What is a Pentatonic?
Learn Bass Guitar – Major Pentatonic Scale –> When learning and playing bass you will come across pentatonics quite often. When you play pentatonics, you are playing 5 (penta) notes from any given scale. So a Major Pentatonic is simply 5 notes of a major scale. These notes are the root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th.
Below is a G Major scale with the root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes highlighted:
The only notes not being played are the 4th and 7th. So an easy way to remember the Major Pentatonic is to remember to play all notes in a major scale except the 4th and 7th notes.
Below is the G Major Pentatonic (no 4th or 7th note included):
When playing the Major Pentatonic you generally will use the following fingering:
- Low Root G – 2 finger (middle)
- 2nd note A – 4 finger (pinkie)
- 3rd note B – 1 finger (index)
- 5th note D – 4 finger (pinkie)
- 6th note E – 1 finger (index)
- High Root G – 4 finger (pinkie)
As with the Major Scale and other patterns, you can use this fingering to play the Major Pentatonic anywhere on the fretboard when the root starts on either the E or A string.
As we discussed in the Major Scale lesson, scales are often remembered by the intervals used. Intervals are the distance between notes in a scale. The major scale uses:
- Whole Step – 2 frets up or down a scale – abbreviated with a “W”
- Half Step – 1 fret up or down a scale – abbreviated with an “H”
The major pentatonic scale differs in that it contains 2 step-and-a-half intervals between notes. A step-and-a-half interval is 3 frets between notes. The interval structure for a major pentatonic is: W – W – W and 1/2 – W – W and-1/2
Knowing the intervals can help you know how to play the pentatonic with notes starting on the D or G string. Below is a diagram of an F major pentatonic starting with the root F on the D string:
Using the Major Pentatonic
The major pentatonic is one of the most commonly played patterns on the bass guitar. It fits in almost any situation where a major chord is being played. In line with the major scale, the pentatonic is used to play songs that have a happy, bright, cheerful feel. You will hear it a lot in combination with the major triad, major 7th, and dominant 7th. The pattern is often used to add notes and enhance these triads. You will hear it in almost any style of music. But as always make sure it fits before you use it – let your ear be the final judge.
Songs that Use the Major Pentatonic
Here’s a video of me playing “Join Together” by The Who. Bassist John Entwistle plays the F Major Pentatonic scale throughout the entire song:
- Root (low) – F
- 2nd – G
- 3rd – A
- 5th – C
- 6th – D
- Root (high) – F
Here’s the isolated bass line for “Join Together” by The Who. The bass part volume is elevated:
Click Here for Our Major Pentatonic Fretboard Diagrams
- 5 Major Scale Pentatonic Positions on Bass Guitar
- The Major Pentatonic by David Keif
- Major Pentatonic Bass Guitar Lesson by J.D. DeServio
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