Minor Pentatonic Scale Theory

Author: Mike P Hayes

The minor pentatonic scale is one of the most talked about and played scale on the guitar, however little is known of the minor pentatonic scale theory.

The minor pentatonic scale shape is usually the first scale shape guitar players learn on the guitar. By studying the minor pentatonic scale's theoretical background the confusion disappears and many new applications for this versatile scale are revealed.

Minor pentatonic scale theory fact #1:

The minor pentatonic scale is a five note scale, penta = five.

Since most people are familiar with the major scale i.e., the Do- re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-Do, we will explain how the minor pentatonic scale can be derived from the major scale.

Here are the notes of the C major scale:


Every major scale has a relative minor scale to create the relative minor scale (also called the natural minor scale or Aeolian mode), simply play the major scale beginning on the sixth note of the major scale.

To illustrate the major scale / relative minor relationship, here is a two octave major scale, two octaves means the scale is played through twice.

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 etc ...

The relative minor scale for C major is the A minor scale, we find this by counting up the scale degree numbers and create our new scale from the sixth degree.

C major = C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C


A minor = A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A



Even though the a minor scale contains the same notes as the C major scale it create a different mood. To hear and absorb the sound of each scale play the chord that relates to the scale first, then play the scale and finish by playing the chord again.

Here is how that would be played:

C major scale ear training practice.

Play the C major chord, then the C major scale = C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C and finish with a C major chord.

A minor scale ear training practice:

Play the A minor chord, then the A minor scale = A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A and finish with the A minor chord.

Can you hear the difference? The major chord will sound bright and cheerful whereas the minor scale will sound darker and melancholy.

Minor pentatonic scale theory fact #2:

The relative minor scale has two other names (a) the natural minor (b) Aeolian mode.

Minor pentatonic scale theory fact #3:

To find the notes in a minor pentatonic scale, simply omit the second and sixth notes of a natural minor scale.

A minor scale =



A minor pentatonic scale =

A - C - D - E - G
1 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 7

So, if we played the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh notes of a natural minor scale we would be playing the minor pentatonic scale.

Minor pentatonic scale theory fact #4:

When we omit the second and sixth notes of the natural minor scale we remove the tension points in the natural minor scale. The tension points in a natural minor scale exits between the second and third notes (B-C in our example), and fifth and sixth notes (E-F in our example).

This helps to explain the popularity of the minor pentatonic scale, because with the tension points removed it is less likely for even the inexperienced player to play a "wrong" note.

As you study the minor pentatonic scale theory you will discover that although you may have played the minor pentatonic scale fingering pattern on the guitar fretboard countless times, you may not have been aware of the notes you are playing under your fingers or in fact why you have been playing these specific notes.

Mike Hayes is a teacher, author, speaker and consultant. Get his tips and tested strategies proven to boost your guitar playing his membership site at http://www.guitarcoaching.com today.

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