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The pentatonic scale on guitar, what is it?

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escala pentatónica en guitarra

The pentatonic scale on guitar, what is it?

The pentatonic scale on guitar is mainly used for blues, jazz, pop and rock, although these are not the only styles in which it is used. After all, the minor pentatonic scale is one of the oldest scales in music, and the major scale is also common in guitar playing. But do you know what it is?

If you still have doubts or if you are just starting to learn how to play this instrument, here you will find it explained in a simple way. And remember, if you are looking for a good instrument to play, you can buy luthier guitars at

Discover the pentatonic scale on guitar

It is a five-note scale widely used in some genres, hence its name, as it consists of these 5 tones or notes. As we have already mentioned before, it is common in pop and rock, and also in jazz and rock. 

There are two types of pentatonic scale on guitar: major and minor. Its construction or formula is very simple:

  • Major pentatonic scale. You can find it formulated by its abbreviations or in full: T-T-TS-T-T-TS which is the same as Tone – Tone – Tone and a half – Tone – Tone and a half. You can also form it by eliminating the IV and VII degree of a major scale.
  • Minor pentatonic scale. When you find it abbreviated, its formula is TS-T-T-T-T-TS-T or, in other words, Tone and a half – Tone – Tone – Tone and a half – Tone. You can also form it by eliminating the II and VI degrees of a minor scale.

If you are just starting to learn to play the guitar, you have probably played some of these scales, as they are the most commonly used to get started and become fluent with this instrument

These scales are also often used as a basis for writing music and improvising.

Differences between major pentatonic scale and minor pentatonic scale

Although at first glance they seem very similar, it is very easy to learn the differences between one pentatonic scale on guitar and the other. To make it easier, keep in mind that the major pentatonic scale is the same as the minor pentatonic scale but starting three frets lower. In other words, when you learn to play the major pentatonic scale to learn the minor, you only have to start a major third below.

Doesn’t that make it much easier and less intimidating? Sometimes we see things as very complicated, but when we practice and know little facts, we see that it is easier than we thought.

How to learn to play the pentatonic scale on guitar

The easiest way to learn to play the pentatonic scale on guitar is by diagrams. In fact, it is the most commonly used system in music books and quick methods for learning to play the guitar. It is easy to find resources and material using diagrams such as manuals, books and even online.

The great advantage of using diagrams to learn the pentatonic scale on guitar is that it is very visual, so it is easy to understand and assimilate. It is really easy to translate the drawing or visual scheme to the tones. However, it is important to keep in mind that all of them have the sixth string at the top. And the first string all the way down. So it will be easier for you to understand them at a glance.

How do I improvise with the pentatonic scale on guitar?

Improvising with a pentatonic scale on guitar is a good way to become more fluent, to improve your mental connection with the instrument, to see that you are making progress, to feel more comfortable. 

What can you do to get started? These are not the only things, but they are the easiest ones:

  • Move along the fingerboard horizontally, it is less common than moving vertically in one direction or the other, but you will see that it is also simple, sounds very good and helps you to gain fluency. 
  • Break the pentatonic positions into boxes starting with the tonic note in a simple pattern.
  • Include unexpected notes, but do it wisely and never end the scale on a note that doesn’t belong to the pentatonic scale. Do this when you already play the base with ease. Don’t overuse these notes, only include notes that are at a distance of one semitone between the notes of the minor pentatonic scale you are playing.

Following all these tips we are sure that you will get more fluency when practicing, give yourself time and patience and, if it is with one of our guitars, it will sound much better!