The 5 Pentatonic Scale Shapes You Must Know

In order to learn how to solo and improvise in blues and rock you must know the 5 pentatonic scale shapes. A lot of blues players tend to get stuck in the first pentatonic scale shape, but to be truly free and improvise across the entire fretboard you need to know all the shapes.

And it’s not just about that. Every shape gives it’s own sound and feeling to a guitar lick. This is where the magic happens. This is where the coolness and the beauty comes through all these different shapes. They all got their own personality.

Learn all the shapes thoroughly and when you do also learn them in different keys. It is a lot of work, but it is important that you do, so take your time with it. Practice with focus and dedication.

The examples below are all in the key of A, but you can play these shapes in every key, just move the shapes up and down the neck. The red notes are showing the root notes of the scale, so in the scale shapes below they are all A notes.

If you want to play the shapes in the key of G for example, all you need to do is move them 2 half steps down. (a half step is a one fret distance) If you want to play the shapes in the key of E move up 7 half steps, etc, etc.

Good luck and enjoy!


(1 octave lower = 12 half steps down)

If you really want to get the most out of your pentatonic / blues scale shapes, incorporating awesome blues licks and learn to improvise using these shapes check out:


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73 Responses to “The 5 Pentatonic Scale Shapes You Must Know

  • Dan:

    This is a great post.

    I am a guitarist and the very first thing I learned was the 5 pentatonic positions.

    So important. Nice work..

  • Hey Dan,

    Indeed very important to master the blues.


  • Hi Klaus
    great site and very informative.

  • Hi Tom,

    Thanx for the compliment.

    Glad you like it!


  • Seth:

    Great website. Ive been searching everywhere to learn how to improv with little success. But this has helped me so much.

    Thank you!

  • Hi Seth,

    I’m glad I could help you out.
    I’ll add more improvisation tools in future posts.

    Klaus Tol

  • Alex:

    May I just say that I totally love you for this ^^

  • Hi Alex,

    Enjoy the shapes. Practice well.

    Klaus Tol

  • Mark:

    I can’t stop playing these scales now! thanks Klaus :D

  • Hey Mark,

    Good for you!

    Once you can play all the shapes, start playing each shape a half step up, a half step down or 2 half steps down, etc. Try to play them every where on the neck, so you learn to think in shapes and not in frets.
    It’s a great exercise and you’ll benefit from it.


  • Mark:

    These patterns are very important. Strange though My 2 guitar teachers, one who is self taught and played for 25 years plays awesome jazz has a great band and shreds to anything, and my other teacher who is in a Hendrix tribute band also plays great. I showed both of my teachers the other four positions. These teachers are great even though… One of them I brought to an open mike he played blues (lead) over the resident guitarist and everybody in the room was very impressed.

  • Magna:

    Excellent post and video. Really helps out. :)

  • Nino:

    These posts have been so extremely helpful in bringing me to the next level of my guitar playing. Thank you so much for all the time you put into these lessons, I really appreciate it.

  • Kieran:

    Hi there,

    I’ve just discovered your website and am finding it very useful.

    I understand how to move it to go into different keys but say you wanted to play in the key of C, would that mean that all the scales would start from the 7th fret of the E string? Im confused how you would play the scales on the earlier frets for a key such as C or D.

  • Dean C:

    Hi klaus, just wanted to compliment you on a great website, im on here all the time, videos and tutorials u do here are fantastic, u have simplicity in your teaching, and I being somewhat of a beginner/intermediate player its taught me alot. If you could do a lesson on triads formations(more complex and some simple) id greatly appreciate it!

  • Not too shabby!


  • Peter Levin:

    Why not just play the five Blues positions. You would just be adding the blue note and it sounds so much better. (To me anyway)

  • Hi Peter,

    I totally agree on that. The blue note is the b5 (flatted fifth).

    So now we’ve got:
    Minor pentatonic = 1, b3, 4, 5, b7
    Blues scale = 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7

    Best regards,

  • Man I am a drummer who is having a go at learning guitar and these scales are easy to read its just gettin the fingers to go where they are supposed to

  • Drew Phillip Jones:

    Hey I am really enjoying the lessons and insights into all the different aspects of being a musician!

    I have been playing for ten years but refuse to stop learning.

    I like how you have trimmed the fat from the plethora of information and presented the most helpful building blocks to becoming a better guitarist.

    with the internet there are a million places to go to get the same information but you have done a very nice job organizing whats relevant and what most guitarist should know!

