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  • Discover the shortcut to playing minor pentatonic scales

    by Jermaine Griggs · 25 comments

    in Blues music,Scales

    Minor Pentatonic Scales

    About a month ago, I posted a lesson on how to play pentatonic scales. If you’re not familiar with the major pentatonic scale, it may be a good idea to check out that lesson first… then return here to learn its minor counterpart.

    As you learned in that post, this scale is called “pentatonic” because it has 5 notes. “Penta” is an ancient Greek prefix meaning “five.”

    We unraveled the numerical names for other scales too…

    Pentatonic (Pentatonic) = 5-note scale
    Hexatonic (Hexatonic) = 6-note scale (example: “blues” scale)
    Heptatonic (Heptatonic) = 7-note scale (example: “major” or “minor” scale)
    Octatonic (Octatonic) = 8-note scale (example: “diminished” scale)

    How to turn major pentatonic into minor pentatonic

    In this lesson, I want to take it a step further and show you one easy shortcut you can implement to also learn all your minor pentatonic scales. Yes, minor!

    The thing about minor stuff is that there’s always a relative major key you can piggy back on.

    Let me explain…

    Just like you learned in this prior lesson, every major key has a relative minor key. This relative minor key pretty much shares EVERYTHING with this major key. They share the same notes in their scales (except you just start and end on different notes). They even share the same chords.

    The secret is the 6th tone (this is nothing new… all of those past lessons I’ve linked to above cover this). To find the relative minor of any major key, you just go to the 6th tone. If you play the SAME EXACT major scale starting and ending on the 6th tone, there’s your minor scale! So if I basically play the C major scale, starting and ending on “A” instead of “C,” I’ll be playing an “A minor” scale. It’s as simple as that.

    Well, the pentatonic scale works the same exact way! No joke!

    Recall from my past lesson how to play a pentatonic scale…

    You just play a major scale without the 4th and 7th tones.

    That leaves you with:

    1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 6

    In the key of C major, that’s:

    C D E G A
    1 2 3 5 6

    Repeated, it looks like this:

    C D E G A C D E G A C D E G A C D E G A C D E G A

    or

    1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6

    So, to play the minor pentatonic, you don’t change the notes you play (just like you don’t change the notes of the major scale when you play its relative minor scale). You just change your starting and ending points.

    C D E G A C D E G [A C D E G] A C D E G A C D E G A C D E G A

    1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 [6 1 2 3 5] 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6

    So the “A minor pentatonic” scale is:

    A C D E G

    Repeated, it looks like this:

    A C D E G A C D E G A…

    Minor Pentatonic (Continued)

    So that you can see another one at work, here’s the “Eb major pentatonic” scale:

    Eb F G Bb C

    Here it is repeated:

    Eb F G Bb C Eb F G Bb C Eb F G Bb C

    Since “C” is the 6th tone and therefore the relative minor of “Eb,” let’s play the C minor pentatonic scale from the same notes above.

    C minor pentatonic

    C Eb F G Bb

    Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scale

    C minor pentatonic (repeated)

    C Eb F G Bb C Eb F G Bb C Eb F G Bb

    Doesn’t that look like something to you?

    YES YES YES!

    The minor pentatonic scale is basically the blues scale with one missing note!

    For example, the C blues scale is:

    C Eb F Gb G Bb C

    Versus the C minor pentatonic:

    C Eb F G Bb C

    *Note the flat 5th note in the blues scale example. That’s the only difference between a minor pentatonic scale and the blues scale.

    So if you know your regular pentatonic scales, you know your minor pentatonic scales… and if you know your minor pentatonic scales, you know your blues scales!

    Do you see these patterns? Once you start recognizing these systems and shortcuts, less and less of it will be memorization and more will be just understanding how to do something else from something that you already know… on the spot!

    That’s the key! And that’s why the 300-pg home study course is so powerful. You learn the underlying systems, patterns, and shortcuts… not just memorization.

    EXERCISE: Let’s post all the major and minor pentatonic scales in the comments section. Let’s try to do all 12 in less than a day or two! Will you guys help me out? Come on… just try!
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    So there you have it… minor pentatonic scales.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Related posts:

    1. “Minor and Blues Scales” Crash Course
    2. The secret to playing harmonic minor scales
    3. The easiest way to remember minor scales!
    4. How to play a pentatonic scale
    5. What everybody ought to know about melodic minor scales
    6. Learning to play natural minor scales
    7. What’s Scales Got To Do With It?



    { 24 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Jermaine

    C major scale:
    C D E F G A B C

    A minor scale (relative minor, same notes)
    A B C D E F G A

    C major pentatonic:
    C D E G A C

    A minor pentatonic (relative minor, same notes):
    A C D E G A

    Reply

    2 Jermaine

    Who will be number two? I’ve started it off. Use my format if you can…

    Reply

    3 BRIAN AKA TRUMUSIC1SOUL

    Bb major scale
    Bb C D Eb F G A Bb

    G minor scale
    G A Bb C D Eb F G

    Bb major pentatonic
    Bb C D F G Bb

    G minor pentatonic
    G Bb C D F G

    I THINK THIS IS RIGHT? AWESOME POST!!!
    THE 300 pg COURSE IS A MUST HAVE FOR EVERYMUSICIAN WHO WANTS TO LEARN HIS CRAFT.

