So you know all the basic minor pentatonic scale patterns for guitar. Well done! Knowing, and understanding, these scale patterns is important in being able to improvise and generally play lead guitar. However, knowing minor pentatonic scale patterns in isolation is just the first step. Once you know the patterns, then it’s important to be able to easily play up and down the neck.
To do that, all you need to do is know the sequence of minor pentatonic scales up and down the neck. And it’s not difficult to understand or remember any of this.
Sequence Of Minor Pentatonic Scale Patterns Up And Down The Guitar Neck
Starting with the E minor pentatonic scale pattern, each pattern is connected in the following sequence: E minor, D minor, C minor, A minor, G minor. Then it starts again (so G minor goes into E minor).
To visualise this, keep in mind that minor pentatonic shapes on guitar typically play two notes per string. So, when thinking about connecting the pentatonic scale shapes, the higher notes on each string correspond to the lower notes on each string for the next pattern.
Here’s a diagram to help you visualise it, with the root notes highlighted in red, as well as a red line between shapes.
See how, from the diagram perspective, the notes on the right of a given shape correspond to the left notes of the next shape.
If the red lines separating everything is confusing, here’s the same diagram without it.
Remembering the Em, Dm, Cm, Am, Gm sequence is actually quite easy. If you’re going up the neck, you’re going in reverse alphabetical order of the basic guitar chord shapes. If you’re going down the neck, you’re going in alphabetical order.
Further Understanding Playing Minor Pentatonic Scales Across The Neck
As you learn how to move up and down the neck playing minor pentatonic scales, it’s easy to get lost, even if you’ve memorised the order and know which pattern is next (or beforehand).
The key to not getting lost is to always know where the root notes are. These minor pentatonic scale patterns all have two or three roots in them, and knowing where they are not only helps you remember what shape you’re playing, but also generally where you are.
My only tip on this is if you can’t immediately find the root notes for each shape, you’re not as comfortable with those shapes as you should be. There’s not really an easy answer to this beyond practicing and repeating the scale over and over and over again. Play the minor pentatonic scale in each shape counting the degree of the scale: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7. Do it again and again until you have each number ingrained.
You’re probably after an easy answer. The easy answer is repetition.
Practicing Minor Pentatonic Scales Across The Fretboard
Use the diagram above and travel up and down the fretboard moving from shape to shape. Here’s some exercises:
- Start by playing the E minor shape from low to high, then shift position up three frets to play the D minor shape from high to low. Shift again and play the C minor shape, and so on.
- Do the above but start high to low instead.
- Start on the E minor shape and play the scale from the first root note to the next root note, shift position and finish the scale in the D shape. Shift again and play down to the next root note in the C position, etc.
- Do the above but in high to low rather than low to high.
- Go fully diagonal and shift position each time you hit a root note, then go back up.
All of this is basically relearning and opening up your minor pentatonic shapes. You likely learned your minor pentatonic shapes through simple repetition; doing the scales over and over again until they’re ingrained. Well, do it again!