Pentatonic-Scale Patterns for Guitar

The pentatonic scale is a five-note subset of the major scale that often forms the basis of the melody of jazz, blues and rock songs.

The scale can broken down into five overlapping “box patterns” — each containing all of the notes of the scale. Each pattern connects to the one after it. Linking the patterns you can play the pentatonic scale up and down the entire guitar neck.

Pentatonic Scale Patterns for Guitar
(PNG Image)

Pentatonic Scale Patterns for Guitar
(Printable PDF – US-Letter-sized)

If you're a new guitarist, you owe it to yourself to practice and learn the pentatonic-scale positions.

Practicing the pentatonic scale alone is a great way to strengthen your fret-hand, increase your agility, and improve your tone.

Learning the scale patterns will immediately improve your ability to improvise new solos, melodic hooks and to transcribe songs by ear.

Use the links above to download your pentatonic guitar scale poster. Tapping a link will trigger a prompt to download the file or open the poster in a new browser window.

Please contact us if you have questions or encounter any problems.

See below for more information about the pentatonic scales and how to use the poster.

About the Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale typically used in blues, jazz, and rock music. Since you can easily create a pleasing melody by simply walking around on the scale, solos and melodic hooks are often build from the pentatonic scale.

Intervals in the Pentatonic Scale

The major pentatonic scale consists of five notes separated by the following intervals: whole, whole, minor-third, whole, minor-third. That is, the notes in the scale are separated by 2 frets (a whole step), 2 frets (another whole step), 3 frets (a minor third), 2 frets (whole step) and 3 frets (another minor third). These intervals are illustrated in the upper-right corner of the poster.

The minor pentatonic scale also consists of five notes, now separated by the following intervals: minor-third, whole, whole, minor-third, whole (3 frets, 2 frets, 2 frets, 3 frets, 2 frets).

Note that a major pentatonic scale is the same as the traditional major scale, but the fourth and seventh notes skipped. In other words, the pentatonic scale reads “do re mi so la do” rather than “do re mi fa so la ti do”. The fa and ti tones are >left out.

How to use the Pentatonic-Scale Patterns

You can think of the pentatonic scale as five overlapping “positions” or “shapes”. Each position is “box pattern” that contains all the notes of the scale. Each of these shapes connects to the following one, as illustrated in the poster. You can play the pentatonic scale by walking up and down the notes indicated in a single position. You can repeat the scale up and down the fretboard by playing the connected patterns in sequence.

The pentatonic scale isn't a single or specific scale. These patterns describe a template that can be used to play many different scales — one for each note or key. Starting the pattern at different positions on the fretboard generates a distinct scale. The note at which which you begin the pattern is the root note and determines which of the 12 scales you will play. Because of this, you shouldn't try to memorize the scale as specific positions on the fretboard. You should think of the pentatonic scale as a collection of patterns or shapes. These patterns are based on the the intervals between the notes rather than specific points on the fretboard.

Once you one or more of the pentatonic-scale positions, it's easy to compose or even improvise compelling melodies by playing around with these box patterns. Once you know all five positions and how they interconnect you can slide these box patterns up and down the fretboard to access the full tonal range of your guitar.

If you've never worked with the pentatonic scale before, we recommend that you focus on one position at a time. Practice playing that that position up and down the entire fretboard (repeating the scale with different root notes) until it becomes muscle memory. Then learn the next position, practicing it by itself AND in sequence with the previous position. Repeat this process until you're able to play all five positions from any point on the fretboard. This might sound tedious, but you'll be amazed how quickly you will learn to improvise solos and hooks once you've mastered even one of the pentatonic-scale patterns.

Related Content

Also see the bass-specific version of the pentatonic scale poster and FATpick's other printable guitar templates.