I'm hoping someone can help me. Ι've been playing guitar for a while and mostly kept myself confined to chords/rηythm, but now I want to explore some lead styles to add to my skills.

So I began with some scales - I don't really read music or study theory, so I know my chords mainly by shape - and the same with scales, I know the 'shape' of a basic major scale using open strings and 2nd/3rd/4th fret (I don't even know what key thats in, but hey!).

I also know a basic pentatonic shape (on 5-8, 5-7, 5-7, 5-7, 5-8, 5-8) which I know is A Minor because I looked it up, so that I could play along with one of my favourite songs.

I seem to have run out of notes however, once i'm on the 8th fret on the last string, I want to go a bit higher to add some more variation, but I don't know where to take it / which notes are right, and I can't seem to find a resource online (that doesn't want to charge me at least) to just tell me how to continue the scale i'm playing in different positions.

Can anyone show me a good resource, or offer me handy tips on how to work it all out?

  • 2
    I won't answer because the correct answers are already up there, but I think it is self-evident that there is a lot of overlap and repetition of the notes on the strings of the guitar (5-8,5-7 is the same as (5-8-10-12). Once one realizes this, one can find virtually the same order of notes in different pattern shapes at different points in the guitar. Once you hit 12th fret, you are "back at the nut" and the patterns all repeat.
    – horatio
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 18:18
  • i think what is actually needed (and I fell down this same rabbit hole) is to learn to connect those shapes, rather than to see them as a fixed pattern of boxes with overlaps try this guy's view lincolnmckenzie.com/the-pentatonic-scale-part-3-slides Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 12:44

5 Answers 5


There are a bunch of answers already on this website which will help you; what you are looking for is how to play pentatonic modes (as a starter). A mode is a scale which begins on some interval of a scale and ends on its corresponding interval an octave higher (containing only the notes in the original scale but starting and ending on a different interval).

Your example is A minor, the notes of the A minor pentatonic scale are:

A - C - D - E - G

With that in mind consider these modes of the A minor pentatonic:

Playing through from A (the one you already know)

$6.5  $6.8  $5.5  $5.7  $4.5  $4.7  $3.5  $3.7  $2.5  $2.8  $1.5  $1.8

From C

$6 8 10  $5 7 10  $4 7 10  $3 7 9  $2 8 10  $1 8 10

From D

$6 10 12  $5 10 12  $4 10 12  $3 9 12  $2 10 13  $1 10 12  

From E

$6 12 15  $5 12 15  $4 12 14  $3 12 14  $2 13 15  $1 12 15

From G

$6 15 17  $5 15 17  $4 14 17  $3 14 17  $2 15 17  $1 15 17

Then from here, you are back to your original shape an octave higher, starting on the 17th fret.

After learning all the in between shapes you should be able to creatively traverse the neck in a particular key without too many problems. Remember that on the guitar the shapes never change, but the key you are in might.

So if you needed to use B minor pentatonic, you would apply the same shapes but starting on B - D - E - F# - A respectively.

When practicing the shapes i would suggest using a backing track and try playing the different shapes over different chords and see how they sound.

Additional useful reading on this site:

What is the first scale to learn on the guitar

Hand position while practising scales

What are modes and how are they useful

Also check out Dave Weiner's Youtube channel for excellent free lessons from an awesome player, he has sections on there covering modes, pentatonics and a bunch of other stuff.


You need to start learning music theory. Learning about notes and scales won't take you very long at all, and instead of needing to buy chord books and struggle with trying to figure out what shapes/positions sounds good, you'll already know. Continuing a scale higher up the neck will be dead simple if you just put a little time into learning the basics.

Another good answer that talks about this: Are there any books or videos out there that teach you SLOWLY and do not focus on learning TABS?

  • 1
    I did a whole 24 week 'beginner' community course at the dedicated music college a year or so ago. While it definately helped me - with the introduction to scales, a bit of feedback, there were parts which didn't quite sink in - i'm one of those people that finds it easier to try stuff first, and then work out 'why' it is later. Backwards, I know - but thats just me!
    – Kipper
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 9:21

Get this book. It's $20 and it has every scale imaginable, with exercises to help learn them. It's crazy good. You can order it from their website, from Amazon, or pick it up at guitar center.

P.S. - I own this book and the rest of their guitar series, so I'm speaking from experience.

  • As great a tool a good scale compendium can be, I would not recommand any of them to a beginner. It's way too easy to be intimidated, confused and lose the musicality of it all. My advice : at the very least learn the patterns and sound of the pentatonics before delving into that.
    – Pif
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 11:35

As a sidenote to position playing (and the good, accpeted answer), don't forget that in standard tuning an octave is two strings up and two (until the G string) or three frets away.

...Which means that any two-string pattern can be repeated, in the case of pentatonics either by learning full pentatonics on two strings (warm up your pinky) or by sliding into the next position. It will help you move from position to position confidently.


Kipper, you're at a great spot now. There's alot to discover and it will all be fun and hard work - but worth it.

Learning theory will help - definitely, but you said it: "I'm one of those people that finds it easier to try stuff first".

High Level summary of what can help:

  1. ABSOLUTELY know all your first position chords and barre chords. MUST MUST MUST!

  2. Learn the CAGED system (this will lead to Point #3)

Don't get too hung up on this. You can revisit this. Just get the basics. (side note: I am writing an article about this as it's been asked so many times but the Google answers I get are all the same and seem to answer it in isolation to everything else on the guitar)

Tip. You don't have to start with C to use CAGED. ie. Start with the E and move to D then C then A then G then E (octave 12th fret) then D then C etc etc until you run out of frets!)

By knowing CAGED and CAGED+ (my term for the various sub/part shapes eg. D shape related to C shape using the D/G/B strings) you can expand on the notes you are able to include in your solos.

If you started with the A minor Pentatonic, fantastic!

Instead of playing the scale in a box from E string to E string on frets 5 to 8.... see if you can do a Blues Run beginning from 3rd fret, 6th string and work your way up by playing the following sequence on the following strings: - (6th) 2 notes - (5th) 3 notes [slide from fret 5 to 7] - (4th) 2 notes - (3rd) 3 notes [slide from fret 5 to 7] - (2nd) 2 notes - (1st) 3 notes [slide from fret 8 to 10] and the go backwards This should form a diagonal pattern that goes from lower bass strings to higher treble strings but gradually goes up the neck.

Sorry I can't post a tab for this right now but I may do in the near future.

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