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Ok, so the :

C Major Pentatonic

enter image description here

and the A Minor Pentatonic

enter image description here

are supposed to be the same stuff. But I'm unsure how that happens theoretically. (Apart from the obvious fact that they have the same notes in the fretboard).

Is this happening the same way as how E Lydian == G# Aeolian in the Diatonic scale ? Like, if i only know the 3 octave Aeolian shape, and I want to play E Lydian with it, this is what I have to do :

  1. Find my key (E). Let that be the Open 6th string.
  2. Move as many frets up/down as is the half-step difference between the mode I want to play (Lydian) and the mode I know how to play (Aeolian) ,which in this case is 4.
  3. Thus, if I play the Aeolian shape from 4th fret, 6th String, I'm playing G# Aeolian, and that's the same as E Lydian.

Can someone guide me as to how I can do this with pentatonic scales ? That is, play any Major Pentatonic using the Minor Pentatonic shape ?


EDIT :
Why does going three steps down from A minor Pentatonic give C Major Pentatonic ?
Why is it not called A Minor Lydian Pentatonic or something ?


  • Did you mean 2 octave rather than 3? You've boxed two octaves of notes there. – Tim Jun 27 '15 at 18:50
  • I mean 3. The image source did not have the means to box 3 octaves that's all. – Somjit Jun 28 '15 at 2:11
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    3 steps UP gives C maj. pent. The pitch rises, so it's up. The modes work from Ionian being sort of accepted as the 1st mode - the major scale notes. Most theory uses the major scale as the datum point. – Tim Jun 30 '15 at 10:49
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All relative scales work the same no matter the scale. For example in the case of major and minor pentatonic scales in your example the C major pentatonic scales and the A minor pentatonic scales contain the sames notes as you can see here:

C Major pentatonic: C  D  E  G  A
A Minor pentatonic: A  C  D  E  G   

The differences is what the tonic (or root) as different tonic defines the scale. So while the scales contain the same notes and you are technically playing the same scale, they each have a different tonic in mind that defines them.

These relationships exist for all scales and the naming scheme is historic in nature and tied to the seven natural modes of the major scale. We could even name the other scales of the pentatnoinc scale as seen in this quesion and answer. You have already noticed this pattern as you pointed out, but what seems to be troubling you is the relationship between these two so instead let's just look at the scale pattern for each:

Major pentatonic: root  M2  M3  P5  M6
Minor pentatonic: root  m3  P4  P5  m7   

It's these patters that are actually used to build the two pentatonic scales. It may be easier to think of the C major pentatonic and the A minor pentatonic as these two independent patterns for now, but eventually after playing them for a wile you'll understand the slight nuances of them and understand why they are the same notes, but different scales.

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Dom Aug 27 '15 at 21:39
  • I've cleaned up the comments here, I'm sure if anything fruitful arises from the chat you will edit :) – Matthew Read Aug 29 '15 at 5:02
  • Correct any affiliation of pentatonic to major and minor as 'modes' or extend your model to all FIVE pentatonic inversions of the same basic scale without referring to 'Church-mode' and I will vote you up because otherwise the answer is very well written to understand an aspect of the whole issue at hand and answers the question spot on. But it has to be sound proof... ;-) – mramosch Aug 30 '15 at 19:32
  • I assembled all information about definition of basic terms in: music.stackexchange.com/questions/36342/… - see -> A little aside to honor pentatonic scales – mramosch Aug 30 '15 at 19:34
  • @mramosch after all discussions, I am still 100% fine with the answer I gave here and don't see a reason to edit it, but I will change modes to scales to avoid the confusion from earlier. – Dom Aug 30 '15 at 21:30
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Put emphasis on the C note of the Minor Pentatonic patterns from your example. Start by beginning and ending phrases using the C note in the example you have. You can play all the Minor Pentatonic scale patterns this way directed towards the C note. You have to know where you are going, what is the root note you are after.

To define a modes play the scale starting and ending on a specific note. D Dorian would be all the notes from the C Major scale starting and ending on D. An E Phyrgian would be the same thing, E to E using the same notes from C Major for example.

That logic can be applied to the Pentatonic Scale to C to C using the Minor Pentatonic fingering that you have on the example and they will be Major Pentatonic.

Listen to songs, solos and phrases you are interested in. You will pick up a vocabulary from that because players mix these scales all the time. They also add the Blues scale in there too with the Pentatonic Scales. So you can have a solo that has a Major sounding phrase to a Minor phrase with a Blues Scale phrase all in the same solo.

  • A difference i note is that, we take The major scale , the Ionian mode, and work out other modes that come after it, like phrygian, or lydian etc. How do you work when you start with a lower mode, like Aeolian, and try to play a mode that comes before on the chart ? Am i even making a valid question ? – Somjit Jun 28 '15 at 2:45
  • If you start in Aeolian realize that is relative to the Major(Ionian) scale. A Minor is relative to C Major. Some more info on modes: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(music) – r lo Jun 28 '15 at 18:54
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Yes, you have the right idea. The major and minor pents use exactly the same notes, thinking relative. as in C maj is relative to A min. This also works for full major and natural minor. And if you take modes, for example, C Ionian has the same notes as D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian and B Locrian. This lot can be moved to any key, so for instance, E Dorian is the same notes as C# Locrian, or E Aeolian (nat. minor) is the same notes as G Ionian (major). The maj. and min. blues scales also work the same way, with relatives. You wouldn't necessarily use the same pattern for each example, but you could with small changes at the bottom and top to compensate, which is what the diagram shows.

  • So its the same notes, and the same shape, just where you start and end that defines a mode - right ? – Somjit Jun 28 '15 at 2:27
  • I have edited the post, could you please have a look.. – Somjit Jun 28 '15 at 2:35

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