Learn 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 on this concept even further and build all major modes on top of your Major Pentatonic.
You will 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. A Minor Pentatonic has this scale formula 1 m3 4 5 b7.
The fact that the minor look similar to major, just using a different starting note does say something about their relationship. However, it doesn’t mean they are the same thing.
The E shape
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 practise 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 shape
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 this Major Pentatonic shape 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 shape
Most guitar players struggle with the lower part of this shape, don’t give up, keep focusing on those intervals, they are the only way you will fully understand the shape.
Remember, call out each interval as you practise, this speeds up the learning process.
As always, when you can play it in A and D, move it through the cycle of 4th until you played in all the remaining ten keys.
The G shape
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, following 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 practise this shape extensively. Sing those intervals!
The C shape
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.
Looking at the Chordacus image below you can see how the C shaped chord in red is surrounded by the remaining intervals that make up the Major Pentatonic.
These two videos show what the Major Pentatonic shapes look like when connected.
When you can do this in the keys of A and D, continue through the cycle of 4th.
The video lesson plays this exercise using triplets, however, there is no reason why you couldn’t play this using 8th or 16th notes instead. If you try both these rhythms as well you’ll learn the scale quicker.
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.
The improvisation you find in this video lesson use only the A 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, the minor and Major Pentatonic can appear to have the same notes but they don’t, they just look the same on the fretboard.
Compare this improvisation to the Minor Pentatonic improvisation but more importantly, try it yourself!
Just like the Minor Pentatonic, we build the Major Pentatonic from five barre chord shapes. First, you must take 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 as well as finding the closest possible shape isn’t that difficult.
Should you at any point struggle with a shape, just go back and practise it individually again.
When you learned both the minor and Major Pentatonic you can start playing solos 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 both pentatonic scales when you take the intermediate guitar course.