Pentatonic Scales on Guitar: In-Depth Analysis

'Penta' means 'Five'

The dirty little secret that most guitar educators won’t let you in on is that most of those “scales” they teach you are actually the same scale.

“What!?” You may be thinking to yourself.

Yeah, it’s true.

That “Minor Pentatonic” scale they teach you? It’s the same as the “Major Pentatonic” scale.

They are just two of the 5 “Modes” of one scale.


You see, every scale is made up of a certain number of notes.

In the case of Pentatonic scales, there are 5 notes (thus the name “Penta” meaning “5”).

So each of those notes can be the beginning of a “sub-scale” of it’s own, called a “Mode”.

How you find a mode is to just start on any note of your scale and play up or down the scale until you get to that same note again.

Since Pentatonic scales have 5 notes, they also have 5 modes: one of each note of the scale.


So in the spirit of transparency, I’m going to take you on a journey through 5 Pentatonic scales and each of their 5 modes as well.

Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what scales and modes really are.

Lydian Pentatonic

Lydian Pentatonic OverviewOur first scale is the “Lydian Pentatonic” scale. I chose to call it that because I derived it from the “Lyidan” Mode of the standard Diatonic (or 7 note “Major”) scale.


Mode 1: Lydian Pentatonic Overview 1st Moe

  • Starts and ends on “F”.
  • Major 3rd on “A”.
  • Augmented 4th on “B”.
  • Perfect 5th on “C”.
  • Major 7th on “E”.

Lydian Pentatonic 1st Mode


Mode 2: (Hirajoshi Scale)Lydian Pentatonic Overview 2nd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “A”.
  • Major 2nd on “B”.
  • Minor 3rd on “C”.
  • Perfect 5th on “E”.
  • Minor 6th on “F”.
Lydian Pentatonic 2nd Mode

Mode 3: (Iwato Scale)Lydian Pentatonic Overview 3rd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “B”.
  • Minor 2nd on “C”.
  • Perfect 4th on “E”.
  • Diminished 5th on “F”.
  • Minor 7th on “A”.

Lydian Pentatonic 3rd Mode


Mode 4:Lydian Pentatonic Overview 4th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “C”.
  • Major 3rd on “E”.
  • Perfect 4th on “F”.
  • Major 6th on “A”.
  • Major 7th on “B”.
Lydian Pentatonic 4th Mode

Mode 5: (Kumoi Scale)Lydian Pentatonic Overview 5th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “E”.
  • Minor 2nd on “F”.
  • Perfect 4th on “A”.
  • Perfect 5th on “B”.
  • Minor 6th on “C”.
Lydian Pentatonic 5th Mode

Mixolydian Pentatonic Mixolydian Pentatonic Overview

This pentatonic scale is based on the 5th mode of the Diatonic scale. It is “Naturally” generated on the note “G”. This is why I call this scale the “Mixolydian Pentatonic”.


Mode 1:
Mixolydian Pentatonic Overview 1st Mode

  • Starts and end on “G”.
  • Major 3rd on “B”.
  • Perfect 4th on “C”.
  • Perfect 5th on “D”.
  • Minor 7th on “F”.

Mixolydian Pentatonic 1st Mode


Mode 2: Mixolydian Pentatonic Overview 2nd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “B”.
  • Minor 2nd on “C”.
  • Minor 3rd on “D”.
  • Diminished 5th on “F”.
  • Minor 7th on “B”.

Mixolydian Pentatonic 2nd Mode


Mode 3: Mixolydian Pentatonic Overview 3rd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “C”.
  • Major 2nd on “D”.
  • Perfect 4th on “F”.
  • Perfect 5th on “G”.
  • Major 7th on “B”.

Mixolydian Pentatonic 3rd Mode


Mode 4: Mixolydian Pentatonic Overview 4th Mode

  • Starts and stops on “D”.
  • Minor 3rd on “F”.
  • Perfect 4th on “G”.
  • Major 6th on “B”.
  • Minor 7th on “C”.

Mixolydian Pentatonic 4th Mode


Mode 5: Mixolydian Pentatonic Overview 5th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “F”.
  • Major 2nd on “G”.
  • Augmented 4th on “B”.
  • Perfect 5th on “C”.
  • Major 6th on “D”.

Mixolydian Pentatonic 5th Mode


Minor Pentatonic

Minor Pentatonic Overview

Here is the well known but little understood “Minor Pentatnoic” scale. It is generated naturally on the enharmonic note “Eb/D#” which are the 5 black keys on the piano. However I have this one starting on the note “A” because that is the cannonical (most common) example where it is taught. No point in reiventing the wheel right? This scale can be generated from the Major scale by using either “A”, “D”, or “E” thus the name “Minor” because it fits over all of the minor modes.


