Guitar Pentatonic Scales... the smart (easy) way.

Pentatonic Scales - The Basics (Part 1 of 3)

Learning a guitar pentatonic scales is one of the first steps to soloing and improvisation.

Understanding pentatonics and their relationship(s) to the fretboard opens the door to full command of the guitar.

This section is divided into 3 parts. The first covers the basics of pentatonic scales. The second article builds on the first, and explains how to actually apply this knowledge in practice, how to play pentatonic scales, on the guitar fretboard. The third article makes learning guitar pentatonic scales super easy... Enjoy!


Only 5 notes

As their name says, pentatonic scales contain 5 notes:

c major pentatonic scale

C Major Pentatonic Scale: C D E G A"Penta" means 5 in latin.

There are only 2 basic kinds of pentatonic scales: Major and Minor.

major and minor pentatonic scales

C Major Pentatonic Scale: C D E G A                A Minor Pentatonic Scale: A C D E G

Major and minor pentatonic scales are related

In fact, they are called relative Major and Minor pentatonic scales.
This means -for instance, in the case of C Major Pentatonic- that C Major Pent and A Minor Pent are composed of the EXACT SAME notes...

relative pentatonic scales

...in different order.

Triads and Pentatonic Scales

Another very important basic fact about pentatonic scales is that they all contain either a major or a minor triad.
This means that they all contain the Root (1), a third (major or minor, 3), the perfect fifth (5), and 2 other notes:

pentatonic scales and triads

Major and minor pentatonic scales, and their corresponding triads.

Click here to carry on to Part 2: Guitar Pentatonic Scales, the smart way: Harmonic and Melodic Fingerings


In this series on pentatonic scales and the fretboard, we merely scratch the surface of guitar pentatonic scales. There are many more interesting relationships to understand:
fretboard essentials

Other articles on pentatonic scales you may be interested in:

  • Guitar Tuning and the Fretboard: Basic to understand the relationship between pentatonic scales and the guitar

  • Guitar Scales: Section Overview

    1. Scales and Modes from A to Z: section index

    2. Guitar Pentatonic Scales 1, 2, 3

    3. Guitar Modes... the smart (easy) way


    Go back to the main Guitar Scales section
    Go back to Guitar Theory in Depth



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