    Keep on updating! thanks again.


  • Ka'Toria:

    I just wanted to say, I’m new to the whole guitar thing. All I know is tabs and I’m trying to learn chords now. You’re really good with the whole explaining thing so can you make one for chords? That would be AWESOME! Thanks so much (: ROCK ON

  • SAJ!:

    Thanks Klaus…This is really good.

    I believe the first position is A minor pantonic scale, how about the other four? the key note is A everywhere so i believe its all A minor, am i right? I’m just a beginner so plz excuse me if my question sounds stupid to you. :D

  • Rabbit:

    Thanks Klaus, as mentioned yours is simplified with no frills or confusion. But I see what SAJ is asking, – Position 1 starts at A but all positions A is elsewhere. his question isnt stupid I was thinking the same thing. sorry .. start note is played as per your diagrams? – thanks, awesome ..

  • alejandro:

    Incredible! thank u so much!!!! :D !

  • Gavin:

    Hi Klaus! Thanks for sharing this! I’ve been looking for something to help me start guitar soloing. This would be really helpful. I’ve started to practice the scales. Question:
    Is there a general guideline on the fingerings? E.g. For shape #2, in your video, when you play 7 and 10 on the A string, you used your 1st finger and your 3rd finger. Why not your 1st finger and your pinky finger? Wouldn’t that be easier? Thanks!

  • Jeff Bockott:

    This is a very good lesson. Would you (pretty please) update the tabs with blue notes?

  • John:

    Cool video, but in the little intro at the top you say that these scales are in the key of A. You might want to clarify and say “A minor” it might be confusing for guys just starting out. It’d be really cool if you made another video showing where the different position work best and what sounds good in what situations

  • Crist H J:

    This is great.


  • Klaus, I just found your web site and it’s just what I need.I’m a newbe and this will make a big differance.Thank you so much.11/12/12

  • marko:

    great site thanks for helping me learn the pentatonic scales.
    but i just have one problem. i cant do one of those scales casue my neck of my guitar isnt long enough, i suppopse the solution is to buy a guitasr with a long neck, yes lol

  • kevin:

    Thank you!

  • Pentatonics seem to be the bedrock of modern western music. I think being able to tell them apart of you’ve learned them (like distinguishing between Pent. Major, Blues and Minor) is important.

    Anyways, great write up.

  • amo pukhram:

    i hv been plying guitar for the past 3 years.. didnt think this cud be so important.. man, i really like the patterns u’hv shown above.. thanx alot .. i hop it will shape my fingers..

  • Louis:

    Hi, thank you for the scale possitions I’ve been stuck in the first pentatonic shape for a while now and I’m desperate to break free. Do you have any tips on how to practice these?


  • Vikram:

    Thanks for making this so simple and easy to understand. I have been looking for a good place to find the pentatonic combinations and want to thank you much.

  • M:

    Thank you very much for this.

  • Musician:

    Look this is ok, but this manages to leave out the fact that there are TWELVE different pentatonic scales (you know, for all the other keys?). So these five only help you with ONE key! There are, in fact, 55 other Pentatonic scale shapes you need to learn to be a REAL musician.

  • Hi Musician,

    Each scale position/shape can be played up a half step each time which raises the key by a half step or you can go down a half step each time and lower the key by a half step.
    In other words if you take one of those shapes (which in this example are all played in the key of A) and you play the entire scale shape up a half step you are now playing in the key of A#, go up a half step again and you’re playing in the key of B and so on. If you play the A pentatonic down a half step you’ll be playing in the key of Ab, go down a half step again and you’re playing in the key of G and so on.
    So you can play one shape scale in 12 keys just by going up or down the neck playing the exact same shape. So it’s still only 5 shapes you need to learn but you can lower or raise each shape.

