How to play the Major Pentatonic scale!
Just like the minor pentatonic is built from a minor barre chord, the major pentatonic is built from a major barre chord.
Later on you will expand further and build all major modes on top of your major pentatonic.
You might soon discover how the major and minor shapes look the same, the Em shape for example looks the same as the G major shape.
Don’t be fooled by this thinking they are the same, a scale is built on intervals, a major pentatonic has this scale formula: 1 2 3 5 6.
The fact that the minor look similar to major, just using a different starting note does say something about their relationship, it doesn’t mean they are the same thing.
The E shaped Major Pentatonic
As we did in minor, let’s build the major pentatonic from the major chord shape.
As in minor, the notes in the chord are found in more places.
Make sure you know each interval by calling them out as you practice the exercise as demonstrated in the video.
The video lessons demonstrate how to play the scale in A and D, following this you must take it around the full cycle of 4th to complete the exercise.
The A shaped Major Pentatonic
The A major shape is easy to remember if you focus on the chord shape and memorise all intervals around it.
Looks like this as a Chordacus image in A.
When you can play the major pentatonic in A and D as the video lessons demonstrate, take the shape all around the cycle of 4th, like this: A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – B – E.
The D shaped Major Pentatonic
Most guitar players struggle with the lower part of this shape, don’t give up, keep focusing on those interval numbers!
Remember to call out each interval as you practice the scale, this speeds up the learning process.
As always, when you can play it in A and D, move it through the remaining ten keys.
The G shaped Major Pentatonic
This is not an Em pentatonic shape!
The G shaped Major pentatonic, without a doubt the most difficult shape to learn since it looks identical to all guitar players favourite scale: The Em shaped Minor Pentatonic.
Even though they look the same, the intervals differ and the intervals are what matters.
There is a relationship between these scales in the same way as chords can be parallel minor and major, so if you move from Am to C for example, the scale shape would look the same.
To play with the chord changes your licks or melody has to change, targeting the strong intervals of the scale.
This means it is actually harder to swap between two scales that look identical than two completely different scales!
Therefore you must practice this shape extensively. Sing the intervals!
The C shaped Major Pentatonic
The C shaped major pentatonic is difficult to phrase with in its bare form, the layout is a bit awkward.
All this means is that you may have to spend some extra time getting used to it.
Using a Chordacus image you can see how the C shaped chord in red is surrounded by the remaining intervals that make up the major pentatonic.
Connect Major Pentatonic scale shapes
These two videos show what the major pentatonic shapes look like when connected.
When you can do this in A and D, continue through the cycle of 4th until you are back in A again.
The video lesson play this exercise using triplets, however, there is no reason for why you couldn’t play this using 8th or 16th notes instead.
If you try both these rhythms as well then that is the best way forward.
Major Pentatonic through teh cycle of 4th
This is the final exercise for learning the major pentatonic scale shapes.
The good news is, you are closer to mastering the guitar than you might think.
To create all minor and major modes you use the pentatonic scales as your starting point.
The better prepared you are, the quicker the next layer of notes can be learned. It really is down to knowing the shapes and the intervals inside.
Without this you have nothing to target or anchor your licks and melodies in.
Major Pentatonic Improvisation
The improvisation you find in the video lesson use the major pentatonic.
Notice how even though there is no chord behind the scale it still sounds major.
This is because of the way it’s phrased, based on intervals in relation to a major chord.
Hopefully this should be proof enough that yes, minor and major pentatonic can appear to have the same notes, but they don’t, they just look the same on the fret board if you disregard the intervals.
Compare this improvisation to the minor pentatonic improvisation, and more importantly: try it yourself!
Major Pentatonic Conclusion
Just like the minor pentatonic we build the major pentatonic from the five chord shapes.
First you must play each shape individually through the cycle of 4th to cover the whole neck.
This is the majority of the effort. If you prepared each shape well enough, connecting them up and down as well as using the concept of closest possible shape isn’t that difficult.
Should you at any point struggle with a shape, just go back and practice it individually again.
When you learned both the minor and major pentatonic you can start playing solos and write using the technique of new chord = new scale.
Simply apply a major pentatonic if the chord is major or a minor pentatonic if the chord is minor.
You’ll find out more about how to successfully apply the major pentatonic when you take the Intermediate Guitar Course.