The pentatonic scale, which means “five note scale,” is a melodic device that’s been the source for some of the greatest riffs and guitar solos in recorded history.
Because of this, you might know how important it is that you master this 5-note scale.
What you may not know, is that there are many variations of this scale beyond minor and major pentatonic scales.
This lesson teaches you how to play 14 different pentatonic scales, apply patterns to these scales, and how to use them in your guitar solos.
By working on these pentatonic scales, you expand your vocabulary, increase your knowledge, and explore the possibilities that these scales bring to your guitar solos.
Pentatonic Scale Quick Facts
Contents – Click to Jump to Each Section
Major Mode Pentatonic Scales
- Major Mode Pentatonic Scales Intro
- Major Pentatonic Scale
- Dorian Pentatonic Scale
- Phrygian Pentatonic Scale
- Lydian Pentatonic Scale
- Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale
- Minor Pentatonic Scale
- Locrian Pentatonic Scale
Melodic Minor Mode Pentatonic Scales
- Melodic Minor Pentatonic Scales Intro
- mMaj7 Pentatonic Scale
- Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale
- 7#11 Pentatonic Scale
- 7b13 Pentatonic Scale
- m9b5 Pentatonic Scale
Other Pentatonic Scales
What is a Pentatonic Scale?
Though this might be old hat to some, you might be surprised to know that there is more than one pentatonic scale.
For many guitarists, the minor pentatonic, or “the pentatonic scale,” is the first scale you learned to play on guitar.
Then, things ended as far as your exploration of pentatonics on guitar.
There’s a lot more to explore with these scales once you move past the minor and major classics that many players know and love. To begin, let’s get a pentatonic scale definition.
A pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale that outlines a particular chord, key, or mode sound when used in a solo.
Even the first part of that statement is all you need to know for now, pentatonics are 5-note scales.
As you’ll see in this lesson, you can use any 5 notes to create a pentatonic scale.
But, the most popular versions are directly related to common jazz guitar modes and chords.
Now, here’s where things get a tricky.
Because you can use any 5 notes to create a pentatonic scale, there are several versions of every scale in this lesson. T
he two exceptions are major and minor pentatonics, which are set in stone.
Each pentatonic version in this guide has been chosen for two reasons.
- They’re directly related to the the chord that you apply them to in your solos.
- They’re built by altering one note of another pentatonic scale, mostly the minor and major.
This keeps things organized when learning pentatonics in the woodshed.
So, after you’ve learned the scales in this lesson, come up with other versions of these pentatonics of your own.
This helps you expand upon the concepts in this lesson, and find 5-note scales of your own to use when soloing.
How to Use This Pentatonic Scale Guide
For each pentatonic that you learn, there are four sections to study.
To help you know what to expect in each section, and get the most out of your practice time, here’s a breakdown of these sections.
If you’re new to pentatonics, skip down the to the minor pentatonic lesson and start there.
From there, return to the Dorian pentatonic and work your way down the scales in the order presented.
If you’re more experienced with pentatonics, skip to specific scales that you want to add to your vocabulary at this point and time.
1. Pentatonic Scale Construction
In this first section, you’ll learn two ways to build every pentatonic.
- Compared to a mode of the major, harmonic minor, melodic minor, or harmonic major.
- Compared to a previously learned scale, mostly minor and major pentatonics.
The only exceptions are major and minor pentatonic, which are the fundamental versions that other scales are built from.
2. Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Here, you’ll learn two fingerings for each scale, one from the 6th and one from the 5th-string.
Up until now, you probably learned 5 box patterns for major and minor pentatonic scales.
While box patterns are helpful, after working these scales for 20 years, I’ve found it’s best to start with two shapes and build from there.
These two shapes cover a large part of the fretboard, and narrow down your options when soloing.
Sometimes you spend more time thinking about which box pattern to play than actually playing.
As well, most players learn all 5 boxes and then settle on a few that they prefer to use in their solos.
If you want to learn the box patterns; check out these excellent lessons on the major pentatonic box patterns and minor pentatonic box patterns.
3. Pentatonic Scale Patterns
In this section, you learn one essential scale pattern for each of the 14 pentatonics in this lesson.
While there’s only one pattern per scale, you can expand them by using the pattern from scale A over scale B.
To keep things simple, each scale gets one pattern, but any pattern can be applied to any scale in this lesson.
When working on these patterns, memorize the shapes, and then work them with a metronome to build your technique.
As well, use the backing tracks to work these scale patterns in a guitar soloing situation.
4. Pentatonic Scale Licks
To finish up your studies of each scale, there’s a lick you can learn and add to your soloing vocabulary.
Each lick is used over a common guitar chord progression and features the most popular application of that scale.
Advanced players will want to learn these licks in multiple keys.
How to Practice Pentatonic Scales
When working on any pentatonic scale, you might be tempted to memorize one shape, try it over a jam track and move on.
This can cause problems with memorization and application down the road.
