This site has the scale pattern numbers similar between Pentatonic and Major scales

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In the above images, Pattern 5 of the Pentatonic scale seems to be aligned to Pattern 5 of the Major scale.

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But, this site has a the same pattern as earlier named as the 1st pattern.

Is the 1st pattern simply a shape with the root note on the 6th string? But there are two shapes with Root notes on 6th string? Is one first just because the root note is earlier in the pattern?

1 Answer 1


The system for naming the patterns is based on the pentatonic scale degree. Major and minor pentatonic scales are built the following way:

Major: 1-2-3-5-6-1

Minor: 1-b3-4-5-b7-1

Pattern 1 starts with the root, Pattern 2 starts with the second note of the respective scales, pattern 3 with the third, etc.

The reason your 3rd diagram is named Pattern 1 is that even though the fingering is identical to diagram 1 pattern 5, it is pattern 1 of a minor pentatonic scale where the root note is the first note on the low E string. In diagram 1, a major pentatonic scale, the root note is the second note of the scale, thus it is pattern 5 of the major pentatonic scale. If you play this pattern say on the 5th fret you will have the notes of both an A minor pentatonic AND a C major pentatonic. These two scales and keys are related to each other (relative major and minor), the only difference is the root note.

Another potential confusing thing about these is diagram 1 gives you fingerings with the root note in red but diagram 4 gives you the actual scale degrees, not the fingerings.

I believe the site diagram 3 came from is better because it teaches you scale degrees instead of fingerings so it helps you to actually learn and know what you are playing. You will also discover that all of these fingering patterns work for both a major and minor pentatonic scale that are relative to each other.

Do this for fun, record yourself strumming a C major chord for 8 bars then switch to an Am for 8 bars. Repeat it a few times. Now play along to it and improvise melodies using the same scale (pattern 1 minor/pattern 5 major) starting on the 5th fret. You’ll see that the same scale works equally well over both chords because of the relationship between C major and A minor, their scales have the same notes.

  • 1
    I've always considered a scale to go from tonic to octave tonic. A lot of these sites feel the need to note each and every note available under a particular hand position. Thus making them neither scales nor modes - but a mash-up of both.And confusing at least. Play a scale in an exam, and it isn't a reflection of what's portrayed on most sites! And, pattern numbers seem to vary depending upon who wrote for the site. Why bother numbering them anyway? I like the last para., buyt feel that only starting on an A note will tend to make it sound Am - start on C, it'll sound C major. +1.
    – Tim
    Aug 24, 2020 at 6:56
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    @Tim I agree, when someone asks me to play or show them a scale I approach it from starting and ending on the same note whether it’s one octave or more. A lot of guitar and bass instruction is based on positional playing so I always try and stress to students that these are the notes that are available to you in this spot but playing all the notes in a position is not a scale in it’s true sense. Aug 24, 2020 at 7:29

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