If you want to play lead blues guitar, learning the minor pentatonic scale is the best place to start. The minor pentatonic scale is by far the most commonly occurring scale in blues and blues rock music. It has been used to craft a huge number of famous riffs and guitar solos, and was – and continues to be – used extensively by some of the most notable blues and blues rock guitarists of all time.
Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Jimmy Page, Albert King, Peter Green and Jimi Hendrix are just some of the many, many guitarists whose playing is based around the minor pentatonic scale.
As such, if you want to recreate the approach of these guitarists and play lead guitar in a blues or blues rock style, the minor pentatonic scale will be integral to your playing.
By the end of this course, you will know how to play all 5 shapes of the minor pentatonic scale in the key of A. You will have methods for practicing the scale shapes, and you will also understand how they fit together and connect across your fretboard. This will prepare you to start using the minor pentatonic scale to craft beautiful blues and blues rock solos.
Before we dig into the scale in a bit more detail and start to look at its specific shapes, let’s first look at its structure:
The minor pentatonic scale
The minor pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale (the word penta being derived from the Greek word for 5), and there are 5 different shapes of the scale – each one built from one of those 5 notes.
The notes of the scale are taken from the natural minor scale, which is a 7 note scale. So the minor pentatonic scale contains notes from the natural minor scale, but it contains only 5, rather than 7 notes.
You don’t need to worry too much about the natural minor scale for now. This is a scale that you will encounter a little later on in your blues guitar playing journey. However at this stage it is useful to appreciate that the minor pentatonic scale is closely related to the natural minor scale.
The intervals that are contained with the minor pentatonic scale are as follows:
1 b3 4 5 b7
Again, you don’t need to worry too much about these intervals for now. They are simply a musical way of expressing the distances between the notes in the scale.
However as you become a little more advanced, you will encounter intervals more frequently. And so it is good to get accustomed to them early on. If you would like a little more information on them at this stage, I would recommend reading my article entitled: An Introduction To Intervals For Guitar Players. I run through exactly what intervals are and cover them in great detail.
For now though, the first step to learning the minor pentatonic scale is to get fully comfortable with the shapes of the scale. This will help you to start using the scale in your playing, and begin your journey into the world of lead blues guitar.
So without further ado, let’s get into it. Here are the 5 shapes of the minor pentatonic scale: