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Pentatonic scale, play lead guitar using the pentatonic scale

A minor pentatonic scale at the 5th fret position

A minor pentatonic scale

Don't let the word pentatonic scare you off, it just means a five note scale. You will be learning two types of pentatonic scales, one is the minor pentatonic scale and the other will be the major pentatonic scale. Our lessons will be a bit unconventional and won't follow the instructional guide you buy at the local book or music store. Why? Because you want to learn how to play the guitar and want to learn fast. There's a good reason why I want you to learn every position of the Am pentatonic scale. The Am pentatonic scale is a basic scale, but really the building block to playing and understanding lead guitar. Also, once you learn to play this scale, playing modes in the key of C major or any other key will be that much easier. You will be learning modes a bit later down the road.

The first position of the pentatonic minor scale we'll learn will be the A minor pentatonic at the root note fret. The A minor pentatonic root note fret starts at the 5th fret on the Low E string.

The Am root note fret is determined by the note on the Low E string.

The illustration below, is the A minor pentatonic scale. This is the root note fret position for the A minor pentatonic scale. Notice that you can play every note in the fifth fret with just your 1 finger and never leave that 5th fret. 

The numbers below within the image and on the fretboard are not a chord, but the fingering pattern you use to play the A minor pentatonic scale at the 5th fret position.

Fingering pattern below

1 =  Index finger
2 =  Middle finger
3 =  Ring finger
4 =  Pinkie
T =  Thumb

Take a look below at the (A minor) pentatonic scale. This is one of the most important scales to learn. Before you do anything else, you need to memorize the fingering pattern below. Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen and just about everyone else have used this scale in some variation or another to play lead guitar. We will be using this scale for a while to let you become familiar with the guitar fretboard and to build your foundation. 

Listen to this scale and become accustomed to hearing it. The scale is played from the 5th fret A note Low E string  down through the scale to the 8th fret high E string. 

Watch a video covering the Am pentatonic scale at the 5th fret

A minor pentatonic scale

The colored numbers above represent your fingers that play this scale. The numbers in the right box are the numbers for each finger you would use to play each note. You must now learn the fingering number system used for our studies. It is very important that you memorize each number representing each finger. This fingering system above to the right will be used to learn how to play scales, use tablature, do exercises and play lead and rhythm guitar. The info to the right shows what each finger number represents. The number 1 represents the index finger, the number 2 equals the middle finger and so on.

Below is what the tablature would look like to play the A minor pentatonic scale at the root note fret. The numbers below are the frets you would play on that particular string. For example, the numbers on the Low E string or Fattest string below illustrate that you first play the note on the 5th fret low E string. Then you play the note on the 8th fret low E string. You play from left to right. This is how you read tablature. If you need additional help, go to the tablature lesson.

-5-8------------------------------------------- Fat E string

1 =  Index finger
2 =  Middle finger
3 =  Ring finger
4 =  Pinkie
T =  Thumb

Listen me use the pentatonic scale, click on link below.


Look at the guitar fretboard below and you will notice six strings, Fat E, A D G B and E. Each string has 2 numbers 1 through 4 assigned to them. The assigned numbers 1 through 4 are the fingers that play these highlighted notes. Look below in the box to the right and notice what each finger number equals. The 1's are played with your index finger. The 2's will be played with your middle finger. The 3's are played with your ring finger. The 4's are played with your pinkie.

A minor pentatonic scale

1 = Index finger
2 =  Middle finger
3 = Ring finger
4 = Pinkie
T = Thumb

To play this scale you would start with the Low E string which is the fattest string. Place your 1 finger down on the Low E string at the 5th fret, look at the image above. Notice the note at the 5th fret that is marked in red pick 1st.

So now you should have moved through the scal

Now reverse this process starting at the High E string 8th fret and play moving up.

4-1, 4-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 4-1. This will help build strength in your hand and at the same time train your ear to the different sounds of the scale. 

Just a quick secret. Did you know that once you learn the A minor pentatonic scale in the root note position 5th fret, you can move that same fingering up or down the guitar fretboard to play in different keys? 

You should now know the fingering pattern for the A minor pentatonic scale root note fret, 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4. After all, you've practiced this scale over a hundred times by now and know it is the most popular position to play the Am pentatonic. This position is relatively easy to play, only because the 1 finger never has to leave the 5th fret to play all the notes in this scale. Eventually we will learn different positions of the A minor pentatonic scale, hammer-ons, pull offs and bending.  

As you learn to play these scales, you will eventually learn how to play over the chords that form these scales. Since this is the Am pentatonic scale, you can play this scale over the Am chord. You can also play it over the Am7 chord and C major and D9 chord. You can also play this scale over root 5 chords. But in time you will want to use the scales for each chord. For example, G major pentatonic over the G chord. Or maybe G Mixolydian, but that will be down the road.

When you're playing over the Am chord, you can play the notes of the Am chord and Am pentatonic scale. The Am chord is made up of the notes, A C and E.

In the following lessons, I have you starting on a different note in each position of the Am pentatonic scale. But it is important to note the location of the A note, which is the root note for this scale. For example, in the next position of the Am pentatonic scale, we will be starting on the C note 8th fret.

So far you have covered the guitar fretboard and should know how many strings are on the guitar. You should know the difference between the high and low E string, which one is larger and the locations. You should know how many frets are on your guitar. Now you should know that there is a scale which is called the pentatonic minor scale. Pentatonic means having 5 notes. There are other scales which have more notes and we will be covering them down the road.

Assignments: If you need to learn to read tablature, you can check out that chapter. If not, we are moving onto the next position of the Am pentatonic scale.

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