    “HI I’M BRIAN ‘TRUMUSIC1SOUL’ POWELL, AND I ENDORSE THIS MESSAGE!!!” ;)

    Reply

    4 Jermaine

    @Bryan: Lol, thanks for endorsing the message!

    Reply

    5 chawk

    F major scale
    F G A Bb C D E F

    D minor scale
    D E F G A Bb C D

    F major pentatonic
    F G A C D F

    D minor pentatonic
    D F G A C D

    Reply

    6 Jermaine

    @Chawk: Right on! Thanks for adding the third set of scales.

    9 mo’ to go!

    Reply

    7 Jermaine

    @Bryan @Chawk: By the way, did you guys already know the major and minor pentatonic or are you using the shortcuts above to figure them out? Just curious…

    Reply

    8 chawk

    All of it and some :) I look at your post then I go to the major key i want to use and work with it from there. So far you explain yourself really clear to what you’re trying to get over to us.:) By the way my real name Carolyn.

    Reply

    9 chawk

    could you check out your post on play scales with major seventh chords. I wrote a comment. I’m not getting.

    Reply

    10 Jermaine

    @Chawk (Carolyn): That’s what I wanna hear! :)

    Reply

    11 BRIAN AKA TRUMUSIC1SOUL

    USING THE SHORTCUTS…LOOKING FORWARD TO INCORPORATING INTO THE ARSENAL!!!

    Reply

    12 Eresmas

    Thanks again for the enlightment. I’ll try D

    D Major scale
    D E F# G A B C# D

    B Minor scale
    B C# D E F# G A B

    D Major Pentatonic
    D E F# A B D

    B Minor Pentatonic
    B D E F# A B

    Hope i got it coz i was getting a little confused. At first i was trying to get the minor pentatonic from the minor scale but i think i am now on track.

    Reply

    13 Jermaine

    @Eresmas: You’re right on track! Those were perfect.

    (Note: No, you always, ALWAYS get “anything minor” from it’s relative major. In other words, C major and C minor aren’t connected in the the shortcut matter that I’m explaining. To do the shortcut, C major always pairs with “A minor.” If you, however, wanted to find the C minor pentatonic after figuring out what the simple C major pentatonic was, you’d have to pair C minor with Eb major and then go from there.)

    I can see how you’d be confused at first. But you seemed to overcome that! Great work!

    Reply

    14 Barbara AKA IceeHot

    I’ll try Eb

    Eb Major Scale
    Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb

    C Minor Scale
    C D Eb F G Ab BbC

    Eb Major Pentatonic
    Eb F G Bb C

    C Minor Pentatonic
    C Eb F G Bb C

    Reply

    15 Barbara AKA IceeHot

    Hope these are all correct. This method just seems too easy. Makes you want to try even more. Here are two more:

    Ab Major Scale
    Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab

    F Minor Scale
    F G Ab Bb C Db Eb F

    Ab Major Pentatonic
    Ab Bb C Eb F Ab

    F Minor Pentatonic
    F Ab Bb C Eb F

    ———————————–

    G Major Scale
    G A B C D E F# G

    E minor scale
    E F# G A B C D E

    G major pentatonic
    G A B D E G

    E minor pentatonic
    E G A B D E

    Reply

    16 Barbara AKA IceeHot

    Sorry about the spacing. When I typed, there was a wide space in between the scales. When I submitted, the spacing was not there which is making this post a litte confusing. This was my first time posting a comment and did not realize that the format would not space accordingly. Once again, I apologize for the spacing (two scales together). I am really trying to grasp theory and wanted to give this a shot to see if I was catching on.

    Reply

    17 Jermaine

    @Barbara! You’re Eb / Cminor is all correct!

    (I like your comment about this being “too” easy. Lol, that’s what I aim to do. Make it so easy that it seems unreal. So when I say “shortcuts,” I really mean shortcuts… LOL.

    Reply

    18 Jermaine

    @barbara: I also fixed your other comment. IT should be more clear now.

    Reply

    19 Laketa

    E major scale:
    E F# G# A B C# D# E

    C# minor scale:
    C# D# E F# G# A B C#

    E major pentatonic
    E F# G# B C# E

    C# minor pentatonic
    C# E F# G# B C#

    Reply

    20 Jermaine

    @Laketa! You’re back!

    Perfect!

    So that’s 8 submissions already.

    I challenged us to do this in less than a day or so. we’re closing in on it.

    Just need 4 more. I know a lot of people see this page… don’t be scared!

    Reply

    21 chawk

    A major scale
    A B C# D E F# G# A

    F# minor scale
    F# G# A B C# D E F#

    A major pentatonic
    A B C# E F# A

    F# minor pentatonic
    F# A B C# E F#

    Reply

    22 kevin

    B Major Scale
    B C# D# E F# G# A# B

    G# Minor Scale
    G# A# B C# D# E F# G#

    B Major Pentatonic
    B C# D# F# G# B

    G# Minor Pentatonic
    G# B C# D# F# G#

    Bringing back an old post haha hope this is right

    Reply

    23 sunny kay

    man,you musical life is a Road modern to the new instrumentals, man keep it of

    Reply

    24 Jermaine Griggs

    Thank you, keep up the great work Sunny.

    Reply

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