Five Positions Of The Pentatonic Minor Scale

This lesson will cover learning the five positions of pentatonic minor for guitar and bass. Below you will see the full version of the E pentatonic minor scale, showing where each position should be played in E pentatonic minor on the guitar. You can also see where all of the root notes are on the full diagram of E pentatonic minor.

pentatonic scale key of E

* Note that the positions overlap, for instance position two is simply the top half of position one mated with the bottom half of position 3.

All of these positions fit together perfectly and will always be in the same order that they are here. That means that they must always be positioned together as they are and their relation to each other will never change. To play this pentatonic minor scale in any key other than E, you would have to slide the whole note diagram up or down the neck, moving all the positions together. This will be covered in the transposing scales lesson.

Now that you can see all of the positions and how they work together to form the E pentatonic minor scale, I will show you the individual positions. You will notice that there are no marks on the notes in the position diagrams to show where the root note is as this is not important for the positions. We will find out why this is when we get to the lesson on transposing.

pentatonic scale position 1
Position One
pentatonic scale position 2
Position Two
pentatonic scale position 3
Position Three
pentatonic scale position 4
Position Four
pentatonic scale position 5
Position Five

Now we can move on to start learning how to use this in your playing. The next section is on “phrasing” and will teach you how to play this scale with feeling and start improvising with it.

Introduction To Modes And Modal Theory

Modal theory is something that helps us understand how scales work. It helps us understand the relationship between scales and how they work together as one to achieve the goal. The reason they are called “modes” is they are not actually completely different scales, but rather different “modes” of the same scale. If this is confusing, do not be concerned, just read on and it will be explained.

To start, the names of the modes must be learned and memorized. I know, memorizing things is not everyone’s favorite thing to do and I do try to keep those things to a minimum, but this is essential and must be memorized.

We will start with the major scale, which is also called “IONIAN”. This will be the first mode we learn. The ionian mode (or major scale) is a seven note scale, and therefore has seven modes. The names of these seven modes MUST be memorized and they must be memorized IN ORDER.

They are (in order):

  • Ionian (i-o-nee-in)
  • Dorian (door-e-in)
  • Phrygian (fridge-e-in)
  • Lydian (lid-e-in)
  • Mixolydian (mix-o-lid-e-in)
  • Aeolian (a-o-lee-in)
  • Locrian (lo-cree-in)

It helps to just say them over and over to yourself until you remember them. Don’t forget that they have to be remembered in the proper order. Once you have these seven mode names memorized in the proper order then you can move on to the “key construction” lesson.

Here are some excellent materials that I highly recommend you add to your collection. They can help you gain a better understanding of the modes and music theory.