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Pentatonic Minor Scales

Scales – Part 7

Pentatonic minor scales are extremely popular 5 note scales most commonly used in modern and classic rock, blues and jazz music. They are widely embraced by beginners and shred masters alike and are great practice scales for those learning to improvise.

The scale comprises of the black notes on a piano, and as the name suggests is made up of 5 notes from the natural minor scale. The good news is, if you have done your homework and learned the positions of the natural or pure minor scales in our previous guides then you will already know all the notes and positions that arise in the pentatonic minor.

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To create the pentatonic minor, the 2nd and 6th notes are removed from the natural minor scale to leave us with the 5 notes of the pentatonic.

This means we only have 5 positions to get to grips with and we already know all the notes they encompass.

You’ll notice below I describe the minor pentatonics as being derived from the natural minor positions 3/7 or 4/5 etc. In this am referring to the positions I have shown in our minor scale positions page which show two different ways of learning the natural minor scale in either 5 or 7 sections.

Below I have shown the pentatonic minor scale position, and then the natural minor scale positions that the pentatonics ‘hide’ in, so you can see how the 5 pentatonic notes emerge from the full minor scale.

G Pentatonic Minor Position 1

G Minor Pentatonic Position 1

This is the most popular and commonly used pentatonic shape. You can see the Gm pentatonic scale notes above hiding in the G natural minor scale below (we talked about the pattern below in our minor scale positions guide 1/5 and in our post on alternative scale fingerings).

It is easy to tell what notes are missing from the natural minor scale to form the pentatonic minor i.e A and D#.

G Natural Minor Position 1/5

Gm Alternate Position

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Here is the next one.

G Pentatonic Minor Position 2

G Minor Pentatonic Position 2

Again we can easily see notes 2 and 6 are missing from the minor scale below to form position 2 of the pentatonic above.

G Natural Minor Position 3/7 and 2/5

G Minor Position 3

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G Pentatonic Minor Position 3

G Minor Pentatonic Position 3

The 3rd minor pentatonic position is derived from the natural minor positions 4/7 or 3/5 shown below and here.

G Natural Minor 4/7

G minor Position 4

G Natural Minor 3/5

G minor 5 Part Scale Position 3

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G Pentatonic Minor Position 4

G Minor Pentatonic Position 4

Found in

G Natural Minor 6/7 or 4/5

G Minor Position 6

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And last of all

G Pentatonic Minor Position 5

G Minor Pentatonic Position 5

You can see is derived from any one of the two positions below.

G natural minor Position 7/7

G Minor Position 7

or Natural minor 5/5

G minor 5 Part Scale Position 5

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There you have it, all you have to do now, is practice these 5 pentatonic minor positions along with your natural minor positions. You should be able to switch easily between them once you’ve got the hang of it.

A good tip to get you used to playing the pentatonic shapes is to remember that in each of the 5 positions, you only have 2 notes to play on each string and those notes are either 2 or 3 semi-tones apart.

Here are the 5 pentatonic minor positions again.

Gm Pentatonic Position 1

G Minor Pentatonic Position 1

Gm Pentatonic Position 2

G Minor Pentatonic Position 2

Gm Pentatonic Position 3

G Minor Pentatonic Position 3

Gm Pentatonic Position 4

G Minor Pentatonic Position 4

Gm Pentatonic Position 5

G Minor Pentatonic Position 5

When you learn these pentatonic positions, re-affirm your knowledge of the root note positions (coloured orange).

It should only take you a day or two to learn these.

Once you’ve got these under your belt, you can easily move move on to conquer the blues scale with the minimum of effort as it is simply a minor pentatonic with an added note.

Part 8 – The Blues Scale

Other Posts of Interest

No Nonsense Guide to Scales
Guitar Chords Made Easy
Scale Runs and Exercises
Chromatic Scales and Exercises

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Posted 24.04.09

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