    Best regards,
    Klaus Crow

  • Asto:

    Well, it’s basically just two shapes (+ the shapes that uses parts of both) with maximum of 5 fret-distance for each mode anyway (for ex. minor: root on index and root on pinky, major: root on middle and root on pinky) if you do the +1-fret-transition at the b-string on the fly which should be default anyway, as it makes your life much easier instead of trying to learn several pseudo-distinct shapes for every mode without knowing how to connect and interchange them usefully.
    As someone else already said, there are way to many shapes to memorize if you don’t understand to build them inductively from simple shapes (simple := max 1 octave) that can be started anywhere on the fretboard. I would find it rather annoying (at least limiting) to shift these 5 box shapes around in order to play in a certain key, instead of just starting where I am and build the shapes around it the way I want to. Learning the boxes also doesn’t help to understand what notes the pentatonic actually consists of, which I consider far more important than learning quadrillion stupid shapes like a trained monkey. ;)

  • Hi Asto,

    There are indeed many ways to teach the pentatonic / blues scale. These are the five pentatonic shapes most guitar players are familiar with.
    And yes I agree you need to learn where to start your root note, how to connect and interchange the shapes and what the notes of the pentatonic scale consists of and many other important lessons, but that’s why I created the “50 Cool Blues licks Improvisation” course, so you know how to deal with the notes and how to use them for improvising.

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

    Best regards,
    Klaus Crow

  • mark:

    This may be obvious to some, but as a beginner I found it helpful to realize that the shapes fit together in the following way: the bottom of one shape is the top of the next shape. Like the floor of one apartment is the ceiling of the apartment below it.

  • Almost Jimmy Page:

    I have a question. What does it mean that all of the scales are in the key of A when they all start on different notes? Like E, D, and G. Does that just mean that all these scales fit together sound-wise or…?

    Thanks a lot :)

  • Almost Jimmy Page:

    Or, does it all just mean that because it has so and so amount of sharps, it is in the key of A?

  • Hi Almost Jimmy Page :)

    All the 5 shapes are one and the same pentatonic scale and they are all in the key of A.
    The letters C, A, G, E and D all refer to a shape or position. They don’t have anything to do with the key.
    However all the shapes are moveable anywhere on the fretboard. So you can play these 5 shapes in any key.
    Wherever your start your root note becomes the name of the scale. The red note in the tabs indicate the root note of each shape.
    For Example: At this point your 5 shapes are all in the key of A. If you would move up each shape a whole step (2 frets) you would be playing them in they key of B.
    If you would move the shapes down a whole step (2 frets) you would be playing them in they key of G.

    If you really want to dive into this stuff. You can also check out my “50CoolBlueslicksImprovisation” course.

    Best regards,
    Klaus Crow

  • hey klaus i watch all your video in youtube until now i cant understand what is the importance of scale blues please i want to be a good guitarist i practice all your 5 pentatonic scale then after what? what ill do next

  • Chris:

    Hello thanks for this post it was very helpful i was just wondering if this is major or minor pentatonics?

  • Hi Chris,

    These are A minor pentatonics

    Best regard,
    Klaus Crow

  • Just Andrew:

    Was searching for this material. Thanks! And comments above are very useful.

  • Conor:

    Sorry to bother you, but I just had one question; you stated in the description that, in order to play the scales in another key, simply move that positioning the appropriate number of frets up or down the fretboard, but I was wondering, if you did this, would not some of the scale positions overlap? I mean, if you moved the first position up three half steps, wouldn’t it be in the same place on the neck as position two? Sorry, I am just new to this and am attempting to teach myself guitar and wanted to make sure I understood why in order to learn properly. Thank you so much for posting it and thank you for your time!

  • Conor:

    OH, I think I understand it, so playing the first position pepntatonic scale WOULD be playing an A scale, just in a different key, and the second position would be the scale in A, and the root would be on the 7th fret on the D string… So, essentially, the only difference between playing the first pentatonic scale three half steps up and playing the second pentatonic scale is that they would be in different keys (The first in the key of C and the second in the key of A) and that they would begin on different strings?…

  • This looks like a Great place to start getting my fingers to work.
    I always worry my fingers arent long enough. Look at Klauses he could pick his nose and toes at the same time. But anyways thanks!

  • Francis M.:

    hello, I’m a keyboardist… This website It’s very helpful for me… For It will be easier. To, learn guitar and how to play it. :) Thank you for this… God bless!

  • Kirk:

    I just began playing and your website was the first pick i made, you’ll be happy to know i dont know shit about the guitar yet, but your site has been VERY helpful getting me going, thank you.

  • Albert K:

    I’m used to thinking of scale shapes in terms of complete scales and so when I practice shapes I tend to build shapes which start from the tonic, therefore I was a bit confused when I saw these shapes which start from the highest note which the fretboard provides for that particular shape and not necessarily from the tonic, but after trying them I now understand that from a guitar playing point of view this probably the best approach.

  • jeric:

    It took me a couple of hours to master this
    but im still getting hard to apply this to rock genres?

