A Minor Pentatonic Scale: An Essential Guide

Want to learn the a minor pentatonic scale? We’re going to show you everything you need to know about the A minor pentatonic scale.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 3 awesome pentatonic licks which will make you sound amazing.
  • 7 must-know A minor pentatonic patterns.
  • The secret to why minor pentatonic scales are SO useful.
  • 2 quick and easy tips for finding root notes.

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What’s A Pentatonic Scale?

A pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale which can be used to create solos and melodies. Not only does it sound great, pentatonic scales are also easy to learn.

In this lesson we’re going to be focusing on one of the most popular guitar scales, the A minor pentatonic scale. Let’s learn how to play this scale!

A minor pentatonic scale

A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Pattern 1

This pattern is THE most important minor pentatonic scale that you can learn.

Here’s the tab:

A minor pentatonic scale

When playing the A minor pentatonic scale, you’ll only ever need to use two fingers per string. Make sure that use:

  • Fingers 1 and 4 on the E string.
  • Fingers 1 and 3 on the A string.
  • Fingers 1 and 3 on the D string.
  • Fingers 1 and 3 on the G string.
  • Fingers 1 and 4 on the B string.
  • Fingers and 4 on the E string.

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

Using The A Minor Pentatonic Scale

Minor pentatonic scales are used to create solos or melodies.

However you can’t just use the A minor pentatonic scale anywhere. It’s vital that you know where and when you can use it.

To know when you can use this scale, you must understand how musical keys work.

Musical keys are useful to know as they allow us to know what notes we can and can’t play when improvising.

The Key Of A Minor

The A minor pentatonic scale comes from the key of A minor.

The key of A minor has exactly the same chords as the key of C.

The chords in the key of A minor:

  • A minor.
  • B diminished.
  • C major.
  • D minor.
  • E minor.
  • F major.
  • G major.

The chords in the key of C are:

  • C major.
  • D minor.
  • E minor.
  • F major.
  • G major.
  • A minor.
  • B diminished.

They are exactly the same.

Want to know more about they key of C? Go here: Understanding the chords in the key of C

What does this mean?

This means that if you want to improvise with your A minor pentatonic scale, you can do it over ANY of these chords. All of your notes in the A minor pentatonic scale will sound great.

A minor pentatonic scale

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Learning Licks

Another great way to integrate the A minor pentatonic scale into your playing is to learn some minor pentatonic licks.

What’s A Lick?

A lick is a small musical phrase which you can use to help you improvise. Licks help you improvise quickly and easily.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Lick 1

Here’s a bluesy lick to get you started. This would work perfectly over an A blues progression.

Blues Lick

This lick can be tricky as it uses string bending. To learn how to string bend, watch this video:

A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Lick 2

This is another classic pentatonic lick which has been used by hundreds of rock gods over the years.

Buckle up, this one is FAST!

Rock Lick

To play this lick correctly, you must know how to play hammer on’s and pull off’s. Watch this video to learn how:

A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Lick 3

This one is a finger twister! Practice this one slowly and build up your speed gradually.

Country Lick

Practicing These Licks To Backing Tracks

Now you’ve learnt these 3 licks, the best place to practice them is in a musical situation

The first backing track is in the key of A Minor and uses the chords A minor and C major.

You should be able to hear how great the A minor pentatonic licks sound over this backing track.

Remember this works because the key of A minor has exactly the same chords as the key of C.

A Blues Backing Track

The second backing track is a 12 bar blues in the key of A.

The minor pentatonic scale works fantastically over a A blues. Practice using each of the guitar licks over this backing track.

For more lessons on lead guitar, go here: How To Play Lead Guitar

A MInor Pentatonic Scale

Learning guitar licks plays a big part in creating solos. Here’s a list of the 50 greatest guitar solos of all time: 50 Greatest Guitar Solos | Guitar World

Targeting Root Notes

One vital aspect of learning lead guitar is targeting the root notes. Root notes are so important if you want to learn how to improvise.

What are root notes?

Root notes are the first note in a scale or chord.

For example a A minor chord has the notes A, C and E in it.

But the most important note in this chord is the note A.

  • This is the first note in the chord and is therefore the root note.

In your open A minor chord, there is also another root note. This is on the 2nd fret of the G string. (Sometimes you get two root notes in a chord and that’s fine!)

