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How to Combine the Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales

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In our previous two lessons, we went over the Major Scale and the Minor Pentatonic Scale. Specifically we learned the A Major scale and the F#m Pentatonic scale. We chose those two scales because F#m is the relative minor in the key of A. Simply, this means that these two scales go together when playing in the key of A.

Putting the scales together

Maj Min Combine

The diagram on the right shows both the A Major scale (denoted in blue) and the F# Minor Pentatonic scale (denoted in red). The purple dots indicate where both scales overlap. This is where the magic happens.

When you are playing a song in the key of A, you can use either scale to create melodies and lead lines. You will often need to use notes from both scales, though, so the purple dots allow you to ‘cross over’.

For example, if you’re playing the minor pentatonic scale, the 3rd note you’ll hit is the C# – it’s the purple dot just behind the 4th fret of the A string. That same C# is also the 3rd note of the A major scale. So, if you’re playing the minor pentatonic, and you hit that C# with your third (ring) finger, you can slide up to the 5th fret or the 7th fret. Now you’re playing in the A major scale.

This works with any of the purple notes – you can slide up into the major scale or down into the minor scale.

To get fluid with this you’ll just need to practice. There are no real hard or fast rules – you just need to know where each scale is and which notes are in it, and then work on moving back and forth between them. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself moving seamlessly and creating licks and lead melody lines.

This same strategy works for all keys. Just use the Major Scale and the Minor Pentatonic Scale for the relative minor in that key.

Keys and relative minors

The relative minor is always the 6th of the major. Here are some examples:

  • Key of A – relative minor is F#m
  • Key of B – relative minor is G#m
  • Key of C – relative minor is Am
  • Key of D – relative minor is Bm
  • Key of E – relative minor is C#m
  • Key of G – relative minor is Em

9 Responses to How to Combine the Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales

  1. Nate Nov 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Hey you guys are awesome! I know you get a lot of requests but I would still like to request Came to my rescue by hillsong. There are other videos on how to play but I love hearing the cover and besides the raw guitar details, I love hearing your input on the songs. Instead of just telling us chords and rhythms you care about the feel of the song which is the most important part. There is soul in your tutorials. Praise God for Worship Tutorials! Keep up the great work!

  2. Robert Sep 27, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Does the pattern is still the same? For example, the A major scale is the same as B major scale. Is it true?

  3. Rob Jan 12, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    Thanks for these videos, they have been very helpful to me as I transition from an acoustic player to lead electric. I have one question, I understand that you can play the pentatonic scale over any chord progressions within the key, can you do the same with the major scale or do you have to be mindful of the chords when you are choosing which lead notes to play?

    • Brian Jan 18, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

      Hi Rob – you can play pretty much any note from the major scale as well, which is why they are so powerful when coming up with melodies and leads.

  4. Ruben Apr 15, 2016 at 7:17 pm #

    This is seriously the best vid on web on this topic!

    I’ve been working on improving my lead abilities and have watched a few of your vids, you guys do a great job.

  5. rahul bablu Aug 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    hello, brian,
    why you combined only these two chords i mean A major and F# minor pentatonic. why dont you combine A major and B minor pentatonic ? please explain this
    thank you

    • Brian Aug 22, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

      Hi Rahul – without going too much into music theory, every major key has a relative minor key (it’s the 6). So, for the key of A, F#m is the relative minor, and those are they two scales you combine. For C, it’s Am. For G, it’s Em, and so on. It’s probably easiest just to memorize which ones go together.

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