Why Learn Pentatonic and Major Scales Separately?

Pentatonic Scale Patterns | Fretboard Theory Ch. 2

Why Learn Pentatonic and Major Scales Separately?

Some guitar players wonder why it’s necessary to learn the pentatonic and major scale patterns separately, since the notes of the pentatonic are found within the major scale. Why not just learn the major scale and which notes within it make the pentatonic? There are several good reasons why this won’t work. They include:

  1. The two scale patterns are often used separately.
  2. The pentatonic scale makes different, unique patterns on the fretboard.
  3. Pentatonic and major scale patterns can be combined in multiple ways.
  4. The two scale patterns often use different technique.

A good analogy could be made using chords. Why learn power chords, major chords, seventh chords and major ninth chords when you can just learn major 9 chords? Major 9s have all the other chords within them. Well, that may be true in theory, but it doesn’t work that way in practice. Each type of chord makes a different shape on the fretboard, requires a different fingering and is used differently.

Pentatonic Scale Guitar Instruction

To learn more about the pentatonic scale see Fretboard Theory Chapter 2 or Pentatonic Scale Patterns: How to Easily Master the Patterns Used to Play Music’s Most Iconic Guitar Riffs and Solos (Video + Added Resources).

Comments ( 4 )

  • Why not learn a major pentatonic scale (R2356) pattern and then practise adding the other tones (4 and 7) to give you the full major scale? Start with one position (root note on the G string would be my tip (G shape)). Nail the top octave first, then the lower octave and then combine the two.

    Practice playing famous melodies with these scale tones over common chord progression starting with I IV and V, noticing which notes are also chord tones.

    This is a distinctly ‘musical’ exercise, as opposed to being a ‘technical’ exercise. Most of us guitar players don’t require more technique nearly as much as we could use a more ‘musical’ approach to playing.

  • I plan on talking about that approach in Fretboard Theory Volume 2. But it’s not as simple as you think. Pentatonic and major scale patterns can be combined in multiple ways. And when guitar players teach themselves to only think in this way they miss out on understanding and applying some very important aspects of music. For example, modes.

  • John

    I would love for you to unpack that idea about them being combined in different ways.
    The way i see it is that you are locked into modes with minor 3rd and minor 7th you mean figuring out how to get dorian, phyrigian, mixolydian and locrian modes over the top to sing? (Completley self taught with no contact with anyone in the know – so if im not making sense i apologise)