Minor Pentatonic Theory

A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with only five notes per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven-note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale. The minor pentatonic is a feature of many styles of music and has been used by many cultures all around the world, and in its modern usage, it appears in all major genres of music. It is pretty much the foundation scale of Blues, and all of the ‘rock gods’ you can think of will frequently use the minor pentatonic in their soloing.

Scale Formula

C Major C D E F G A B C
C Minor Pentatonic C E♭ F G B C
Equation 1 ♭3 4 5 ♭7  1

As you can see from the table above scales are always compared to the major scale. I’ve used the C major here as it is the only major scale that uses only natural notes (no sharps ♯ or flats ♭).  The minor pentatonic is constructed by taking the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th notes from the major scale and then flattening (moving down by one semitone or one fret on a guitar) the 3rd and the 7th.

So the minor pentatonic has the scale formula:

1 2 3 4 5 1
  • T=Tone (whole step or two frets)
  • S=Semitone (half step or one fret)
  • TS= Tone+Semitone (minor 3rd interval)

The Scale Shapes

Pattern 1 – CAGED E Form

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 1

This is often the first scale people learn to play on guitar and is probably the most played scale shape. The finger numbers in this diagram are the way I usually play it but I often change the 4th finger for the 3rd finger, particularly further up the neck where the frets are closer together.

Pattern 2 – CAGED D Form

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 2

This is the pattern I find most people get confused about.  Some people play the top two thin strings using the 2nd and 4th fingers but I think the finger numbers in the diagram are the best way to play it because having your 3rd finger on those strings makes string bending easier.

Pattern 3 – CAGED C Form

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 3

This pattern is one of the easiest to remember but one of the hardest to use. This one can be played using just your 1st and 3rd fingers if you prefer.

Pattern 4 – CAGED A Form

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 4

This is a really useful pattern as there is a root note on the A string played with the first finger. It is possible to play this pattern with the 1st and 3rd fingers on the B string but makes it difficult to play quickly.

Pattern 5 – CAGED G Form

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 5

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