Root Note = G in box 1 = G Minor Pentatonic Scale = 3 2 2 3 2 = G Bb C D F G
Root Note = G in box 2 = G Major Pentatonic Scale = 2 2 3 2 3 = G A B D E G
Root Note = G in box 3 = G ???? Scale = 2 3 2 3 2 = G A C D F G(Mixolydian Pentatonic)
Root Note = G in box 4 = G ???? Scale = 3 2 3 2 2 = G Bb C D#(Eb) F G(?????)
Root Note = G in box 5 = G ???? Scale = 2 3 2 2 3 = G A C D E G(G Minor/Major??)

Simple answer .... No - they are all the same scale offset by one note Keep in mind that for each box the root note moves, and that the formula always starts on the root note, so there is nothing too mysterious going on here as long as you keep that in mind.

Complex answer - you are nibbling around the edges of Pentatonic Modes here, a fascinating concept, but get the regular pentatonic down first!

EDIT : I had to rush the above post and didn't mean to sound dismissive ... modes are a fascinating concept and I have a couple of lessons about them. What you have discovered is that Pentatonic Major is Mode II of the Pentatonic Minor scale, and as you have pointed out there are 3 additional modes. This concept is more often explored with major scales where the same idea gives rise to various mode names you may have heard - Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.
bart m
Thanks Andrew...i didn't find you dismissive at all
eddiecat
Hello Andrew, my name is Eddie.
Thank you so very much for your wonderful theory board, it really is of great help!
I've spent the last three weeks in here and I can't believe how much I'm actually learning.
Now to the pentatonic boxes, major and minor:
hoping that I understood the lesson concerning relative minors here's my conclusion:,
A given box of a major pentatonic is exactly the same as the box of it's relative minor.
So the five boxes of G major pentatonic are exactly the same as the five boxes of E minor pentatonic,
the only HUGE difference is the root note (E vs. G) and, of course, the formula.
The same thing would work for C and A, for example.
Now, if it is so, I'm really thrilled to bits, because besides learning the boxes for both major and minor penta,
I'm also memorizing the notes on the fretboard since I know where the different root notes are!
Greetings, Eddie
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (eddiecat @ Sep 20 2007, 06:48 PM)
Hello Andrew, my name is Eddie.
Thank you so very much for your wonderful theory board, it really is of great help!
I've spent the last three weeks in here and I can't believe how much I'm actually learning.
Now to the pentatonic boxes, major and minor:
hoping that I understood the lesson concerning relative minors here's my conclusion:,
A given box of a major pentatonic is exactly the same as the box of it's relative minor.
So the five boxes of G major pentatonic are exactly the same as the five boxes of E minor pentatonic,
the only HUGE difference is the root note (E vs. G) and, of course, the formula.
The same thing would work for C and A, for example.
Now, if it is so, I'm really thrilled to bits, because besides learning the boxes for both major and minor penta,
I'm also memorizing the notes on the fretboard since I know where the different root notes are!
Greetings, Eddie

Hi eddie,

You are close, but lets be exact here just so there is no confusion:

A given box of a major pentatonic is exactly the same as the box of it's relative minor shifted down one pattern

For example, if you play C Major Pentatonic, that is the same as A minor pentatonic in its 2nd box - the notes are identical, just the root notes differ. So you also have to figure in that 1 box shift and you are right:)

See the answer on pentatonic major scale lesson
eddiecat
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Sep 21 2007, 02:35 AM)
Hi eddie,

You are close, but lets be exact here just so there is no confusion:

A given box of a major pentatonic is exactly the same as the box of it's relative minor shifted down one pattern

For example, if you play C Major Pentatonic, that is the same as A minor pentatonic in its 2nd box - the notes are identical, just the root notes differ. So you also have to figure in that 1 box shift and you are right:)
See the answer on pentatonic major scale lesson

Oh, yes! Of course.
Sorry I didn't make that clear...
Mrblomme
I have a question.

Ok the patterns for the minor and major pentatonic scale are almost the same but the first pattern in the minor is the fifth in the major?

Is it necessary to call the first you mentioned the FIRST pattern or doesn't it matter?

Caus otherwise I would use the order of the minor caus it's easier to think of 1 thing.
Muris Varajic
These boxes might confuse sometimes.
Deal is to stick with the root note which is C in per example C major pentatonic scale.
A minor pentatonic scale has same notes while root is A.
Same notes,same boxes,everything.
Mrblomme
So you're telling me they're completely the same? Why should we learn both then?
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (Mrblomme @ Dec 19 2007, 12:06 AM)
So you're telling me they're completely the same? Why should we learn both then?

Root isn't the same,that's the point why we should learn both
and not thinking of Am pent while playing C Maj pent.
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Muris @ Dec 18 2007, 06:12 PM)
Root isn't the same,that's the point why we should learn both
and not thinking of Am pent while playing C Maj pent.

