So I am fairly confident with my Pentatonic shapes (Exhibit A):

Pattern 1


Pattern 2


Pattern 3


Pattern 4


Pattern 5


However I then started seeing these shapes labelled with the letters C, A, G, E and D. I started looking into the logic behind why each of them might get given each of these letters as a name.

To me it seemed like each of them literally contained the open chord they were named after.

Thus (Exhibit B):

Pattern G

Pattern G

Pattern E

Pattern E

Pattern D

Pattern D

Pattern C

Pattern C

Pattern A

Pattern A

So far my investigations suggest:

Pattern 1 -> G
Pattern 2 -> E
Pattern 3 -> D
Pattern 4 -> C
Pattern 5 -> A

And this seems to be confirmed by several sites:



However it seems to conflict with some other sites which seem to suggest (Exhibit C):

Pattern 1 -> E
Pattern 2 -> D
Pattern 3 -> C
Pattern 4 -> A
Pattern 5 -> G

Can someone please explain:

Have I gotten this wrong? If I have, and this other system is correct, is there a simple reasoning akin to the one I've used?

Please help. I'm all confused

  • 1
    Do all of these patterns use standard tuning, or does at least one of them use an alternate tuning (e.g. Drop D)?
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 28, 2018 at 19:40
  • I believe this is all in standard tuning. Oct 28, 2018 at 20:49
  • I should perhaps add that I have not placed these patterns deliberately in any particular place on the fretboard. Oct 28, 2018 at 20:50
  • 2
    The first way of naming the patterns is based on the chords that match the patterns. The second way is based on where the root note falls in the pattern. I’ll explain more when I have a computer in front of me and time to fully answer. Unless someone beats me to it. Oct 29, 2018 at 2:51
  • Thanks @ToddWilcox. I look forward to reading that. Oct 29, 2018 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


This is down to the 'caged' system that works so well for guitarists. The open chords - C A G E and D all have specific open shapes, all of which can be moved up the fingerboard, a barre added underneath, and new chords produced.

This then gets translated, in a way, into extra notes which are easily within a couple of frets of the existing notes.

Let's take pattern G. Looking at the blue coloured notes, there's a version of the G open chord. Pattern E shows an open E, pattern A shows open A, etc.

The problem I have with this sort of portrayal is that it shows as much as possible, all the available notes under the hand at that position on the neck. Pentatonic major and pent. minor both use the same set of notes - G pent. maj. = E pent. min. BUT - if playing as a scale, one needs to know where to start/finish. It's like a lot of sites show similar for maj. scales, but if one plays all the notes, one is far more likely to end up playing a mode (or two!) and it doesn't sound too much like a scale. Rant over!

The second lot of examples you show ought to make more sense - just numbering patterns, could be any old numbers, doesn't give much of a clue, and it's arbitrary.

  • Sorry Tim. I think this has confused me even more. I have labelled some parts of my question as Exhibit A, B and C. You seem to be suggesting that Exhibit B is based on Open chords (Something I suggested myself). You then seem to suggest that Exhibit C should make more sense, but don't appear to have explained why, which was kind of the point of my question. ie to find some explanation for Exhibit C.... Or possibly I have misunderstood. Oct 30, 2018 at 22:54
  • Problem is, there are many different places to play the same note on guitars. People have come up with these patterns of pentatonic scales, and as you are probably aware, notes from one pattern will overlap or be the same as those from another. The arbitrary numbering is one way, labelling with letters reminiscent of a chord shape found in them is another. Again, there will be, it almost can't be helped, two chord shapes that can be found within one pattern. Take pattern G, and there is an open G shape there, but look again, and there's also an open E shape. What does one label it? Difficult.
    – Tim
    Oct 31, 2018 at 7:55
  • A fair comment. In my case I found that whilst some of the patterns might be able to contain multiple chord shapes, only one of them appeared to be capable of containing an 'A' shape. When I extrapolated from there, I found that the others managed to fit correctly in sequence. Oct 31, 2018 at 8:22
  • Note: I will admit, that the pattern I've noted as G, does seem to be capable of also containing an 'A' shape, but this appears to require that it is positioned on the left of the patten. When I extrapolated that logic to the other patterns and shapes, I found that the 'C' shape would not fit without leaving the pattern. Oct 31, 2018 at 8:23

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