Major Pentatonic Guitar Scale and Songs
The major pentatonic scale is often overlooked and misunderstood by guitar players. This is because most players learn the minor pentatonic scale first and assume that the pentatonic is always applied that way. In blues and rock genres, the minor pentatonic is often played over both minor and major chords which further adds to the confusion. By not understanding how the pentatonic can function in a major context, musicians miss out on half the sounds and styles that the pentatonic patterns can produce. This is usually not a problem with guitarists who have experience playing country songs because the major pentatonic scale is used a lot in country music.
E Minor/G Major Pentatonic Scale
In the open position, pentatonic scale pattern one produces what most guitar players call the E minor pentatonic scale. It’s played over some type of E minor chord (or sometimes E major in a blues setting). The minor tonality is produced because the scale has a minor 3rd in it. The minor 3rd occurs between the primary pitch, E, and the note G. But the very same notes and pattern also make the G major pentatonic scale. All you have to do is play the scale over some type of G major chord. When the note G becomes the primary pitch in the music, then the B note in the scale becomes a major 3rd and produces a major tonality.
So the first note in pentatonic scale pattern one is always your minor root and the second note is always your major root. This holds true for all keys. For example, E minor pentatonic is also G major pentatonic, F# minor pentatonic is also A major pentatonic, A minor pentatonic is also C major pentatonic, and so on. The tonality of the scale depends on which note is primary in the music.
Major Pentatonic Scale Songs
The songs listed below are just some of many examples that use the pentatonic scale in its major form. In all of them, the scale is played over major chords and the second note in pattern one is functioning as the tonic (primary pitch).
- “Honky Tonk Woman” The Rolling Stones — G major pentatonic
- “Wish You Were Here” Pink Floyd — G major pentatonic
- “Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd — G major pentatonic
- “Centerfold” The J. Geils Band — G major pentatonic
- “Cannonball” Duane Eddy — G major pentatonic
- “Amazing Grace” Hymn — Any major pentatonic
- “Amie” Pure Prairie League — A major pentatonic
- “Jessica” The Allman Brothers Band — A major pentatonic
- “Upside Down” Jack Johnson — E major pentatonic
- “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” Joan Jett — E major pentatonic
- “Yellow Ledbetter” Pearl Jam — E major pentatonic
- “Blue Sky” The Allman Brothers Band — E major pentatonic
- “Gasoline Alley” Rod Stewart — E major pentatonic
- “My Girl” The Temptations — C and F major pentatonic
- “Better Together” Jack Johnson — F major pentatonic
- “As Long As You Follow” Fleetwood Mac — F major pentatonic
- “Let It Be” The Beatles — C major pentatonic
- “Maggie May” Rod Stewart — D major pentatonic
- “All Right Now” Free has sections that use A major pentatonic and sections that use A minor
Major Pentatonic Scale Theory
This is just one of the many benefits to learning guitar theory and how music works. The better you understand the features and functions of your musical tools, the better you’ll develop as a guitar player. To learn more about using the pentatonic scale, see my video course, Pentatonic Scale Patterns: How to Easily Master the Patterns Used to Play Music’s Most Iconic Guitar Riffs and Solos. It’s also part of my full Fretboard Theory guitar theory program.