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7 Pentatonic Scale Exercises to Master the Box Shapes

The pentatonic scale may be the most versatile scale in music. If there’s one scale guitar players must master, this is the one. In this lesson we’re going to look at some pentatonic scale exercises to help you thoroughly learn the scale patterns and play through them fluidly with flawless technique.

Pentatonic Shapes

The exercises in this lesson aren’t specific to the major or minor pentatonic scale. We’re only concerned with getting the shapes under our fingers. Since both the major and minor pentatonics are relative, the five scale shapes are the same for each, it’s just the interval qualities that change.

Fretboard diagrams for the 5 pentatonic scale shapes
5 Pentatonic Scale Shapes

If you’re not familiar with relative scales, check out the relative minor/major scales lesson.

Pentatonic Exercises

All of the pentatonic scale exercises in this lesson move vertically across the pattern from string 6 to string 1 and back to string 6. Each exercise consists of a different sequence of notes that will help develop both picking and fretting hand technique. Tab and audio examples are provided for each exercise across all five pentatonic shapes.

The audio examples are played at 75bpm. Use a metronome and adjust it to play at a tempo that allows you to play through the exercises mistake free. Increase the BPMs over time as you improve to continue making progress.

Exercise 1

This exercise consists of a 4-note string pair sequence moving in a stutter pattern across the fretboard. This is also a great sequence to work on hammer-on/pull-off technique in place of picking every note.

Ex. 1 – Shape 1

Guitar tab for 2 step pentatonic scale exercise in shape 1

Ex. 1 – Shape 2

Guitar tab for 2 step pentatonic scale exercise in shape 2

Ex. 1 – Shape 3

Guitar tab for 2 step pentatonic scale exercise in shape 3

Ex. 1 – Shape 4

Guitar tab for 2 step pentatonic scale exercise in shape 4

Ex. 1 – Shape 5

Guitar tab for 2 step pentatonic scale exercise in shape 5

Exercise 2

In this exercise we’re using triplet pattern that you’ll commonly see used in guitar solos, particularly in the rock n’ roll genre.

Ex. 2 – Shape 1

Pentatonic stutter triplet exercise for shape 1

Ex. 2 – Shape 2

Pentatonic stutter triplet exercise for shape 2

Ex. 2 – Shape 3

Pentatonic stutter triplet exercise for shape 3

Ex. 2 – Shape 4

Pentatonic stutter triplet exercise for shape 4

Ex. 2 – Shape 5

Pentatonic stutter triplet exercise for shape 5

Exercise 3

Here we have another triplet exercise, but this one has more of a rolling feel to it since you’re playing forward three notes before the repeat note.

Ex. 3 – Shape 1

Pentatonic scale rolling triplet exercise for shape 1

Ex. 3 – Shape 2

Pentatonic scale rolling triplet exercise for shape 2

Ex. 3 – Shape 3

Pentatonic scale rolling triplet exercise for shape 3

Ex. 3 – Shape 4

Pentatonic scale rolling triplet exercise for shape 4

Ex. 3 – Shape 5

Pentatonic scale rolling triplet exercise for shape 5

Exercise 4

This pentatonic exercise consists of a 4-note sequence moving across the fretboard. It varies from exercises 1 in that the sequence isn’t based upon string pairs, but instead moves through each individual note of the pentatonic scale.

Ex. 4 – Shape 1

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 1

Ex. 4 – Shape 2

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 2

Ex. 4 – Shape 3

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 3

Ex. 4 – Shape 4

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 4

Ex. 4 – Shape 5

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 5

Exercise 5

With this exercise we’re extending the previous exercise one note to create a 5-note sequence. The larger intervallic range in notes introduces a string skip into the pattern, which will offer additional challenges to picking technique.

Ex. 5 – Shape 1

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 1

Ex. 5 – Shape 2

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 2

Ex. 5 – Shape 3

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 3

Ex. 5 – Shape 4

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 4

Ex. 5 – Shape 5

4 note pentatonic scale sequence, shape 5

Exercise 6

This exercise sequence consists of skipping a note to play adjacent pairs. It can feel a little odd at first, but it helps develop the rolling technique necessary to play across a sequence of notes that share the same fret.

Ex. 6 – Shape 1

Adjacent pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 1

Ex. 6 – Shape 2

Adjacent pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 2

Ex. 6 – Shape 3

Adjacent pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 3

Ex. 6 – Shape 4

Adjacent pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 4

Ex. 6 – Shape 5

Adjacent pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 5

Exercise 7

The last pentatonic exercises expands the intervallic jump of the previous exercise by one note. Once again, this larger intervallic gap between notes introduces a more challenging strip skip into the sequence.

Ex. 7 – Shape 1

Intervallic pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 1

Ex. 7 – Shape 2

Intervallic pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 2

Ex. 7 – Shape 3

Intervallic pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 3

Ex. 7 – Shape 4

Intervallic pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 4

Ex. 7 – Shape 5

Intervallic pairs pentatonic scale exercise sequence, shape 5

Wrap Up

The pentatonic scale exercises in this lesson will get the patterns under your fingers and lock them into your muscle memory in no time. As with any exercise of this nature, don’t rush the speed aspect. Focus on technique and playing as cleanly as possible and progress the tempo when it’s appropriate.

The Pentatonic Fretboard

 

Master the pentatonic scale all over the fretboard!

While most players learn the main pentatonic box, we’re selling ourselves short if we stop there. The Pentatonic Fretboard will help you go beyond the box and create a full visualization of the pentatonic scale all over the fretboard.

The pentatonic fretboard mock thumbnail

Learn More

AGT book of scales cover

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