The Major Pentatonic Scale | Guitar Lesson & Diagrams

What's the major pentatonic scale?

As its name implies the major pentatonic scale is made up of five notes, "penta" means five and "tonic" means notes. It is built with a root (1), major second (2), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and sixth (6). It is one of the most played scales.

C major pentatonic scale C D E G A
Formula 1 2 3 5 6
Intervals W W W+H W W+H


Comparison With The Major Scale

In comparison with the first mode of the major scale (ionian mode), the major pentatonic scale has the same notes except the fourth and the seventh. 

Major pentatonic scale 1 2 3 X 5 6 X
Major scale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

What is The Relative Minor?

In jazz music the two most played pentatonic scales are the major and the minor pentatonic scales. These two scales are related, they are built with the same notes. The guitar positions are the same only the root position is different. 

As you can see the minor pentatonic scale starts on the sixth of the major pentatonic scale. A minor pentatonic is the relative minor scale of C major pentatonic. 

Major pentatonic scale and relative minor

Major Pentatonic Scale Guitar Diagrams

Major Pentatonic Scale One Octave Shapes

The four one-octave shapes show you how to play the major pentatonic scale on guitar. The diagram 1 has root notes on the sixht and fourth string.

The shape 2 have roots on the fifth and third string. The third form have roots on the fourth and second string whereas the fourth shape have roots on the G and E string.

Major pentatonic scale one octave shapes

Major Pentatonic Scale - Two Octave Shapes

These two neck diagrams show how to cover the six strings of the guitar with the major pentatonic scale. Be sure to play them in twelve keys.


Major pentatonic scale two octave shapes

Major pentatonic scale boxes

What are pentatonic boxes ?

Pentatonic scales are commonly grouped in five positions named "boxes" corresponding to the five pentatonic modes of the major pentatonic scale.

Learning these "boxes" can be useful when you want to cover all the guitar neck.


Major pentatonic scale boxes
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Last edited: 01/12/2020