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The Major Pentatonic

Justinguitar.com on Scales

The other five note scale which is great for country and blues!

The Major Pentatonic scale is the same as the minor pentatonic but has a different root note and tonal centre. Kind of a 'mode' of the Minor Pentatonic if you like. It is most used in country, rock and blues. Penta is a prefix for five and tonic is note, therefore the name tells us it is a five note scale.

Even though it has the same visual shape as the Minor Pentatonic it is very important that you treat it differently - if you play your Minor Pentatonic licks over the major chords it will mostly sound naff, more about that in Why and How!

 

Scale Formula

The scale formula for the Major Pentatonic can be a useful thing to know if you want to work out the notes in any given Major Pentatonic scale. The formula describes the interval distances between each note of the scale.

T
T
TS
T
TS
1
2
3
4
5
1


T = Tone [whole step] • S = Semitone [half step] • TS = Tone + Semitone (minor 3rd interval)

 

Comparison With Major Scale

Scales are always compared to the Major Scale to find the intervals used.

I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
I
C Major Scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
C Major Pentatonic
C
D
E
G
A
C
Equation
1
2
3
5
6
1


The Major Pentatonic is essentially a Major Triad with the 2nd and 6th degrees of the Major scale added, giving us notes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 from the Major scale.

You could also think of it as a major scale with the 4th and 7th degrees missing. The 4th degree of any Major type scale usually sounds wrong over the root chord (so is better left out anyway) and because it has no 7th degree it fits over both Major 7 and Dom 7 chords. So I think of it as a Major Scale with the difficult notes taken out :)


Chords In The Key

There are quite specific ways to use the Major Pentatonic, most commonly over the diatonic chords (diatonic means 'chords of the key'). It's also used sometimes as a kind of 'extended arpeggio' which we'll look at more in the next lesson!

I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
I
C Major Pentatonic
C
D
E
G
A
C
C Major Diatonic Chords
C
Dm
Em
F
G
Am
Bm7b5
C



Further Reading

To understand the Scales and how to use them properly you will get great benefit from a solid grounding in basic music theory like you'll get in my ebook Practical Music Theory. You'll learn all the rules that the Minor Pentatonic breaks :)

Practical Music Theory

Practical Music Theory (eBook)
In this ebook I explain music theory in a practical way for guitar players! You'll learn all the essential concepts, the major scale, chord construction, keys, intervals and lots more, with worksheets for most concepts. If you always wanted to understand basic music theory but found it too complicated, this is for you. Check out the rave reviews on the forum, it's all the important stuff in a clear and easy to understand method that works!

Available on the Justinguitar website.

 


Lesson ID: SC-401