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Lesson Series

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Lewis Turner - Back To Basics Part 10: 5 Shapes Of The Major Pentatonic Scale

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 34 **

Over the past few lessons we've covered a great deal to do with the minor pentatonic scale and its uses. However, not every song is minor, there are actually a fair few happy tunes out there that use major tonality, so what do we do when we have to solo over a major chord?! Well the good news is, if you already have your 5 minor shapes down then you know your major ones because on the guitar the shape are interchangeable. Check out the video for a more in-depth explanation on this and a demonstration of the 5 shapes.

As you would expect the major pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale like its minor brother, just constructed in a different way. Now would probably be a good time to talk about intervals. The distance between two notes in music is referred to as an interval, and we can have major or minor intervals. Everything in music is constructed from the complete major scale. A major scale contains 7 notes constructed using Tones (distance of 2 notes), and Semi-tones (distance of 1 note). Here is how a C major scale is constructed and the notes it contains;

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Root Tone Tone Semi- T Tone Tone Tone


This sequence of Tones and Semi-Tones (sometimes known as whole and half steps) is the same for any major scale, for example using this sequence but in the key of G we would end up with the following notes: G – A – B – C – D – E – F#.  The numbers 1 – 7 (normally written as Roman numerals) are the intervals, you may well know or have heard that if we take the 1st 3rd and 5th of a scale we end up with a major chord, these are the intervals for that chord. The same can be done for any chord or scale. A major pentatonic scale contains the 1st 2nd 3rd 5th and 6th intervals from a major scale, therefore a C major pentatonic scale would look like this;

1 2 3 5 6


It can be said that the intervallic construction of a major pentatonic scale is; 1,2,3,5,6 or Root,II,III,V,VI. We can also raise or lower an interval to make any other scale or chord. If we lowered the 3rd interval by a semi-tone for example it would be known as a b3 (flat 3rd), in the case of C major the note E would change to Eb (E flat). With a new set of intervals we end up with the minor pentatonic scale which we have looked at so much;

1 b3 4 5 b7

C Eb F G Bb

It's important to get this intervallic construction methodology into your head because as mentioned before everything is constructed using intervals, from the very basic triad chord, through to the most complex of chords and scales. On paper now we can also see how the two pentatonic scales differ and how they work over their given chord. The minor pentatonic scale contains the 1st, b3rd and 5th that make up a minor triad, add the b7 and you get a minor 7 chord. Similarly the major pentatonic scale contains the 1st, 3rd and 5th of a major triad, add the 6th and you get a major 6th chord. Hopefully now you can start to see why certain scales work over a given chord.

You already know the minor pentatonic scale, so to start using the major pentatonic scale should just be a case of understanding where to start from on the fretboard (again watch the video for tips on this) and getting the sound/use in your head.

Next time we will look at relative major and minor scales and how to use them. For all things guitar please head to  HYPERLINK "http://www.lewisturnerguitar.com/"www.lewisturnerguitar.com

Good luck and enjoy making music with this new scale!

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