To help you get the most out of your time working these scales, here’s a guitar practice routine to use with any pentatonic scale.
- Learn one shape.
- Memorize that shape and solo with it over the jam track.
- Move that shape to other keys.
- Apply the scale pattern.
- Solo with the scale pattern.
- Learn the lick for that scale.
- Add the lick to your solos.
- Repeat each exercise with the second fingering.
As you can see, this is an extensive approach to learning pentatonic scales.
Approaching your practice in this way ensures that you get the most out of your time in the practice room.
As well, if you can work these exercises from memory, you’ll never forget a pentatonic scale that you learn.
Use this routine with the first pentatonic scale and see how it goes.
Major Mode Pentatonic Scales
When studying the major scale system, you can build pentatonic scales for each mode of the major scale.
As you learn how to play Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc., you can learn a pentatonic scale for each of those 7 modes.
As is the case with any pentatonic, there are several ways to build and play pentatonics that correspond to the major scale modes.
Because there are a number of options, you’ll learn pentatonics that:
- Outline the color notes for each mode.
- Maintain as many chord tones as possible.
- Alter one note of the major or minor pentatonic.
By working on the major mode pentatonics in this manner, you’re able to:
- Keep the characteristic sound of each mode.
- Outline the chord in your solos using chord tones.
- Learn new scales quickly.
Lastly, as is the case with major modes, you use each of these pentatonics to solo over specific chords .
As you use Dorian to solo over m7 chords, you use the Dorian pentatonic to solo over those same m7 chords.
This gives you a second choice scale when soloing over chord progressions, as compared to only using 7-note modes.
Major Pentatonic Scale
The first scale in this system is the major pentatonic, which is used to solo over both major and dominant family chords.
Major pentatonics are essential learning for guitarists in any genre, and they’re used to create many of the other pentatonics in this lesson.
Because of this, it’s important to have a strong understanding of major pentatonic, how it’s built, how to play it, and how to solo with it, before moving on to other pentatonics.
To begin your study of this important scale, learn how this scale is built, and how it relates to not only major and Mixolydian scales.
Major Pentatonic Scale Construction
One of the two fundamental pentatonics, the major pentatonic is used to create a number of other scales by altering one note in this essential shape.
As it’s related to Ionian, otherwise known as the major scale, the major pentatonic contains five intervals from that major mode.
Here’s the interval structure for Ionian and major pentatonic to use as a comparison.
- Major Scale – R 2 3 4 5 6 7
- Major Pentatonic – R 2 3 5 6
As you can see, the major pentatonic is built by leaving out the 4th and 7th of the major scale.
Again, because it’s related to the major scale, the major pentatonic is used to solo over major family chords such as:
As well, this is one of the few pentatonics that’s used to solo over two families of chords.
When you compare the major pentatonic to Mixolydian, you see that it shares 5 notes with the 5th mode of the major scale.
- Mixolydian – R 2 3 4 5 6 b7
- Major Pentatonic – R 2 3 5 6
Since it contains 5 notes from Mixolydian, you can also use the major pentatonic to solo over dominant family chords, such as:
Because there’s no 7th in the major pentatonic, it’s not clear which chord family, major or dominant, it comes from.
Therefore, you can use it to solo over both chord families.
Major Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Now that you know how to build a major pentatonic, you can take this scale to the fretboard.
Below are two fingerings for A major pentatonic that you can learn and apply to your guitar solos.
Make sure to learn these scales in the given key, and then when you’re ready, take them to other keys around the fretboard.
To help you practice these shapes in your guitar solos, here’s an Amaj7 backing track.
Once you can play either of these scale shapes, solo over the Amaj7 chord with the A major pentatonic scale.
This helps you work on your soloing chops and you internalize these scale shapes in a fun and creative exercise.
Here are two positions of A major pentatonic, one from the 5th and one from the 6th string to study in your practice routine.
Major Pentatonic Scale Pattern
The pattern is built by playing the first note, then skip the second note to play the third note, then repeat that process from the 2nd note of the scale.
Start by using a metronome and go slow with this pattern.
Once it’s comfortable, add this pattern to your solos to hear how it sounds in an improvisational setting.
Major Pentatonic Scale Lick
Here’s a lick that you can learn over a major ii V I progression in G.
In this phrase, the G major pentatonic is used to outline the Gmaj7 chord in the 3rd bar of the phrase. After you’ve learned this lick, put on a backing track and practice adding this line to your guitar solos.
Dorian Pentatonic Scale
As it’s related to 2nd major mode, Dorian pentatonic is used to solo over m7 chords when you want to highlight the natural 6th.
This interval, the 6th, over a m7 chord is often used in jazz and fusion, and over certain minor chords in rock and other genres.
As you learn these fingerings, jam over the backing tracks to hear this scale in action, especially compared to the minor pentatonic scale.
Though it has a different quality than the minor pentatonic, the Dorian pentatonic adds a new color to your minor key soloing palette.
Dorian Pentatonic Scale Construction
There are two ways to build and think about the Dorian pentatonic.
The first is to think of it as Dorian with the 2nd and 7th notes removed.
Here’s how that looks from an interval perspective.
- Dorian – R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
- Dorian Pent – R b3 4 5 6
For A Dorian and A Dorian pentatonic the notes are:
- A Dorian – A B C D E F# G
- A Dorian Pent – A C D E F#
The second way to build the Dorian pentatonic is to lower one note from the minor pentatonic.
If you lower the b7 of a minor pentatonic by one fret you build the Dorian pentatonic.
This makes it easier to visualize, build, and solo with this new scale, as you’re comparing it to a scale you already know.
Here are these two scales back to back to compare their sounds and shapes on the fretboard.
Dorian Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Now it’s time to take this knowledge to the fretboard.
Once you’ve learned these Dorian pentatonic fingerings, jam over the Am7 chord to apply these shapes to your guitar solos.
Here are two fingerings, one from the 6th and one from the 5th string.
Dorian Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any Dorian pentatonic to internalize this scale and build your chops at the same time.
The pattern is built by playing the 3rd note down to the first note, then the 4th note down to the 2nd note and so on.
Go slow with this pattern, work it with a metronome, and then add it to your solos when you’re ready.
Dorian Pentatonic Scale Lick
Here’s a Dorian pentatonic lick over a ii V I in G. In this line, A Dorian pentatonic is used to outline Am7.
Notice how the 6th anticipates the V7 chord, as F# is the 6th of Am7 and the 3rd of D7.
After you’ve learned this line, add this Dorian pentatonic phrase to your guitar solos.
Phrygian Pentatonic Scale
The third mode of the major scale creates an interesting pentatonic scale when you pair it down, the Phrygian pentatonic.
With a b2 and no 3rd, this scale can be ambiguous when applied to your solos.
As well, it has a chameleon-like nature to it, as it’s a minor-family pentatonic, and can be used to solo over minor chords.
But, it also sounds great when used over dominant chords.
Though it’s not as popular as other pentatonics, the Phrygian pentatonic will open new doors in your playing.
Definitely worth spending some time with this scale in the practice room.
Phrygian Pentatonic Scale Construction
Based on the Phrygian scale, this pentatonic is built by comparing it to its related major mode.
When doing so, you leave out the 3rd and 6th notes of Phrygian to produce the new pentatonic.
Here are those two interval patterns for comparison.
- Phrygian – R b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
- Phrygian Pent – R b2 4 5 b7
As well, here are the notes in A Phrygian compared to the notes in A Phrygian pentatonic.
- A Phrygian – A Bb C D E F G
- A Phrygian Pent – A Bb D E G
Besides comparing this scale to its related major mode, you can alter one note from the minor pentatonic to create the Phrygian pentatonic.
You can lower the b3 of any minor pentatonic by 2 frets to form the Phrygian pentatonic.
You can see these two scales back to back below for a quick comparison.
After you’ve listened to the example, play them on the fretboard to hear how they sound side-by-side.
The most obvious application is over minor-family chords, such as minor and m7.
When doing so, you bring out the b2 interval, making it sound like a Phrygian minor chord.
But, there’s also a second application for this scale, dominant chords.
When applying the Phrygian pentatonic to a dominant 7th chord, you outline a 7susb9 sound.
This might be a bit tense for some musical situations.
But, over a jazz or fusion song it sounds great.
And, it can even be used to turn a few heads in a blues tune.
As you learn the Phrygian pentatonic fingerings below, make sure to solo over both m7 and 7th chords to hear how both sound on guitar.
Phrygian Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
After you learn either fingering below, put on the A7 backing track and solo over that chord with the Phrygian pentatonic.
It’s always better to try out a scale in your home practice before taking it to a jam or gig.
Often times a scale will sound one way on it’s own and another way when applied to harmony.
This is especially the case with the Phrygian pentatonic, as you’re playing a minor-based scale over a Dominant 7th chord.
Here are two Phrygian pentatonic fingerings, one from the 6th and one from the 5th string.
Phrygian Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a scale pattern that you can use to practice each of the Phrygian pentatonic fingerings in this lesson.
The pattern is based on playing the 123 scale tones from the first note of the scale.
Then, you repeat that pattern from the rest of the scale, 234, 345, 451 etc.
Start by running this pattern with a metronome, then apply it to the A7 backing track to add it to your soloing repertoire as well.
Phrygian Pentatonic Scale Lick
In this lick, the Phrygian pentatonic is used to outline the D7 chord in a ii V I in G.
You can hear how there are chord tones, D-A-C, and a tension note, Eb, when you use this scale over a D7 chord.
After you’ve learned this line, work it in a few keys with a metronome.
Then, take it to your guitar solos as you practice using this pentatonic scale over 7th chords in your own lines.
Lydian Pentatonic Scale
In the next scale, you explore the #4 (#11) interval over major family chords.
By applying the Lydian pentatonic to your solos, you give yourself a solid secondary scale to use over any maj7, 6, maj9, etc., chords.
Though you can apply this scale to just about any major-family chord, that doesn’t mean you have to.
Navigating the #4 interval takes some time and care in your solos.
So, always practice tension notes such as this one at home before taking it out onto the bandstand to avoid any awkward moments.
Lydian Pentatonic Scale Construction
A relative of Lydian, you can use two methods to build the Lydian pentatonic.
The first method is comparing it directly to Lydian by removing the 5th and 7th notes of that scale.
When doing so, you’re left with the 5-note Lydian pentatonic.
Here are those two scales to compare.
- Lydian – R 2 3 #4 5 6 7
- Lydian Pent – R 2 3 #4 6
To see how this lays out from a note perspective, here are A Lydian and A Lydian pentatonic for comparison.
- A Lydian – A B C# D# E F# G#
- A Lydian Pent – A B C# D# F#
The other way to build Lydian pentatonic, is to lower one note of the major pentatonic.
By lowering the 5th of the major pentatonic by one fret, you wind up with a Lydian pentatonic.
Here are both of those scales back to back to see how they’re one note different, but each produce a unique sound on the guitar.
Lydian Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Below are two fingerings for this scale that you can memorize and work with your metronome in the woodshed.
To help you take these scales to your guitar solos, jam over the Amaj7 backing track once you’ve learned either fingering.
Your ears will need to get used to this new scale in order to fully integrate it into your playing.
The best way to do that is to hear the Lydian pentatonic over chords, such as Amaj7.
Start by learning each of these Lydian pentatonics on the guitar, one from the 6th and one from the 5th-string.
Once you can play A Lydian pentatonic, practice these shapes in other keys.
Make sure to use a metronome and increase the tempo to build speed and technique as you learn these shapes.
Lydian Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a scale pattern that you can use to practice each Lydian pentatonic fingering.
The pattern is built by playing up the first four notes of the scale.
Then, you repeat that pattern from the second note, third note, and so on up the scale.
When you reach the top of the fingering, you work that same pattern down the scale.
Make sure to work this pattern with a metronome, then take it to a backing track and add it to your guitar solo practice routine.
Lydian Pentatonic Scale Lick
Here’s a Lydian pentatonic lick over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I progression.
Notice that the C#, #4 interval, isn’t accented in this line.
That is an effective way to introduce your ears to this tension note in your guitar solos.
From there, put that note at the start or end of your licks to bring more focus to that tension in your playing.
Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale
Associated with the 5th mode of the major scale, the Mixolydian pentatonic is used to solo over dominant 7th chords.
Featuring the R-3-5-b7, with the 9th added in, this scale brings a sense of melodic color as compared to the 7th arpeggio in your solos.
By learning how to build, finger, and solo with the Mixolydian pentatonic, you expand your 7th chord soloing chops on the guitar.
Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale Construction
There are two ways to approach building a Mixolydian pentatonic on guitar.
Both have equal merit, so pick the one that makes the most sense for you and carry that forward in your studies.
The first is to compare the Mixolydian pentatonic to Mixolydian. By taking out the 4th and 6th notes of Mixolydian, you create a Mixolydian pentatonic.
Here’s how those two scales compare from an interval standpoint.
- Mixolydian – R 2 3 4 5 6 b7
- Mixolydian Pent – R 2 3 5 b7
And from an A root the notes for each scale are.
- A Mixolydian – A B C# D E F# G
- A Mixolydian Pent – A B C# E G
The second way to build a Mixolydian pentatonic is to alter the major pentatonic by one note.
Raising the 6th of any major pentatonic by one fret creates a Mixolydian pentatonic shape.
By approaching the Mixolydian pentatonic in this way, you’re able to add a new sound to your solos without learning a new fingering.
You adjust previous fretboard knowledge to create a new scale.
This helps you be efficient in your practice time, as well as makes it easy to switch between these two scales in your dominant 7th solos.
Here are both of those scales side by side to compare.
Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
To get you jamming over 7th chords with the Mixolydian pentatonic, you’ll learn two fingerings for this scale on guitar.
Work each scale with a metronome and make sure you can play them without looking at the diagrams after learning each one.
As well, work them from the A root, and then move them to different keys from there. After you’ve learned either fingering, put on the A7 jam track and apply the Mixolydian pentatonic scale to your guitar solos.
Here are two Mixolydian pentatonic fingerings that you can learn and use in your guitar solos over 7th chords.
Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a triplet scale pattern that you can use to build your guitar technique with the Mixolydian pentatonic.
After learning this scale pattern over the example fingering, bring it to other fingerings and keys in your practice routine.
Lastly, make sure to add this pattern to your solos to build your soloing repertoire and chops at the same time.
Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale Lick
You’re now ready to study applying the Mixolydian pentatonic to popular chord progressions.
In this lick, you use the Mixolydian pentatonic to outline each chord in the first four bars of a Bb jazz blues progression.
Learn this lick in the given key, and then add it to your jazz blues solos as you expand upon it in your solos.
Minor Pentatonic Scale
You’re now going to learn how to play the most popular, and most important, 5-note scale, the minor pentatonic scale.
This scale is found in all genres of popular music, and is often the first scale that guitarists learn.
While this scale is learned early and used often, that doesn’t mean it’s any less important than other pentatonics.
Used to solo over almost every possible chord in popular music, the minor pentatonic is the most versatile scale you’ll ever learn.
If you’re new to pentatonic scales, make sure to spend the time to fully understand and get this scale under your fingers.
When you’re ready, take that strong foundation to the other pentatonic scales in this lesson.
It’s an oldie, but a goodie, so time to dig into learning about the minor pentatonic scale in your studies.
Minor Pentatonic Scale Construction
As this is the fundamental minor pentatonic scale, you can compare it to the natural minor scale from an interval standpoint.
When doing so, you remove the 2nd and 6th notes from Aeolian to create the minor pentatonic.
Here’s how both of those scales look as a comparison.
- Natural Minor – R 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
- Minor Pentatonic – R b3 4 5 b7
Because you use the minor pentatonic to build all of the other minor-based pentatonics, make sure you memorize the interval pattern of this scale.
This makes it easier to lower or raise one note at a time to create other minor sounding pentatonic scales in your playing.
Minor Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Now that you can alter natural minor to build the minor pentatonic on paper, you want to take that information onto the guitar.
Start with the A minor pentatonic on the 6th string before moving onto the 5th-string shape.
Because this scale is used so often, make sure to memorize each shape, work them with a metronome, and take them to other keys.
After you can play either shape below, put on the Am7 backing track and solo over that chord in your practice routine.
Here are both the 6th and 5th-string minor pentatonic fingerings to learn and use in your guitar solos.
Minor Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a popular jazz pattern that you can use to expand your guitar chops.
The pattern is built by playing two notes on the “left” side of the scale, followed by two notes on the “right” side of the scale.
After you’ve learned this pattern over the 6-string shape, take it to the 5 string with a metronome.
From there, work this pattern in other keys, and jam with it over the Am7 backing track in your studies.
Minor Pentatonic Scale Lick
To sum up your intro to the minor pentatonic scale, here’s a lick that you can learn and add to your solos.
In this phrase, A minor pentatonic outlines the Am7, iim7, chord in a ii V I progression in G.
As well, the pattern used in that bar is a classic jazz line. So, feel free to take that pattern out of the lick and into your practice routine to study it further.
Locrian Pentatonic Scale
Used to solo over m7b5 chords, the Locrian pentatonic scale expands your minor key guitar solos.
Coming out of Locrian, and being closely related to the minor pentatonic shape, this scale is easy to play.
As well, it perfectly outlines the m7b5 chord, making it an easy to finger shape that you can use in your minor key solos.
If you’re struggling with soloing over minor ii V I chords, check out the Locrian pentatonic.
It expands your fretboard knowledge, and makes it easier to solo in minor keys at the same time.
Locrian Pentatonic Scale Construction
There are two ways that you can think of the interval pattern for the Locrian pentatonic.
The first is to compare it to the 7th mode of the major scale.
By removing the 2nd and 6th notes of the Locrian scale, you produce the interval pattern for the Locrian pentatonic.
Here’s how those two scales compare.
- Locrian – R b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
- Locrian Pent – R b3 4 b5 b7
You can also build the Locrian pentatonic by altering one note in the minor pentatonic.
By lowering the 5th of the minor pentatonic by one fret, you build a Locrian pentatonic scale shape.
Here’s how those two scales look and sound to see how that works on the fretboard.
Locrian Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Here are two Locrian pentatonic shapes that you can learn and work around the guitar.
To help you begin soloing with these fingerings, here’s an Am7b5 backing track to use in the practice room.
Begin by learning the 6th-string shape below, and then solo with that shape over the jam track.
Repeat that process when you’re comfortable with the 5th-string shape.
Here are both the 6th and 5th-string fingerings to take onto the guitar and bring to your m7b5 lines.
Locrian Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a Locrian pentatonic pattern that you can work out on the fretboard. Play it with the fingering below, before taking it to the 5th-string shape.
After you can play it from memory, put on the Am7b5 backing track and add it to your guitar solos.
Locrian Pentatonic Scale Lick
One of the most popular chord progressions featuring a m7b5 chord is the minor ii V I.
In this phrase, you’ll outline the iim7b5 chord in a iim7b5 V7alt Im7 chord progression with this scale.
Notice how the half steps between E and F, 4 and b5, outline the m7b5 sound.
Learn the line as is, then when you’re ready bring it to your minor key solos to take this lick further in your playing.
