The Major Pentatonic Scale
Get your solos on track the easy way with a look at a scale used by countless rock legends
“I’ve heard lots of guitarists talk about scales. Why are they important?”
One of the most challenging things about playing the guitar is deciding which notes to play. Now remember, a scale is a run of notes that sound good together, so, by learning a few shapes, you’ll take some of the guesswork out of choosing those all-important notes.
“Is it a lead thing or a does it apply to chords ?”
Both but working out chords from scales can be quite tough until you’ve got a handful of shapes under your belt, so we’ll stick to soloing here.
“Cool. How do I get started?”
In the boxout on the right you’ll see two illustrations of the C major pentatonic scale. The first picture tells you which fingers to use. Play one note at a time starting on the lowest pitched note to get a feel for the scale. The second picture tells you what the notes are.
“It’s easy enough but it’s pretty boring. Does anyone really use it?”
Sure! The scale can be heard extensively in blues-rock with players like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page making their careers out of pentatonic soloing. The scale’s bright feel makes it well suited to major key solos such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweethomealabama. Pentatonics aren’t the preserve of 70s rock, with acts like Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys and Rival Sons making use of the vital shapes.
“How do I turn the scale into music?”
Think about creative approaches. Try playing two notes at the same time, or have a go at messing with the timing of the scale notes to inject space and rhythm into your ideas. Or, try ‘skipping’ over a string or playing longer runs up and down through the scale. Have a look at our tab examples, which explore these ideas.
“The tab’s great, but does the scale work over any chord progression?”
No! The C major pentatonic scale will always sound good over a C chord or other chords made up of notes from the scale. G major pentatonic sounds great over a G chord, A major pentatonic over A, and so on.
wh atyouwi lllearn Two major pentatonic lead licks A commonly-used scale shape Creative soloing ideas