mobile phone icon guitar tuner icon metronome icon scales icon timer piano icon search icon

All | Categories dropdown Categories | Piano | Guitar Scales | Guitar Tuner | Pin itvideo Make Guitar Tabs

Learn How To Play Pentatonic Scales For Guitar

guitar player

It's time to learn how to play the most widely used guitar scale in rock and blues, the Pentatonic scale! This is no ordinary guitar lesson. Featured within is a cool animated GIF and an awesome hack to help you learn these scales in record time! You will learn how to memorize these scales across the fretboard as well as the best way to play them using alternate picking.

Spoiler alert: This lesson contains a cool hack to make memorizing the Pentatonic scales on guitar even easier! (so be sure to read the whole lesson)


The lesson features a looping animated GIF demonstration (down below) that you can watch to learn the suggested fingering and alternate picking of the Pentatonic scale.

The Pentatonics

The Pentatonics (not to be confused with the Pentatonix, a 5 person a cappella singing group from Texas) are 5 note scales used heavily in rock, metal and blues style genres of music. The Pentatonics are the scales most beginners learn to play first. They are considered to be easy to learn due to their simplicity. There are two forms of the scale, Major and minor. But guess what? If you know one then you also know the other! (this is not the hack but it's still cool)

For this lesson I will use the C# minor and E Major Pentatonic scales for demonstration but the rules presented here apply to all Pentatonic keys!

Major and minor Pentatonics

the penatonics

Notice in the picture above that the minor Pentatonic has the same notes as the Major just in a different order. This means that the name changes based on it's use in a musical context. You can easily find the relative Major Pentatonic's root note on guitar 3 frets up from minor's root. Likewise, you can find the relative minor 3 frets back from Major.

How to play and memorize the pentatonic scales for guitar animated GIF

By cutting the Pentatonic scale up into 5 easy to learn patterns you can memorize the entire scale all over the entire guitar fretboard with ease. Below is an animated GIF that shows you how to do just that.

gif how to play and memorize pentatonic scales for guitar

Want the Guitar TAB instead?

If you don't feel like watching the GIF animation, here is the guitar TAB with suggested fingering and picking.

C sharp minor e major pentatonic scale guitar tab

Feel free to save the above images for future reference by doing a "right click and save as".

Moving to new keys

Once you have all the patterns memorized you can easily change to new keys by sliding all 5 boxes as a whole to anywhere on the fretboard. The root note of the new key will always be the note under your first finger of Pattern 1 on the A (5th) string. You can also find other places where the root note occurs in different boxes. I will leave that to you as an exercise to do on your own.

A little guitar hack/trick with big results

Here is a little trick that will help you remember the Pentatonics a whole lot easier.

Take any Major scale and play all the notes except the root and the 4th and what you have left is a Pentatonic minor scale whose root note is the same as the 3rd.

Or to look at it a different way, you are left with a Major Pentatonic with the the root that is the same as the 5th.

Example 1 : A Major - with notes A B C# D E F# G# = remove A and D - you are left with C# minor Pentatonic scale.

Example 2 : A Major - with notes A B C# D E F# G# = remove A and D - you are left with E Major Pentatonic scale.

If you haven't already done so, go read my lesson on learning the Major and minor scales. There you will see that the Pentatonic patterns listed here are contained in the Major and minor scales listed there! Pretty cool huh?


I hope I have helped you see how easy it is to learn the Pentatonic scales. I have more cool guitar lessons and hacks in the works that will help take your guitar playing to a higher level. So be sure to subscribe below for instant email notifications when I publish new lessons.

learn how to play pentatonic scales for guitar

Posted September 1, 2015, 11:14 pm in: Guitar lessons


Share a link to this guitar lesson with your friends (right click Permalink > copy or mobile long press > copy)