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Minor Pentatonic Scale: Notes and positions on the Guitar

The minor pentatonic scale is one of the cornerstones on which great musicians like B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Angus Young have based their style. It seems almos imposible that with only 5 musical notes you can create so many songs and improvise on so many musical styles.

Do you want to learn how to play the minor pentatonic scale? Well, here is everything you need to know!

minor pentatonic scale guitar

What is the minor pentatonic scale?

The minor pentatonic is a five note musical scale consisting of the degrees 1 – ♭3 – 4 – 5 – ♭7. In other words, a natural minor scale without the second and sixth degrees.

To better understand this idea, let’s take an example: the A minor pentatonic scale. And for this purpose we will first analyze the A natural minor scale:

A B C D E F G

Above we can see the A natural minor scale and if we want to obtain the minor pentatonic we only have to eliminate the 2nd and 6th degrees. That is to say, the second and sixth notes starting from A.

A C D E G

As a result we have that the minor pentatonic scale notes in the key of A are:

  • First degee: A.
  • Minor third degee: C.
  • Fourth degee: D.
  • Fifth degee: E.
  • Minor Seven degee: G.
🎵 What notes are left out in minor pentatonic scale?

At this point we know what notes in a minor pentatonic scale are so the answer would be the second and sixth degree.

Perfect, now we know how to construct this scale in the key of A. But how would we build it in any other key?

How would we form the G minor pentatonic scale (for example)?

In order to answer this question we need to look at the musical intervals of this scale.

What are the intervals of the minor pentatonic scale?

The minor pentatonic scale interval pattern is.

W+H – W – W – W+H – W

W: Whole step or tone.

H: Half step, half tone or semitone.

The scheme above is very theoretical, so let’s take another example to show you how simple it really is.

Do you remember that earlier I asked about the G minor pentatonic scale? Let’s build it.

And to do this we only have to start from G and draw the tonal distribution that I mentioned before.

pentatonic g minor scale guitar

As a result we have that the G minor pentatonic scale notes are:

G B♭ C D F

The musical notes above are the minor pentatonic scale degrees in the key of G Because:

  • Between G and B♭ there is a distance of one and a half tones.
  • Between B♭ and C there is a distance of one tone.
  • Between C and D there is a distance of one tone.
  • Between D and F there is a distance of a tone and a half tone.
  • Between F and G there is a distance of one tone.

Remember that a tone is a whole step and a half tone or half tone is a semitone.

But there is more, because each of these notes receives a number according to the position it occupies in the scale.

Let’s take a look!

What is the formula for a minor pentatonic scale?

As I said at the beginning of this article, the formula for the minor pentatonic scale is:

1 – ♭3 – 4 – 5 – ♭7

Therefore, if we take the initial table and expand it we would have the following:

minor g pentatonic scale formula

Which means that:

  • First (1): G.
  • Minor third (♭3): B♭.
  • Fourth (4): C.
  • fifth (5): D.
  • Minor Seventh (♭7): F.

In summary, if you want to know what the 5 notes in the minor pentatonic scale are, you must always keep in mind its formula and musical intervals because this applies to all keys.

For example, the c minor pentatonic scale is:

minor pentatonic scale degrees

The minor pentatonic scale in all 12 keys

Before we look at the minor pentatonic scale on the guitar, let me show you this musical scale in All 12 Keys so that you have them in a nutshell.

  • A minor pentatonic: A, C, D, E, G.
  • B♭ minor pentatonic: B♭, D♭, Eb, F, Ab.
  • B minor pentatonic: B, D, E, F#, A.
  • C minor pentatonic: C, Eb, F, G, B♭.
  • C# minor pentatonic: C#, E, F#, G#, B.
  • D minor pentatonic: D, F, G, A, C.
  • E♭ minor pentatonic: E♭, Gb, Ab, B♭, D♭.
  • E minor pentatonic: E, G, A, B, D.
  • F minor pentatonic: F, A♭, B♭, C, E♭.
  • F# minor pentatonic: F#, A, B, C#, E.
  • G minor pentatonic: G, B♭, C, D, F.
  • G# minor pentatonic: G#, B, C#, D#, F#.

The minor pentatonic scale on guitar

Well, by now you should know and master the music theory behind the minor scale. So let’s move on to what’s cool, how the notes are distributed along the fretboard and how to play the minor pentatonic scale on the guitar.

minor pentatonic scale guitar
The minor pentatonic scale patter guitar

The 5 minor pentatonic scale positions

To learn to play this scale on the guitar, we divide the previous scheme into the famous 5 minor pentatonic scale shapes that are easy to learn and that also serve as a fingering exercise or warm-up:

5 minor pentatonic scale shapes

Minor pentatonic scale tab

Now you have the 5 positions of this musical scale but you may wonder how to play the minor pentatonic scale up and down on the guitar

Let’s look at the tab below:

e|-------------------------5-8-5---------------------|
B|---------------------5-8-------8-5-----------------|
G|----------------5-7----------------7-5-------------|
D|-----------5-7-------------------------7-5---------|
A|------5-7----------------------------------7-5-----|
E|-5-8-------------------------------------------8-5-|
guitar minor pentatonic scale patterns

In the chart above we can see the first pattern of the A pentatonic scale. To practice it we only have to go to the fifth fret and start descending it.

Practice this exercise as a warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes before playing.

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