Yes, as Muris says, although the pasterns are the same, the scales are different (because they have different roots), and you need to get the scales in your head or it will lead to confusion later, so treat them as different.
coffeeman
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Dec 18 2007, 06:33 PM)
Yes, as Muris says, although the pasterns are the same, the scales are different (because they have different roots), and you need to get the scales in your head or it will lead to confusion later, so treat them as different.

And I guess is important to treat them as different to understand and play pentatonic modes too.
PlayAllDay
They SOUND different.
Kapto
QUOTE (PlayAllDay @ Dec 19 2007, 02:24 AM)
They SOUND different.

Lol they are the same with same notes. Exactly the same patterns only the root note changes. What I do is to remember the root "this one is for major that one for minor" If its Major I start with the 2nd pattern that has the root on the 1st note if it's minor I start with the 1st pattern which has the root on the 1st note" After that I move to another pattern and try to remember the rest.
Hope this helps a bit
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (PlayAllDay @ Dec 18 2007, 07:24 PM)
They SOUND different.

That's the key right there - they sound different because you have them organized right in your head, even though they are the same notes

And that's what practicing them as different scales will do for you ... you will practice hearing the notes in a different starting place with the correct root note, and that makes the scale sound and act different.
PlayAllDay
QUOTE (Kapto @ Dec 19 2007, 09:41 AM)
Lol they are the same with same notes. Exactly the same patterns only the root note changes. What I do is to remember the root "this one is for major that one for minor" If its Major I start with the 2nd pattern that has the root on the 1st note if it's minor I start with the 1st pattern which has the root on the 1st note" After that I move to another pattern and try to remember the rest.
Hope this helps a bit

Compare a minor pent with root note A and a major pent with root note A. They are not the same.

This is one way you can start to identify them by sound.
Kapto
QUOTE (PlayAllDay @ Dec 19 2007, 03:32 AM)
Compare a minor pent with root note A and a major pent with root note A. They are not the same.

This is one way you can start to identify them by sound.

Of course it's not the same I compare Am with C major A major with #F minor F major with D minor and so on. So while running on 1 pattern I think to myself I am on the G major or Em Key.
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (Kapto @ Dec 19 2007, 11:33 AM)
Of course it's not the same I compare Am with C major A major with #F minor F major with D minor and so on. So while running on 1 pattern I think to myself I am on the G major or Em Key.

That IS what I was talking about actually.
Most of players think of Em while playing in G using pentatonic,
guess it's because we all started with minor pentatonic licks more or less,
still,it's wrong way of thinking,there are many spots when
player lays down on "wrong" note in solo,
per example,laying on E or bending from D to E while chord in progression is G.
Mrblomme
Hi Andrew,

I have a question
If I play this box

This is a G Major pentatonic but If I want to make it an E, do I have to move UP or DOWN? Becaus if I move down from here I dont have enough frets to play an F#
Muris Varajic
Since Andrew is ofline I'll try help

If you wanna play E Major pentatonic scale than you need to move this box 3 semi tones DOWN,
so the yellow dot will be on 12th fret on E string per example,our root note is E now.
And if you wanna play E Minor pentatonic scale then you don't need to move at all,
notes are same,just consider note E(12th fret on E string) as root now,there you go.
Mrblomme
Yes but it's quite hard to play that low on my axe.
Muris Varajic
That low,from 9th to 12th fret?
Mrblomme

I dont see any dot on the 9th fret
I think its more like from the 12th to the 15th
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (Mrblomme @ Jan 7 2008, 09:50 PM)

I dont see any dot on the 9th fret
I think its more like from the 12th to the 15th

It's now but if you move it 3 steps down than you'll have yellow dot on 9th fret on G string
,note E,root in E major pent. scale.
Mrblomme
Oh so in fact you have to move it UP your neck?
I think I'm a bit wrong. I say up if you go from 10 to 5 and down if you go from 5 to 10 ...
Muris Varajic
It's DOWN 3 steps,
down means lower,
up means higher.
Mrblomme
Hehe ok I was wrong.
Thx for the help Muris
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (Mrblomme @ Jan 7 2008, 10:05 PM)
Hehe ok I was wrong.
Thx for the help Muris

You're welcome.

Hope you're not making the same mistake while using elevator
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Muris @ Jan 7 2008, 04:18 PM)
You're welcome.

Hope you're not making the same mistake while using elevator

Yay, go Muris, our very own escalator theory expert And thanks for helping out as well
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Jan 7 2008, 10:20 PM)
Yay, go Muris, our very own escalator theory expert And thanks for helping out as well

Thanks Andrew
Mrblomme
QUOTE (Muris @ Jan 7 2008, 10:18 PM)
You're welcome.

Hope you're not making the same mistake while using elevator

I feel stupid ...
Muris Varajic
QUOTE (Mrblomme @ Jan 7 2008, 11:22 PM)
I feel stupid ...

No need to,don't worry