How to Play the Major Pentatonic Scale on Guitar

Published Categorized as Guitar lessons, Scales

Last week we looked at the minor pentatonic, this week I will show you how to play the major pentatonic scale on guitar.

major pentatonic scale on guitar

Recap on Pentatonics

Remember that a pentatonic scale is simply any scale with 5 notes within the octave.

The major pentatonic is no different.

Like the minor pentatonic, the major pentatonic is anhemitonic – which is just a flash way to say that there are no semi-tone intervals in the scale.

The Major Pentatonic

To me this scale sounds very folk-like. Even just playing this scale in a certain rhythm sounds very folky to me.

So it’s quite fun to play around with.

O.k. so here are the intervals for the scale

  • Root
  • Whole tone
  • Whole tone
  • 1 ? tone
  • Whole tone
  • 1 ? tone (back to root)

So if we are to use C major pentatonic as an example it would go like this:

  • C (root)
  • D (whole tone from C)
  • E (whole tone from D)
  • G (1 ? tones from E)
  • A (whole tone from G)
  • C (1 ? tones from A)

Another way to think of it is that it is the major scale, but leaving out two notes. In the case of C major pentatonic the B and the F are not used. This isn?t to say that the two scales sound the same because leaving those notes out makes for a very different feel and very different tonal character.

Just try playing around with the scale for a while and then try chucking in the B and F and it will sound off.

Related: Minor Pentatonic Scale

How to Play on the Guitar

O.k. now let’s take a look at how this will go on guitar. let’s use the C major pentatonic as our example as it doesn’t contain any sharps or flats.

C Major Pentatonic Open Position

e:------------------------|
B:-----------------1------|
G:-----------0--2---------|
D:-----0--2---------------|
A:--3---------------------|
E:------------------------|

O.k. now let’s make a full exercise out of it.

e:-----------------------0--3--5--5--3--0------------------------------|
B:-----------------1--3--------------------3--1------------------------|
G:-----------0--2--------------------------------2--0------------------|
D:-----0--2--------------------------------------------2--0------------|
A:--3--------------------------------------------------------3--0------|
E:-----------------------------------------------------------------3---|
e:---------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------|
G:---------------------------------|
D:---------------------------------|
A:-----------0--3------------------|
E:--3--0--3------------------------|

C major pentatonic further up the neck

e:--------------------------3--5--5--3---------------------------------|
B:--------------------3--5--------------5--3---------------------------|
G:--------------2--5--------------------------5--2---------------------|
D:--------2--5--------------------------------------5--2---------------|
A:--3--5--------------------------------------------------5--3---------|
E:--------------------------------------------------------------5--3---|
e:---------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------|
G:---------------------------------|
D:---------------------------------|
A:--------3------------------------|
E:--3--5---------------------------|

A major pentatonic

O.k. now let’s take a look at the A major pentatonic as this will show the major pentatonic pattern starting on the E string.

e:--------------------------------5--7--7--5---------------------------|
B:--------------------------5--7--------------7--5---------------------|
G:--------------------4--6--------------------------6--4---------------|
D:--------------4--7--------------------------------------7--4---------|
A:--------4--7--------------------------------------------------7--4---|
E:--5--7---------------------------------------------------------------|
e:---------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------|
G:---------------------------------|
D:---------------------------------|
A:---------------------------------|
E:--7--5---------------------------|

Notice the pattern?

You can now take those patterns and play any of the major pentatonic scales.

For example, if you want to play the G pentatonic scale then just start on the 3rd fret E string and play the same pattern as per the A major pentatonic above.

Or, for example, if you want to play the D major pentatonic scale then start on the 5th fret A string and play the same pattern as per the C pentatonic scale above.

What Next?

Do I need to say it again?. Practice!

Practice makes perfect and the more natural this scale becomes the easier it will be.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to learn the minor pentatonic scale check it out at the link below.

Next week we will take a look at the blues scale (hint: it’s like the minor pentatonic scale with a couple of variations).

Until then, keep practicing and see you next time.

Related: Online Guitar Lessons

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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