Major Pentatonic Scales CAGED Chord shapes


Ok, let me say a few words about what I am trying to achieve here. I am not an Instructor, a Music Teacher or anything like that. But as I have tried to get a better understanding of the neck on a guitar and the theory that is required, I come across things and try to explain them…mostly to myself, but really to anyone that might have come across the same issues.

Like take, for example, the major pentatonic scale patterns. Now I have seen these since I began this mission back in November of 2015, the pentatonic scale patterns. Obviously the scales on this website, the guitar neck pictures have either been flipped 180 degrees vertically to reflect what a left-handed player would need to see, or the picture was drawn that way by myself.

Anyway, so I dutifully accepted that the pentatonic scales/patterns were required to learn, even if I could find no supporting reason why these scales should be learned. Whatever web pages I visited always said something of the same type,

“All modern blues and contemporary songs use the pentatonic scales”.

But even that didn’t help me to understand how to use them. Eventually I located a diagram on that, while it didn’t have any kind of definition about the scales and the chords and how they were meant to be used, I knew it would help out at some point.


So here is that point. With the same reinforcement that you may have read already, I also say to learn the penatonic scales, the shapes, and learn by repetitive practice how to do the particular shapes on any fret of the guitar neck. Practice until you are playing the scales without even knowing that you are playing. This is when you have muscle memory in your hands working in your favor.

With that said, the following graphic shows the chord shapes associated with the 5 penatonic scale shapes from above.


The chords are available and the scale shapes are available. So how difficult is it to play a pentatonic scale shape over a particular chord shape?

Not as difficult as it seems. Becoming a top notch lead guitarist does take time, however.

All we are trying to do is to advance our playing ability, understanding of the chords and notes on the guitar neck, be accurate as possible and get some personal satisfaction along the way.

With these two pieces we can move a further along in opening up the guitar neck for more advanced playing of contemporary, blues and any type of music you are listening to now.

Let me introduce the last piece to couple these two items together. If you learn the individual pentatonic scale shapes and learn the individual chord shapes you will find, in time, that your playing will be much improved as will your musical language skills.
skyscraper scales and chords merged

I have to think that if you are looking for scales then you are familiar with the chord shapes you see in the above graphic. The two shapes that should be the most recognizable are the Major Barre Chord shape “E” and “A”. These are mainstays in classic rock and as an alternative to playing chords at the nut of the guitar.

The “E” chord shape match’s with the Position 1 scale shape, the “D” shape with the Position 2 scale shape, etc.

Why am I saying “E” chord shape? Simple. The “shape” can be played at any note on the guitar neck but it will not always reflect what the root note of the chord is. If you play the “E” shape chord shape on the fifth fret it will produce a Major Chord with the root of “A”. But the scale pattern, Position 1, follows it.

No matter where you play this chord on the neck, no matter what fret it is played at, you will use the Pentatonic Position 1 scale pattern for embellishment or potential lead guitar licks.

If you choose the chord shape “A” as your practice target then you will use the pentatonic position 4 scale pattern for attempting lead guitar licks or to embellish the sound of the chord as it might sound while being playing in one of your song arrangements.

A word on the CAGED system.

As I find time I will offer my interpretation as to how to use this as a mechanism to not only better define the note names on the guitar neck but to learn better the chords associated with this placement and how that will really multiple your musical arrangement techniques.

Musical notion from fretboard to ledger

My practice routine was getting boring. I came across a very nice notation software called MuseScore. It is supported by and is for musicians, built and maintained by like minded persons.

It took me a few minutes tinkering to get a better understanding of the interface, but eventually I was able to take the graphix I have on modes and turn those into musical notation with TAB notation (tab is short for “tablature”. Tab notation is a simplified way to transpose musical notation to be read by players of stringed instruments, e.g.guitar, mandolin, banjo, lute etc.

The good thing is, you do not require either a left-handed or right-handed version. Personally I wanted exposure to the musical notes as they apply to a guitar neck and where are they located no the ledger.

Aeolian mode defined

Locrian mode defined

Ionian mode defined

Dorian mode defined

Phrygian mode defined

Lydian mode defined

Mixoldian mode defined

What does 3NPS stand for? 3NPS is an acronym for “3 Notes Per String”

Authors note:
While these scale patterns could have all been given representation at the lower end of the guitar neck it is good practice to move around the fret board if only for better memory muscle and dexterity. So as you learn one of the scales you are free to try it starting at any fret up or down the fret board.

Left Handed Acoustic Guitar Scale Patterns

Left Handed Acoustic Guitar Scales / Patterns / Shapes

Being left handed has always come with certain challenges when it comes to the interpretation of musical notation for guitar. The problem never presents itself when playing guitar with others that are right handed. That is like looking into a mirror, from my left handed point of view, and is easily recognizable as to where the players hands and fingers are on the fret-board.

But reading typical chord and scale pattern pictures is different since it is all presented from the right handed perspective.

I have a few scale graphics that I have been using, but they have been digitally reversed so I could better resolve to my real world view of right to left as it pertains to the guitar neck and interpreting right handed scale presentation as represented using pictures.

Hope this helps you as much as it has improved my practice time.

3 note per string (3NPS) graphic:
It may at some time later become more pressing to know the names of these modes/scales, not pertinent to me at the present. But I will include the names if nothing more than to practice Greek.

1. Aeolian / Natural Minor
2. Locrian
3. Ionian / Major
4. Dorian
5. Phrygian
6. Lydian
7. Mixolydian

For a clear understanding of what these modes / scales are, where they came from and how they fit into what music is, please go to: