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Cheap Guitar Tricks - Relative Major & Minor and the Pentatonic Shape

Get more from the standard Minor Pentatonic!


by Chris Loeffler


This one is an old trick for intermediate guitar players looking to get the most out of their basic patterns (and you know guitar players love their patterns). If your grasp of scales and theory is strong, you can move along and start mastering your modes!


One of the first things most guitar players latch onto when learning to solo is to the minor pentatonic scale, that innocuous but ubiquitous pattern that looks like this-


This scale features just enough notes (1,3,4,5,7) to describe the key while being nondescript enough to sound right in essentially any arrangement requiring the minor sound. You learn this scale and you’ve got 85% of rock and blues covered.


One of the fun things about music is that the context in which those notes are played changes how they fit. For instance, an E minor pentatonic shares the same notes and patterns as the G major pentatonic. Don’t believe me? Play the E Minor pentatonic over each of these videos I found on YouTube.



Wacky, huh?


While that alone is a good way to start connecting the dots as you dive deeper into theory, there’s a little cheat to be pulled from it too.


Want to solo in an uplifting song, old country classic, or anything else in the major side of the music scale but you haven’t gone beyond the standard minor pentatonic? Combine your familiarity with the rock/blues/minor pentatonic scale and the knowledge that every major key shares the same notes as a minor key and you don’t have to know it!


To pull off this trick, all you need to do is move your minor pentatonic shape down four frets from where you would play if the key was minor. A major? Slide your minor pentatonic down three frets to F# and you’re in the pocket. Your pinky on the low E will always be addressing the root note in this pattern, so you’ve got a good visual checkpoint.



Same shape, different location, different key/scale!


Go to YouTube, find some jam tracks in other keys, and get proficient at quickly finding the scale!


This is only the tip of a very big iceberg every player must learn to climb to truly speak and understand music, especially when seeking flavors beyond a single selection of notes. But there’s nothing wrong with a little cheat if it will get a new or immediate player out to play with friends!








Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 


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chukysovnpt  |  December 01, 2016 at 2:14 am
love it !!!
Chris Loeffler  |  November 13, 2016 at 12:23 am
Good call! Mistake veyneen finger and fret position!
nnnnnn  |  November 07, 2016 at 5:35 pm
From A to F# is down *three* frets, not four. 
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