Melodic Minor Pentatonic Scales
Now that you’ve worked on the 7 pentatonic scales from the major scale, you can learn 5 pentatonic scales from the melodic minor scale system.
In this section, you’ll learn how to play pentatonic scales related to the first, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th modes of melodic minor.
These pentatonic scales provide you with a number of new chord colors, including 7#11, m9b5, and maj7#5.
Often times these tense scales will be tough to work out in the beginning.
mMaj7 Pentatonic Scale
The first melodic minor pentatonic you’ll learn is the mMaj7 pentatonic scale.
This scale is used to solo over minor family chords, such as m7, m6, and mMaj7 chords. When doing so, you create tension with the major 7 interval over those chords.
Though it can be a bit tense compared to other minor-based pentatonics, the mMaj7 pentatonic scale is essential for any jazz or fusion guitarist.
mMaj7 Pentatonic Scale Construction
There are two ways to think about the mMaj7 pentatonic scale from an interval and fingering standpoint.
The first is to think of this scale as being the melodic minor scale with the 2nd and 6th notes removed.
Here’s how the interval pattern for both scales compares.
- Melodic Minor – R 2 b3 4 5 6 7
- mMaj7 Pentatonic – R b3 4 5 7
As well, you can take any minor pentatonic shape, raise the 7th by one fret, and you’ve built a mMaj7 pentatonic.
Here’s how those two scales look on the fretboard.
To dig into these scales further, put on the Am7 backing track and move between minor and mMaj7 pentatonics in your routine.
mMaj7 Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Check out these two fingerings, as you expand your knowledge of the mMaj7 pentatonic in the practice room.
As always, as soon as you can play these shapes from memory, put on the backing track and apply that shape to your solos.
To begin, learn the 6th-string shape followed by the 5th string shape.
Make sure that you can play both from memory, as well as apply them to the Am7 jam track.
mMaj7 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can use to expand your technique and add to your soloing repertoire.
Work this pattern with a metronome as well as with the Am7 backing to get a balanced workout.
mMaj7 Pentatonic Scale Lick
In this example, you learn a ii V I lick where the AmMaj7 pentatonic is used to outline the iim7 chord.
Notice that the major 7 interval, G#, is used as a neighbor tone.
This way, you bring that note into your playing, but don’t emphasize it to avoid tension in your lines.
Check this lick out in the given key, and then for an extra challenge, move it to other keys around the fretboard.
Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale
Based on the 3rd mode of melodic minor, the maj7#5 pentatonic is used to solo over major-family chords.
The #5 is a tough interval to navigate over maj7 chords, which are usually used as resolution points.
Because the #5 creates tension, you have to resolve that tension to properly use this scale in your solos.
This can take time, but once you get it down, this new scale adds a cool, secondary color to your maj7 solos.
Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale Construction
You can break down the maj7#5 pentatonic scale from two angles.
The first is to relate it to Lydian augmented, the 3rd mode of melodic minor.
When doing so, you remove the 4th and 7th notes of Lydian augmented to form the maj7#5 pentatonic.
Here’s how those two scales compare from an interval perspective.
- Lydian Augmented – R 2 3 #4 #5 6 7
- Maj7#5 Pentatonic – R 2 3 #5 6
The second way is to compare it to the major pentatonic shape. By raising the 5th of any major pentatonic shape, you create a maj7#5 pentatonic fingering.
Here’s how those two scales compare on the fretboard.
Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Learning to play this scale in two positions helps you expand your fretboard knowledge, as well as brings this scale to your solos.
Here are two maj7#5 pentatonic scale fingerings that you can learn and use in your guitar solos.
This scale sounds great, but it can be a bit awkward to finger.
So, take your time with each shape, and try a few fingerings to find the right one for you.
Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
This four-note pattern is an effective device for building chops and soloing lines in your playing.
While the scale fingering may be a bit awkward at first, this pattern sits nicely on the fretboard.
This makes it the ideal candidate to work on speed in your practice routine.
Work this pattern over both shapes with the metronome at first.
Then, take it to the backing track to get a sense of how this pattern fits into your improvising.
Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale Lick
This ii V I lick in G uses the maj7#5 pentatonic to bring tension and release to the Imaj7 chord.
To apply this scale to tonic chords, you need to resolve the #5 to avoid having it sound like a mistake.
This line shows you how to do that.
After you can play this lick, put on a ii-V-I backing track and play the lick once, then solo over the chords once.
As you solo, add the maj7#5 pentatonic into your lines.
7#11 Pentatonic Scale
If you’ve ever studied jazz guitar, you know that Lydian dominant is one of the most popular sounds when soloing over 7th chords.
But, did you know that you can build a pentatonic version of this scale?
The 7#11 pentatonic is related to Lydian dominant in both interval structure and application.
If you’re looking to spice up your dominant 7th lines, look no further; this scale is exactly what you want.
