Learn how to play the Minor Pentatonic scale!
If you’re only gonna learn one scale to solo with on the guitar it would have to be the Minor Pentatonic.
When practising as the video lessons demonstrate, aim to clearly see the relationship between the chord and scale shapes. Once this connection is clear, take note of all intervals inside every scale shape.
First, you must learn the five shapes individually, then connect them.
The Em shape
The Minor Pentatonic scale use the same notes as the minor chord: R, m3rd and the 5th.
The chord notes will appear in a few more places than just in the chord shape, for example, there’s m3rd’s on string one and six, fret 8.
Two more notes are added to complete the scale, the 4th and the b7th.
The easiest and best way to learn and remember a scale is to visualise the chord shape and then build the scale around it.
When you can play the Em pentatonic scale shape in Am and Dm, continue through the cycle of 4th, just like you did with the barre chord exercises.
The Am shape
The Am shape is the closest looking shape to the Em shape, make sure you know all intervals inside it so you don’t confuse the two with each other.
When you can play this shape in Am you have to move it to all other keys, like this: Am – Dm – Gm – Cm – Fm – Bbm – Ebm – Abm – Dbm – Gbm – Bm – Em.
The Dm shape
Below you’ll find the Dm shaped Minor Pentatonic video lesson, study it carefully and call out the intervals as you play it.
The Dm shape can be tricky to remember the intervals of, especially below the root note.
In the video lesson, you find this scale in Am and Dm. When you can play these, continue around the full cycle of 4th.
The Gm shape
The Gm shape is the easiest shape to remember since it appears in such a symmetrical way on the neck. Ironically, it is probably the least used shape.
As with all other shapes, you must first learn it in Am and Dm before you move the scale around the entire fretboard. Ideally, you want to do this using a metronome and not miss a beat.
The Cm shape
You will phrase differently with the Cm shape compared to the Em shape the due to its layout on the fretboard.
Because of this, the Cm shaped Minor Pentatonic is a great place to find new ideas. Make sure you are still visualising the chord shape and all surrounding intervals as you practise.
This is the last shape to learn. Ensure you really know it by running it through the cycle of 4th.
The video lesson below shows you how you can connect all five Minor Pentatonic shapes in the key of Am and Dm.
In order for you to play an exercise like this you have to know each individual shape really well.
If you have been practising all individual shapes and come to the conclusion that you need to move on, then you have arrived at the right exercise.
In the video lesson, the exercise is played using triplets. Before you start practising along with the video or to a click, just play through it without any specific rhythm. Make sure you swap between the shapes exactly as in the video.
When you can connect all shapes in Am and Dm at the same tempo as in the video lesson, move on to the ten remaining keys as well.
The cycle of 4th
This is the last Minor Pentatonic exercise and it’s self-eliminating. When you can play this you can definitely play all five shapes of the Minor Pentatonic!
This means that once completed, you should never have to practise a Minor Pentatonic scale again, ever.
In the video lesson, you see how this time the cycle of 4th goes to the closest shape possible, rather than run around the neck.
This improvisation uses the A Minor Pentatonic scale. There are no chords to support this scale, notice how I aim to target the strong notes from the scale.
Make sure you can see what shapes are being played throughout and remember:
1. All Minor Pentatonic scale shapes can be traced back to the minor barre chords
2. You have to learn all shapes of the Minor Pentatonic scale in order to freely improvise
3. Use Chordacus to visually see how the shapes move around in relation to each other
To learn the Minor Pentatonic in all five shapes does take some time, especially as it is most likely the first scale you learn.
First, you have to learn all five shapes and be able to play them anywhere on the neck. This is achieved by running each shape, one at a time, through the cycle of 4th.
Following this, it’s time to connect the shapes up and down the neck. You also need to play them using the concept of ‘closest shape possible’.
Once completed, there’s good news. When you can play the Minor Pentatonic it is really easy to learn all minor modes as well as the min7 arpeggio shapes.
To learn more about the Minor Pentatonic, how and when to use it, turn to the intermediate course.