The Five Pentatonic Box Shapes

21 Nov The Five Pentatonic Box Shapes

The following are examples of the five pentatonic box shapes. Each scale is both major and minor at the same time, i.e the E major Pentatonic is also the C# minor pentatonic. Refer to ‘An Introduction to Music Theory’, move a major shape up three frets and it becomes the relative minor.

Learn each scale and then it will become obvious to you that when playing in a different key, the shapes are the same just in a different fretboard position.Β Each time you pick up the guitar use these as a warm up exercise and within a short while they will be imprinted on your brain. Practice them from the nut to the twelfth until you know them, then start in the middle and work both up and down, see how each shape overlaps the next/previous?

Importantly combine the shapes without getting locked in each i.e think ouside the box!

Each example is in E which is my favourite key due to the amount of open strings available (more so for the minor/blues) the root notes E are highlighted by the box around them.

E major pentatonic E F# G# B C# E and C# minor pentatonic C# E F# G# B C#

The E minor pentatonic is also the G Major pentatonic.

E minor pentatonic E G A B D E and G Major pentatonic G A B D E G.Β  All of the open strings fit!


The Blues scale is essentially the minor pentatonic with the added sharp fourth/flat fifth.

E Blues E G A Bb B D E

Robert Taylor

51 years old. AC/DC fan since I was 11, I live and breathe their music and first got a guitar because of Angus' playing. I'm an intermediate level Guitar player. Likes blues based Rock 'N' Roll bands. I'm easy going, interested in life, people and nature. Gear: 1970 Gibson SG, 1977 Ibanez Artist AR2622eq; 1979 Marshall 2203, 1971 Marshall 1960A Cab, Cetec Vega Diversity Dynex 2, and TSR No.36.

  • avatar
    Posted at 13:31h, 15 August

    Picture Links are broken here still referencing solodallas.net same goes for here too http://www.solodallas.com/an-introdution-to-music-theory/


    • avatar
      Posted at 12:18h, 16 August

      Ant, I noticed a while ago that the picture links were gone. I wondered if it was because of a site clean up or something so I didn’t bother to repair the article. Not sure whether to repair it or delete it to be honest.

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        Posted at 12:25h, 16 August

        please repair i find it usful πŸ™‚

        images are still on the site just need to change the links from .net to .com

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          Posted at 12:50h, 16 August

          I’m not having any luck with that Ant, I’ll have to ask Franz.

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            Posted at 13:29h, 16 August

            Thanks Rob!

            useful pages, this is somthing my brain is missing πŸ˜€

            i usualy just play the notes that sound right but want to learn more about the theory side of it, Ta

          • avatar
            Posted at 20:20h, 16 August

            Just saw your comment now and fixed the article. The image links pointed to the old solodallas.net site, thats why they didnt load. Changed all image links to solodallas.com. Have fun πŸ™‚

            • avatar
              Posted at 20:24h, 16 August

              Update: fixed both articles.

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                Posted at 18:52h, 17 August

                Thank you Franz πŸ™‚

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                  Posted at 21:45h, 17 August

                  Any upcoming covers rob? not seen any for a while πŸ™‚

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              Posted at 21:21h, 16 August

              Franz you are a legend! πŸ™‚ Thanks

              Studying it now!!

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    Posted at 10:47h, 03 August

    Thanks very much for posting these! I’ve been contemplating to start practicing scales on my SG for quite some time, so this will become very handy, especially with also the blues scale explained. My mind is playing it already!

    One comment on the major and related minor explanation in the beginnig. I think the major is 3 frets (semitones) above the related minor, not the other way around. Also, to clarify, it is not needed to shift every note down, but the trick is to move just the starting point. In other words, to move from E major to C# minor, just start from C# and then continue playing the same notes as in E major, from next higher E onwards. This seems to work for pentatonic and natural scales.

    If you would move every note down 3 frets, you would get C# major, instead of minor. Moving the boxes with all notes becomes handy for transposing the scale to different key, e.g. to key of A, which many AC/DC tunes are on.

    Another related point: I could not find Phils original ‘an introduction to music theory’ article with search, but found the link from a paper copy (suppose it is still there down the list somewhere). Here is the link for other seekers: http://www.solodallas.net/an-introdution-to-music-theory/ (some italian spelling there? ;-> )

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      Posted at 14:27h, 03 August

      Correct! The major IS three frets above the minor not below, I’ll change it now, and promise to read thoroughly anything else I post in future.
      Second point, I think we are saying the same thing. Move the whole shape to the new root note and play the same pattern (not the same notes).
      thanks πŸ™‚

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    Posted at 05:38h, 01 December

    Now I wonder something. I’m sure many of us do. How can we use these scales to create solos? Or to at least help us with solos?

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      Posted at 11:13h, 03 August

      The trick with solos is that they use one of the scales. In my response below to lariviere I explain what I think how the scales can be used for creating solos.

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    Posted at 15:23h, 28 November

    SD (or any other hard rockin amigo on this forum). Do you have any drumbackingtracks that I could use to practise. I know there are alot of them on the web but I never find any with phil rudd kind of rythms or bluesrythms. r

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    Posted at 11:06h, 25 November

    Hi Fil,

    just made a cover of the first solo of whole lotta rosie. The live version. The timing there is very difficult;


    What do you think of it?

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      Posted at 21:56h, 02 December

      That was some outstanding guitar playing! Well done!

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    Posted at 09:46h, 23 November

    Thanks a lot Rob for sharing πŸ™‚

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    Posted at 19:59h, 22 November

    thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.
    i hope one day you will make a tutorial about improvising.
    I’m a beginner ( 3 years of guitar), i work hard and know some solo (the one i’m most proud is the solo of “gone shootin'”), but every time i listen angus playing (about 4 -5 hours a day)i ask myself how a man can create that in one shot ( angus says that he always record solo in on shot).
    i think if i work hard i can learn 75% of the solo i listen and that far than i’ll expect when i brought my first guitar (an sg ), but now i want more and more is improvising… how to say that …. in the “angus style”
    it my first post thank you again for all.

    • avatar
      Posted at 11:10h, 03 August

      Hi lariviere, I will share my view here, although I am not a great teacher on this, since I can not play any solo properly on guitar. I have been playing around with so many instruments for too long, and can improvise a little bit, e.g. on chord successions.

      Angus may have recorded the solos at one go, but being as pedant musician as he is, I’m pretty sure he has designed and practiced them very carefully before hand. There are great guitarists who prefer improvising all of their solos around the known theme, but I have to say I like them less. I want to hear the sweet things I know are coming just at their right place, and not something else that was created at the spot.

      I think the solos are designed or composed if you will, by going or jumping up and down of the selected scale, in the key of the tune, almost randomly, adding little licks known from somewhere else, and trying what note combinations and rythms sound cool. When you hit a nice succession, you record that down, and continue from there. Others can help the guitar player to choose what sounds good. In AC/DC type music, less is often more, and everything is built on repetition (well, maybe mot the solos).

      How to lear to improvise? Well, keep on practicing the tunes. When you have played so many things others have created, you will learn the usual tricks and will be able to put them together in your own way, to create own music. First by composing (with time, trial and error, recording good things down) and then improvising on the fly.

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    Posted at 18:54h, 22 November

    Rob, this is GOOD for all of us. πŸ™‚

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    Posted at 11:41h, 22 November

    I agree, u explain it very well!

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    Posted at 21:06h, 21 November

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR MAKING IT CLEAR MAN YOU ARE INCRIDIBLE!! I sat struggeling with the earlier post and you made it all clear on every detail, thanks! πŸ˜€

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