Learn more about root notes here: What Is The Root Note Of A Chord?

A minor pentatonic scale

Don’t know how to play this chord? Go here: Am Guitar Chord For Beginners

Finding Root Notes In Scales

Root notes can also be found in scales. Luckily for us we can use the exact same rule to find the root notes in a scale.

  • To find the root note in a scale, you play the very first note of the scale. That’s your root note.

For example, if you play an A minor pentatonic scale. The notes of the A minor pentatonic scale are A C D E G.

The first note in that scale is the A note. Therefore the A note is the root note.

Just like our chords, we often get more than just one root note in a scale.

You also find root notes on the:

  • 7th fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • 5th fret of the high E string. (1st string.)

These are just octaves of our original root note.

To learn more about octaves, go here: Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

A minor pentatonic scale

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

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Why is this important?

Understanding where the root notes are is vital when learning lead guitar. These are the notes which will make you sound amazing.

When you solo it’s essential that you target the root note when you start and end your phrases. That way your phrases will ALWAYS sound resolved.

Try this as a cool bonus challenge:

  • Start your solo using a root note.
  • End your solo using a root note.
  • Start and end your solo using a root note.

With these essential tips you’ll be rocking in no time.

As well as learning our core pentatonic scale shape, there are some other hidden pentatonic shapes which also sound great. Let’s learn them.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Pattern 2

This is a great pattern to get under your fingers. In this scale you’ll find SO many bluesy secrets!

Make sure that you spend a bit of time getting this important minor pentatonic scale shape right.

A minor pentatonic scale

Take a look at the B and E string in this scale shape, notice how this pattern uses the 1st and 3rd finger here, this will come in extremely useful when you want to tackle those classic bluesy bends.

In this scale the first note isn’t the root note. You can find the A root note on the:

  • 7th fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • 10th fret of the B string. (2nd string.)

Make sure you remember this when you learn this scale as these are the notes you’ll want to target when you solo.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Pattern 3

This can be a difficult shape to get underneath your fingers. However, once you have it down it can lead to some very interesting pentatonic sounds.

A minor pentatonic scale

You can play this pattern using just your first and third finger, however when you get to the B string (2nd string) use your pinky to stretch up to the 13th fret.

Just like our previous pattern, the root note isn’t the first note in this scale. You can find the A root note on the following strings.

  • 12th fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • 10th fret of the B string. (2nd string.)

Make sure you spend a bit of time visualising where the root notes are as this comes in handy when improvising.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Pattern 4

This pattern uses a variety of different fingerings and is perfect for enhancing your dexterity.

When learning this scale, make sure that you practice it slowly. This will help your finger technique.

a minor pentatonic scale

You can find the A root note in this scale on the:

  • 12th fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • 14th fret of the D string. (4th string.)

Even though this pattern is tricky, there are lots of pentatonic secrets to be found in this scale.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale: Pattern 5

This is a great funky pentatonic pattern. Make sure you use your pinky on the D (4th string) and G string (3rd string), this will enhance your dexterity.

A minor pentatonic scale

Using your fourth finger to play scales can be difficult, but the more you get used to it the more versatility you will have as a guitar player. The more fingers you can use, the faster you can play.

Here, the root notes are on the:

  • 5th fret of the low E string. (6th string.)
  • 2nd fret of the G string. (3rd string.)
  • 5th fret of the high E string. (1st string.)

This pattern is perfect soloing, as there are loads of root notes which you can target in your solos.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Diagonal Pattern 1

Diagonal patterns are great as they allow us to connect all of our existing pentatonic patterns together into one huge scale.

This is a great pattern to learn if you’ve exhausted all of your other scale shapes.

A minor pentatonic scale

Notice how each we ascend through each pentatonic pattern.

In this scale you use the:

  • The first three notes from pattern 5.
  • The next five notes from pattern 1.
  • The next six notes from pattern 2.
  • The final note from pattern 3/4.

Make sure you that start each new string with your 1st finger. This will add fluidity to your lines.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Diagonal Pattern 2

Here’s another example of a diagonal pentatonic pattern that use to enhance your A minor pentatonic scale knowledge.

A minor pentatonic scale

In this scale, we borrow notes from the following minor pentatonic scales:

  • The first six notes of pattern 3.
  • The next five notes of pattern 4.
  • The final 3 notes of pattern 5.

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

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Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

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