  • chris:

    Hey, this is extemely awesome. My main question is what are the differences between the grey numbers and the red numbers? I am familiar with the first of the pentatonic scales, I have just never seen it explained quite this way. I am willing to learn if you are willing to teach.

  • James:

    I know this is an older post, so I’m not sure if you’ll respond to my comment, but I’m really hoping you will, because I’m confused about something.

    I’m a new guitarist (only been playing for about 3 months) and I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to learn about things like scale patterns, as well as the theory behind scales. When it comes to things like the Minor Pentatonic Scale patterns, my question is, if you’re not concerned with which key you’re in, could you play all 5 of these patterns starting on the same fret? What I mean, is in the patterns above and in your video I found on YouTube, each pattern moves up the freatboard, from the pattern before it, so if you start on fret 5 for the first pattern, by the time you get to the 5th pattern, you’re going to be pretty far down the neck. So, could you just play all 5 patterns starting on the 5th fret and not worry about moving down the neck? Wouldn’t you still get the sound of that pattern, even though you didn’t move it down the neck?

    I guess I’m not understanding the reasoning behind moving each pattern down the neck.


  • […] guitar lessons is the pentatonic. Once you learn that, you can isolate pieces of it to solo. Try to learn it in different keys, and move it up and down the fretboard to familiarize yourself with the different sounds you can […]

  • […] The 5 Pentatonic Scale Shapes You Must Know […]

  • I Am Raid:


    No, it won’t work that way. If you played a different position with the same root on the low A, you’d be playing the position of a different key.

  • Ray:

    Great help thanks … I read through everyone’s comments and some are probably thinking similar. I understand each shape plays the same key/scale (A) , sorry for my repeat question – what is the reason you called the shapes E,D,C,A,G ? when the 6th string start note shown is not A ?. Again may sound dumb but many other sites quote the 6th (start) string as being what the key is … (5,8,10,12,15,3 ) – would this only apply if you were using exactly the same shape up/down ?

  • Marvin Bangcailan:

    nice work ! (Y)

  • Albert:

    Each key has five different scale shapes, and in each key all those five shapes are the same scale. This means each of those five shapes can produce a chord in that key. For example, each scale shape in the key of D can produce the chord D. However, the chord formed in each of those scale shapes will have a different chord shape due to the fact that the notes are arranged differently in each scale shape.
    The chord shapes are named after the chords they produce in position 1 (where you play open chords). So, for example, the shape of the open chord E is called the E shape and the shape of the open D chord is called the D shape. Of course, if you hold the D chord shape on fret no 5 it will give you a chord other than D but you are still holding a D chord shape.
    The natural scale (scale of C) is used as the reference point in music theory, and so the scale shape in the scale of C that will give you a D shape chord C is referred to as scale shape D, and so forth.

  • Vance:

    Hi, more explanations and/or clarifications on the issue of shapes please.
    Position 1 says it’s an E shape but the lowest note is A, the second, a D shape, on a note C, etc. If it’s about the CAGED system the scale positions don’t look like those open chords to me.

  • Michael:

    I really love this stave.. But it is little weird in my eyes. The lines to represent the scales are not clear to understand, i wish you really throw more light on the lines as well.. Thank you

  • Michael:

    I am a young keyboardIst and want to know about the pentatonic scales and the understand the number system of representation the different scales. Also i want to whether the scales are major or minor? Thanks

  • Hi Michael,

    These are minor pentatonic scale shapes.

  • […] The 5 Pentatonic Scale Shapes You Must Know […]

  • Albert K:

    @Michael. This is not a stave, it’s a representation of a guitar fretboard. The lines you see represent guitar strings. I don’t think these diagrams would be of much use to a keyboard player, rather find a website with scales lessons for Piano, there ought to be a good number of them on the internet.

  • Question:

    It does not appear that all E shapes are the same. For example the E shape for key of G (starting on the third fret) has a different pattern than the E shape starting in Key of A 5th fret – your video. It is my understanding from your video that one can move each shape (this case – shape E) up and down the neck of the guitar once you find the root (or key) and have the same pattern. So, does the E shape pattern change depending on what key you are playing in?

  • Tony:


    I’m a begginer E-Guitar,your lessson very very useful,thank for your teaching!
    If possiple,please post some solo section for learing.

  • What a great post. thank you I am a chordbased songwriter but i’m trying to teach my son. Do you have a video showing how to use the correct fingering up and down the neck for this scale. Thanks again, Rich

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