7#11 Pentatonic Scale Construction
There are two ways to work out the 7#11 pentatonic.
The first is to compare it to the Lydian dominant scale.
To do this, you remove the 5th and 6th notes to form the 7#11 pentatonic.
Here’s how that comparison looks between both scales.
- Lydian Dominant – R 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
- 7#11 Pentatonic – R 2 3 #4 b7
The second way is to lower the 5th of the Mixolydian pentatonic scale by one fret.
Here’s how that comparison looks on the fretboard.
7#11 Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
To help you learn to the 7#11 pentatonic scale, here are two shapes to study from a technical and improvisational standpoint.
Start with a metronome, and then when comfortable, put on the backing track and jam with each 7#11 pentatonic shape.
Here are two fingerings for the 7#11 pentatonic to learn, one from the 5th and one from the 6th string.
When working these shapes, make sure to take them to the backing track to help your ears become used to the #11 interval.
7#11 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
This descending pattern helps you play the 7#11 pentatonic around the fretboard, and builds your technique with the same exercise.
Work the pattern slowly at first through both fingerings.
Then, when ready, put on the A7 backing track and add this pattern to your 7#11 pentatonic lines.
7#11 Pentatonic Scale Lick
One of the most common tunes that uses dominant 7th chords is the 12-bar blues.
Here’s a lick played over the first four bars to a Bb blues.
You’ll notice that the #11 creates tension over these chords.
But, it’s not too much that you can’t use it in your lines over a traditional blues.
It might turn a few heads, but hopefully if you resolve that tension, in a good way.
7b13 Pentatonic Scale
The next pentatonic is used to solo over dominant chords, but here, you bring a b13 sound to 7th chords in your solos.
The 7b13 pentatonic scale has a wide stretch in it, between the 3rd and #5 (b13) in either fingering.
So, make sure you work on that stretch, as it can often mean the difference between success and struggling to take this scale into your solos.
7b13 Pentatonic Scale Construction
There are two ways to think about this scale, the first being compared to Mixolydian b13, the 5th mode of melodic minor.
When doing so, you remove the 4th and 5th notes to form the 7b13 pentatonic on guitar.
Here’s the interval structure for both scales to use as a comparison.
- Mixolydian b13 – R 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
- 7b13 Pentatonic – R 2 3 b6 b7
The second way is to raise the 5th of the Mixolydian pentatonic scale.
Here’s how those two scales line up to hear how they’re related, yet sound different from an audible standpoint.
7b13 Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Now that you know how to build this scale, you can take the 7b13 pentatonic onto the guitar.
When doing so, watch that stretch, it’s tough to nail down.
Go slow, use a metronome, and when ready, apply this scale to the backing track to hear how it sits over 7th chords.
Here are the two 7b13 pentatonics to learn and take to your soloing practice.
7b13 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
This pattern uses a modern-sounding interval collection to test your picking hand.
There is a lot of note skipping in this pattern.
Because of this, go slow, use a metronome, and focus on your picking hand as much as your fretting hand with this pattern.
7b13 Pentatonic Scale Lick
This lick uses the 7b13 pentatonic to outline the V7 chord in a major ii V I progression.
As with any melodic minor based pentatonic, you can hear the tension created with the 7b13 pentatonic.
That tension note, Bb, is resolved down to A, and then to the root of the next chord, G.
When you explore this scale in your soloing, focus on using that tension note, but also resolving it at the same time.
m9b5 Pentatonic Scale
To finish your study of melodic minor pentatonic scales, you’ll learn the m9b5 pentatonic.
This scale is used to solo over m7b5 chords, which are commonly found as im7b5 chords in minor ii V I’s.
When adding this scale to your solos, you bring a 9th color to that chord, causing tension along the way.
Because this scale uses tension, it’s not as common as the Locrian pentatonic you learned earlier.
It adds a nice secondary color to your half-diminished solos.
m9b5 Pentatonic Scale Construction
Related to both Locrian pentatonic and Locrian #9 scales, the m9b5 pentatonic is a great way to outline m7b5 chords in your solos.
As was mentioned, there are two ways to think about this scale.
The first way is to compare it to the 6th mode of the melodic minor scale, the Locrian #9 scale.
When doing so, you remove the 4th and 6th notes of Locrian #9 to form the m9b5 pentatonic.
Here are those two scales side by side to look at.
- Locrian #9 – R 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
- m9b5 Pent – R 2 b3 b5 b7
The second way is to compare it to the Locrian pentatonic.
By moving the 4th down to the 2nd of the scale, you turn a Locrian pentatonic into a m9b5 pentatonic. Here’s how those two scales look for a comparison.
This helps you learn the similarities and differences between these two scales in an improvisational setting.
m9b5 Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
You can now take the m7b5 scale to the fretboard. As you learn each of these fingerings, run them on their own and over the backing track in your soloing studies.
Here are two m9b5 pentatonic shapes that you can learn from both a technical and improvisational standpoint.
m9b5 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
This m9b5 pentatonic pattern uses triplets to run up and down the scale.
