Five Minor-Pentatonic Scale Patterns Every Guitarist Should Know

In this entry from his classic Guitar World column, "Brewtality," Zakk Wylde shows you five minor-pentatonic scale patterns every guitarist should know!

To kick things off, let’s start with some basics by looking at the minor-pentatonic scale and how it covers the whole neck.

To keep things simple, we’ll stay in the key of A minor for now. Later on, we’ll learn how to transpose what we learn into any key, which, as you’ll soon find out, is a real easy thing to do. What I’m gonna show you this month are the five different ways you can play the A-minor pentatonic scale (A C D E G) in different places on the fretboard.

These five shapes are pretty important to know because, as you’re about to find out, they cover the whole neck! Because of this, they form the basic framework on which we’ll start building kick-ass runs and licks over the next few columns.

We’re gonna be using all four of our left-hand (fretboard) fingers, and we’ll number them 1, 2, 3 and 4 (index, middle, ring and pinkie, respectively). These numbers are gonna appear below each scale so you know exactly what finger to use on each note. We’re also gonna be using alternate picking, which just means you pick down, up, down, up and so on. The picking strokes are clearly marked above each scale pattern so you know exactly what you are supposed to do.

FIGURE 1 shows the first pentatonic scale pattern.

Play it through a couple of times to get used to how it feels and sounds, then move up the neck to the next pattern, which is shown in FIGURE 2. When you’ve gotten that one under your fingers, play the next three patterns (FIGURES 3–5) in the same way. Once you get up to pattern 5 (FIGURE 5) you’re done, because when you move up to the next pentatonic pattern (FIGURE 6) you end up with the first pattern, but an octave (12 frets) higher. Compare FIGURE 1 and FIGURE 6 and you’ll see and hear exactly what I mean.

Keep going through these patterns until you can play through them pretty fast and with total confidence. I know this isn’t the most exciting stuff to practice, but stick with it because it forms the basic framework we need to start ripping out some brewtal leads.

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