For those looking to expand their guitar playing skills, the A minor pentatonic scale is a versatile and useful tool. This scale is played in the middle of the fretboard in its most basic position and lacks any sharps or flats, similar to the C major scale. As C major is a commonly used key in popular music, the A minor pentatonic scale provides a simple template for lead guitarists to create riffs and improvise solos.
A Minor pentatonic scale notes
The A minor pentatonic scale consists of only five notes, which are played in different octaves as you move your fingers across the fretboard. These notes are:
Interestingly, these five notes are also present in the seven notes that make up the C major scale mentioned earlier. Furthermore, the notes A, C, and E form the A minor triad chord.
A Minor pentatonic scale position
To play the A minor pentatonic scale, there are several approaches you can take. In this lesson, we will explore two of these methods. The first method involves starting on the 5th fret of the low E string, while the second method is played in a higher range, starting on the 12th fret of the low E string. Try playing both methods and listen to the differences in tone.
In this lesson, we will use charts to help us learn how to play the scale. These charts represent the neck of your guitar, with numbered dots indicating where to place your fingers on the fretboard. The corresponding numbers on the chart show the correct finger placement for your fretting hand when playing the scale.
- Index finger
- Middle finger
- Ring finger
- Pinkie finger
To begin playing the A minor pentatonic scale, position your index finger on the 5th fret of the low E string. Then, stretch your pinkie to the 8th fret of the same string. As you progress through the notes in this scale, you will notice that your index finger will play the 5th fret of each of the six strings on your guitar. Additionally, your ring and pinkie fingers will play either the 7th or 8th frets when playing this scale.
Now, let’s explore a higher register of the A minor pentatonic scale. To begin, position your first (index) finger on the 12th fret of the low E string. As with the previous version of the scale, you will use your index finger to play a pattern on most of the strings, but not all of them. On the B string, you will use your second (middle) finger to play the 13th fret.
Refer to the diagram below to compare and contrast playing the A minor pentatonic scale in the 5th and 12th positions. After studying the diagram, try playing the scale in the 12th position and listen to the difference in tone for yourself.
A Minor pentatonic scale tab position
5th position tab
To play the lower octave version of the A minor pentatonic scale, start on the low E string, which is the string closest to you when looking down at your guitar. Fret the first note of the scale (A), which can be found on the 5th fret of this string. Use your index finger to fret this note, as it will serve as your “home base” for the rest of the scale.
As you move across the fretboard, you will play two notes on each string. For the stretch between frets 5 and 8, it will be easiest to use your index finger and pinky finger, respectively. When playing the shorter gap between frets 5 and 7, using your index finger and ring finger should feel more natural. Once you have played the scale ascending, try playing it in descending order.
12th position tab
If you’d like to try a different approach to playing the A minor pentatonic scale, you can start an octave higher than before. To do this, begin by fretting the 12th fret of the low E string and stretching your pinkie to the 15th fret of the same string. You’ll then repeat the same pattern on the A string. However, on the D string, you’ll play the 12th fret followed by the 14th fret. The pattern changes again on the G string before switching up yet again on the B string. On the B string, you’ll play the 13th fret followed by the 15th fret. Finally, you’ll end the ascending version of the scale on the high E string by playing the 12th and 15th frets.
A Minor pentatonic scale exercises
To commit the A minor pentatonic scale to memory, try playing it both ascending and descending. Begin with the root note of A, then play C, D, E, G, and finally a higher A. Use the 5th position pattern to play these notes, then work your way back down the scale by starting with the higher A and descending to G, E, D, C, and finally the low A. Practicing this exercise regularly can help you internalize the scale and improve your muscle memory. Don’t forget to use our Guitar tunio to practice accurately. This powerful app is available on the App Store and Play Store, check it out.