I recall speaking with a person who came to me for lessons quite a long time ago now, and he was of the mindset that he didn’t like using five note scales which is what minor and major pentatonic scales are. Was he right? No, not where the bigger picture is concerned, but with that said, many guitarists will develop their own scale preferences. This is completely understandable.
So, just what is a pentatonic scale? Well, it is usually defined as a scale that contains five notes. This scale gets its name from Penta, which means 5 and tonic which means tone. Thus a pentatonic scale is a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave. These types of scales, although commonly used to introduce beginners to music because of their relative simplicity, are found worldwide in all types of musical genres.
In my humble opinion minor and major pentatonic scales do not limit a player in any way, shape or form, but rather opens the door of possibilities to greater understanding because they are the building blocks for more complex scales. If we combine an A minor/C Major pentatonic scale with a G minor/A#/Bb Major pentatonic scale, which are essentially the flips sides of the same scales, we would then have an A Phrygian scale. The D minor/F Major pentatonic scale is also contained within the more complex scale form.
A minor Pentatonic: (6) 1 4 (5) 1 3 (4) 1
Five Notes: A C D E G
C Major Pentatonic: (6) 4 (5) 1 3 (4) 1 3
Five Notes: C D E G A
G minor Pentatonic: (4) 1 4 (3) 1 3 (2) 2
Five Notes: G A# C D F
A#/Bb Major Pentatonic: (6) 2 4 (5) 1 4 (4) 1
Five Notes: A# C D F G
D Minor Pentatonic: (5) 1 4 (4) 1 3 (3) 1
Five Notes: D F G A C
F Major Pentatonic: (5) 4 (4) 1 3 (3) 1 3
Five Notes: F G A C D
A Phrygian: (6) 1 2 4 (5) 1 3 4 (4) 1 3 4 (3) 1 3 (2) 1 2 4 (1) 1 2 4
Seven Notes: A A# C D E F G
Two other scales in which the exact same fingering is used are the F Ionian and E Locrian scales.
F Ionian: (6) 1 2 4 (5) 1 3 4 (4) 1 3 4 (3) 1 3 (2) 1 2 4 (1) 1 2 4
Seven Notes: F G A A# C D E
E Locrian: (5) 3 4 (4) 1 3 4 (3) 1 3
Seven Notes: E F G A A# C D
By now some pieces of the puzzle should hopefully be starting to come together for you where scales are concerned so that you begin to have a clear understanding as to why minor and Major pentatonic scales are a necessity for every aspiring guitarist to become familiar with.
These are by no matter of means the only scales that there are, but they are great ones to get started with. Another thing to consider is that scales can be used to find chords and arpeggios (broken chords).
There are two ways to view scales because not only do you hear chords played in a scale format in music you listen to every day, but scales can be used to improvise fills, licks/riffs, and solos. On one hand some guitarists subscribe to the less is more so let’s not over do things motto, while other guitarists subscribe to the more is more motto, most likely because music is one way that we express ourselves and many musicians don’t want to be held back or restrained when it comes to how much passion and emotion they can put into their playing, which to my way of thinking is perfectly acceptable and justifiable.