The Dominant Pentatonic Scale - Guitar Lesson with Diagrams and Charts

What is The Dominant Pentatonic Scale?

The Dominant pentatonic scale contains the four notes of a dominant 7 chord (1-3-5-b7) with a supplementary note, the second (2) which is actually the ninth (9). The formula is : tonic (1), second/ninth (2/9), third (3), fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7), making this scale a dominant 9th arpeggio (1 3 5 b7 9). 

G dominant pentatonic scale G A B D F
Formula 1 2 (9) 3 5 b7


Notice that there are two versions of the dominant pentatonic scale (also called Mixolydian pentatonic), one with a major second (2) and one with a perfect fourth (4). This lesson is about the one with the major second. Check the page about the Mixolydian pentatonic scale to learn the one that includes the perfect fourth.


Comparison With The Mixolydian Mode

The dominant pentatonic scale is a modal pentatonic scale created by removing two notes from the Mixolydian mode. The two notes removed are the fourth (4) and the sixth (6). This scale is an interesting choice for improvising over a dominant chord when you want to highlight the 9.

Mixolydian mode 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Dominant pentatonic scale 1 2 3 X 5 X b7
Dominant pentatonic versus mixolydian

Comparison With The Major Pentatonic Scale

It is important not to confuse the dominant pentatonic scale with the major pentatonic scale which has a major sixth (6) instead of a minor seventh (b7), that is therefore used to be play over major chords.

Major pentatonic scale 1 2 3 5 6
Dominant pentatonic scale 1 2 3 5 b7
Dominant pentatonic versus major pentatonic

Dominant Pentatonic Scale Guitar Positions - One Octave Shapes

This how the dominant pentatonic scale look like on the guitar neck. You can see four shapes with notes within the space of one octave.

Mixolydian pentatonic scale guitar

Dominant Pentatonic Scale Guitar Positions - Two Octave Shapes

The following guitar diagrams show how to play the dominant pentatonic scale within the space of two octaves.

Dominant pentatonic scale shapes guitar

Dominant Pentatonic Scale Guitar Positions - Five Positions

This chart show how to play the five positions of the dominant pentatonic scale in order to cover the whole guitar neck.


Dominant pentatonic scale guitar shapes

Dominant Pentatonic Scale as Tritone Susbtitution

An interesting way to use the dominant pentatonic scale is to play it starting from the b5 of a dominant chord. In other words, on the V7 you can play the dominant 7th pentatonic scale a tritone (three whole tones) away. This is what we call the tritone substitution. For example, for G7 use Db7 pentatonic (Db-Eb-F-Ab-B). This way you will highlight some altered notes as the #11 (b5), b13 and b9.

Db7 dominant pentatonic against the G7 chord

Db7 dominant pentonic scale Db Eb F Ab B
G7 chord #11 b13 b7 b9 3



This lick is taken from the PDF eBook 25 Pentatonic Jazz Guitar Licks.

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Last edited: 2023-10-17


  • Kevin eubanks
    • 1. Kevin eubanks On 2023-10-16
    Hello there, thanks for the information. Just one question, what's the difference with mixolydian pentatonic?
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2023-10-16
      Hello, Dominant penta is 1 2 3 5 b7. Mixolydian penta is 1 3 4 5 b7 also referred to as Indian pentatonic scale.
  • Marquis
    • 2. Marquis On 2021-10-13
    Hello. I see other sites mention dom pentatonic as 1 3 4 5 b7 where as here it is listed as 1 2 3 5 b7? Can u explain please?
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2021-10-14
      Hello, There are two versions of dominant pentatonic scale, one with the 2 (9) and one with the 4 (11). You can also see it as a 7th arpeggio (1 - 3 - 5 - b7) with an added 2(9) or 4 (11).

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