Mode 1:
Minor Pentatonic Overview 1st Mode

  • Starts and ends on “A”.
  • Minor 3rd on “C”.
  • Perfect 4th on “D”.
  • Perfect 5th on “E”.
  • Minor 7th on “G”.Minor Pentatonic 1st Mode

Mode 2: (Chinese Scale) Minor Pentatonic Overview 2nd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “C”.
  • Major 2nd on “D”.
  • Major 3rd on “E”.
  • Perfect 5th on “G”.
  • Major 6th on “A”.

Minor Pentatonic 2nd Mode


Mode 3: Minor Pentatonic Overview 3rd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “D”.
  • Major 2nd on “E”.
  • Perfect 4th on “G”.
  • Perfect 5th on “A”.
  • Minor 7th on “C”.

Minor Pentatonic 3rd Mode


Mode 4: Minor Pentatonic Overview 4th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “E”.
  • Minor 3rd on “G”.
  • Perfect 4h on “A”.
  • Minor 6th on “C”.
  • Minor 7th on “D”.

Minor Pentatonic 4th Mode


Mode 5: Minor Pentatonic Overview 5th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “G”.
  • Major 2nd on “A”.
  • Perfect 4th on “C”.
  • Perfect 5th on “D”.
  • Major 6th on “E”.

Minor Pentatonic 5th Mode


Locrean Pentatonic Locrean Pentatonic Overview

This scale is generated from the 7th mode of the standard Diatonic (often called “Major”) scale. This is generated off of the note “B” and has a diminished 5th in it’s root position (1st mode).


Mode 1:
Locrean Pentatonic Overview 1st Mode

  • Starts and ends on “B”.
  • Minor 3rd on “D”.
  • Perfect 4th on “E”.
  • Diminished 5th on “F”.
  • Minor 7th on “A”.

Locrean Pentatonic 1st Mode


Mode 2: Locrean Pentatonic Overview 2nd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “D”.
  • Major 2nd on “E”.
  • Minor 3rd on “F”.
  • Perfect 5th on “A”.
  • Major 6th on “B”.

Locrean Pentatonic 2nd Mode


Mode 3: Locrean Pentatonic Overview 3rd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “E”.
  • Minor 2nd on “F”.
  • Perfect 4th on “A”.
  • Perfect 5th on “B”.
  • Minor 7th on “D”.

Lydian Pentatonic 3rd Mode


Mode 4: Locrean Pentatonic Overview 4th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “F”.
  • Major 3rd on “A”.
  • Augmentedt 4th on “B”.
  • Major 6th on “D”.
  • Major 7th on “E”.

Locrean Pentatonic 4th Mode


Mode 5: Locrean Pentatonic Overview 5th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “A”.
  • Major 2nd on “B”.
  • Perfect 4th on “D”.
  • Perfect 5th on “E”.
  • Minor 6th on “F”.
Locrean Pentatonic 5th Mode

Ionian Pentatonic

Ionian Pentatonic OverviewThis Pentatonic scale is based off the 1st mode of the standard Diatonic scale.


Mode 1:
Ionian Pentatonic Overview 1st Mode

  • Starts and ends on “C”.
  • Major 3rd on “E”.
  • Perfect 4th on “F”.
  • Perfect 5th on “G”.
  • Major 7th on “B”.
Ionian Pentatonic 1st Mode

Mode 2: (Balinese Scale)Ionian Pentatonic Overview 2nd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “E”.
  • Minor 2nd on “F”.
  • Minor 3rd on “E”.
  • Perfect 5th on “B”.
  • Minor 6th on “C”.

Ionian Pentatonic 2nd Mode


Mode 3:Ionian Pentatonic Overview 3rd Mode

  • Starts and ends on “F”.
  • Major 2nd on “G”.
  • Augmented 4th on “B”.
  • Perfect 5th on “C”.
  • Major 7th on “E”.

Ionian Pentatonic 3rd Mode


Mode 4:Ionian Pentatonic Overview 4th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “G”.
  • Major 3rd on “B”.
  • Perfect 4th on “C”.
  • Major 6th on “E”.
  • Minor 7th on “F”.

Ionian Pentatonic 4th Mode


Mode 5:Ionian Pentatonic Overview 5th Mode

  • Starts and ends on “B”.
  • Minor 2nd on “C”.
  • Perfect 4th on “E”.
  • Diminished 5th on “F”.
  • Minor 6th on “G”.

Ionian Pentatonic 5th Mode


So there you have it: 5 scales with 5 modes each.

Any other educator would claim to have just taught you “25 new scales!” but they would be a liar.

I just taught you 5 scales, one of which you might have already known (the minor pentatonic).

Now you can take this new knowledge and explore them.

If you take each mode of these scales and play through their modes up and and down the length and width of the neck, you’ll be much further along in your journey to mastering the fretboard.

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