Pentatonic ScalesBack to courses
If you've ever learnt a Clapton solo, or from any blues/rock players, you will have played the pentatonic scale! Now it's time to understand the scale, in a theoretical setting. In this course we shed some light on why this scale is so commonly used, and why it sounds so good over a variety of chord progressions!
A pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale, rather than our more usual 7 note major or minor scales. The pentatonic is very much based on the 7 note major / minor scale, but only uses 5 of the 7 notes to construct it. It therefore shouldn't be too surprising that the pentatonic has a major and minor, just like the full 7 note major and minor scales.
The really cool thing about the 5 note scale vs the 7 note, is that you have no semi-tone notes. All the notes in a pentatonic scale are either a tone or tone and a half apart, and therefore it is quite tricky to find any clashing notes when playing over a basic chord structure. This is one of the reasons why guitarists often gravitate towards this scale when soloing, as every note should sound great all the time!
As we previously established, the pentatonic scales use 5 notes from the 7 note major / minor scales. In the case of major pentatonic, we take our full major scale and remove the 4th and 7th notes. This gives us the formula of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th from the major scale. Here is an example of that in G:
To help you put this into practice, here is a common shape for the major pentatonic in the key of C major (as per the example above). Notice the notes on the neck as you go through it, trying to say the degrees of the scale (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc...).
As we previously established, the pentatonic scales pull 5 notes from the 7 note major / minor scales. In the case of minor pentatonic, we take our full minor scale and remove the 2nd and 6th notes. Our first step, therefore, is to convert the major scale to minor, which you can do by flattening the 3rd, 6th and 7th... as shown here:
Once we have the minor scale, we remove the 2nd and 6th notes to give us the formula 1st, b3rd, 4th, 5th & b7th. When applied to the C minor scale, you will create a C minor pentatonic scale, as shown here:
To help you put this into practice, a common shape for the minor pentatonic in the key of C minor can be found in the fretboard diagrams. Notice the notes on the neck as you go through it, trying to say the degrees of the scale (i.e. 1st, b3rd, 4th etc...).
The blues scale is essentially just the minor pentatonic scale with the addition of a flattened 5th note. This extra note is considered a passing note, which means that it is not wise to hang about too long on this note. Try to consider the function of this extra note as a bit of tension that resolves to the notes on either side (the 4th or 5th). This tension gives the scale a bluesy feel, hence the name of the scale! This scale is used across all genres, not just blues as the name suggests. The formula for the blues scale is 1st, b3rd, 4th, b5th, 5th & b7th, as shown below:
To help you put this into practice, a common shape for the blues scale in the key of C minor can be found in the fretboard diagrams. Notice the notes on the neck as you go through it, trying to say the degrees of the scale (i.e. 1st, b3rd, 5th etc...).
To get the most out of this video, grab a pen and paper and try to actually work out the chords Dan is asking you on the video. If you would like more of a challenge, then try the following:
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