This pattern was a favorite of John Coltrane, who used it with both pentatonic scales and jazz arpeggios.
Make sure to use a metronome and start slow with this pattern.
When running this many triplets in a row, you’ll have the tendency to rush.
Going slow and using a metronome, set to triplets if you can, is the best way to prevent rushing.
m9b5 Pentatonic Scale Lick
Here’s a minor ii V I lick that you can learn using the m9b5 pentatonic over the iim7b5 chord.
Notice that the 9th is treated as a lower neighbor tone.
This allows you to use that note, create tension, but not emphasize the natural 9th too much in your solos.
Other Pentatonic Scales
To complete your study of pentatonic scales, you’ll look at two altered dominant scales, one from harmonic major and one from harmonic minor.
Both of these scales add new colors to your 7th-chord solos, and both are essential for any jazz or fusion guitarist.
7b9 Pentatonic Scale
The first altered dominant scale is the 7b9 pentatonic scale.
As the name suggests, playing this scale over any dominant-family chord brings a b9 sound to your lines.
This sound can create a bit of, but not too much, tension in your solos.
Therefore, it’s a great place to start when getting used to adding altered 9ths to your jazz guitar solos over standards.
7b9 Pentatonic Scale Construction
With the 7b9 pentatonic scale, you can approach it two ways in the woodshed.
The first is to think of this scale as the 5th mode of harmonic major.
When doing so, you remove the 4th and 6th notes to create the 5-note version.
Here are the interval structures for both scales as a comparison.
- 5th Mode HM – R b2 3 4 5 6 b7
- 7b9 Pentatonic – R b2 3 5 b7
You can also think of this scale as a Mixolydian pentatonic with the 2nd note lowered by one fret.
Here’s how those two scales look and sound to compare them on the guitar.
This helps your ears become used to the new sound, and helps you visualize both in a soloing situation.
7b9 Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
You’re now ready to take the 7b9 pentatonic onto the fretboard. Don’t forget to put on the backing track and solo with these shapes as you learn them on the guitar.
Here are two 7b9 pentatonic fingerings to memorize, practice with the scale pattern below, and run in your soloing practice routine.
7b9 Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a scale pattern that you can use with the 7b9 pentatonic.
Because the fingerings for this scale is a bit awkward, use a metronome and begin at a slow tempo when first tackling this pattern.
From there, raise the tempo and take this pattern to your soloing practice as well.
7b9 Pentatonic Scale Lick
In this lick, you apply the scale to the first four bars of a Bb blues.
Though you normally stay inside over the first four bars of a blues, adding this scale to your lines creates excitement and intensity in your solos.
Give it a try and see what your ears think about this 7b9 pentatonic application.
Phrygian Dominant Pentatonic Scale
To finish your studies of altered dominant pentatonic scales, you’ll learn the Phrygian dominant pentatonic.
This scale works great over V7alt chords, as well as over 7th chords when you want to bring a 7b9,b13 sound to your solos.
Because it has two tension notes, the b9 and b13, you need to take care and resolve this scale in your lines.
If you don’t resolve this scale, it sounds like a mistake.
If you do resolve, it sounds like a very hip line.
Go for the hip line option every time.
Phrygian Dominant Pentatonic Scale Construction
To begin your studies of this scale, you’ll learn two ways to build the Phrygian dominant pentatonic from a theory standpoint.
The first is to leave out the 4th and 5th notes of Phrygian dominant, the 5th mode of harmonic minor.
Here’s how those scale compare from an interval standpoint.
- Phrygian Dominant – R b2 3 4 5 b6 b7
- Phryg Dom Pentatonic – R b2 3 b6 b7
The second way is to raise the 5th from the 7b9 pentatonic scale by one fret.
Here’s how both of those scales look on the fretboard to compare.
Phrygian Dominant Pentatonic Scale Fingerings
Moving beyond the theory, you’re ready to move that theory onto the fretboard.
To do so, you’ll learn two shapes for Phrygian dominant, one from the 6th and one from the 5th-string.
After you learn either fingering, put on the A7 jam track to hear how this scale sounds when applied to harmony.
Here are two fingerings for the Phrygian dominant pentatonic that you can apply to both your technical and improvisational practice routine.
Phrygian Dominant Pentatonic Scale Pattern
Here’s a simple, yet effective, pattern that you can use to build your chops over this scale.
Make sure to run this pattern with a metronome and over backing tracks to get the most out of your time in the practice room.
Phrygian Dominant Pentatonic Scale Lick
In this lick, you use the E Phrygian dominant pentatonic to outline the V7alt in a minor key ii V I.
Notice that you’re hitting the juicy notes of that chord with this scale, the 3rd, b13, b7, and b9.
Because of this, you cause a lot of tension with this scale. So, remember to resolve that tension as you apply this scale to your minor ii V I solos.