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Download The Scale Diagrams

As a guitar player, nothing beats jamming with another musician. The problem is that it can be kind of hard to get into. Not to mention it’s intimidating. And if you don’t have any songs in common, you aren’t going to get very far.

Well luckily, there are some easy techniques you can use to play along to just about any chord progression out there. There’s this magical scale that you’ve probably heard whispers of called the pentatonic scale. This scale is kind of like a secret weapon that you can pull out whenever you’re unsure of what to play. 

The Pentatonic Scale

So let’s learn how to play this scale on the guitar. This minor pentatonic scale shape is the most commonly used shape because it’s so easy to memorize and make use of.

The amazing thing about playing scales on the guitar is that changing keys is as easy as moving a shape up or down the fretboard. The shape itself NEVER changes. All you need to know is your root notes. For the shape above, the scale starts on an A note (5th fret of the low E string). This means you are playing in the key of A minor. Move the shape up the fretboard seven frets, and the shape will start on an E note (12th fret of the low E string). And just like that, you’re in the key of E minor!

How Do I Play In Major Keys?

So you know how to play along to a chord progression in a minor key, but what about a major key? Well, the shape stays the exact same. The only change is the location of the root note within the shape. Do you see how the black notes have changed? When we align these new root notes with the note that the major key is named after, then you’re playing in a major key! Earlier in the lesson, you saw an A minor pentatonic scale. Here’s an A major pentatonic scale using the same shape:

Getting Creative

The last thing here is to get creative with this scale. Many famous guitar players have built entire careers out of this one little shape, and you can too! Try skipping notes or adding slides and bends to make your own licks and riffs. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have no problem jamming with your friends or even playing in a band! 

Want More Pentatonic Lessons?

If you’re looking for more lessons on how to play the pentatonic scale, check these out!

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