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The Am Pentatonic Scale is the most commonly used of the Pentatonic scales.

-Within the Major scale, the Clashing Tones are the 4th and 7th scale degree notes. However, within the Minor Scale, the Clashing Tones are the 2nd & 6th notes.

-The notes of the “A Minor Scale” follow the intervals: Whole – Half – Whole – Whole – Half – Whole – Whole
Therefore the notes of the “A Minor Scale” are: A – B – C – D – E – F – G .
By removing the 2nd & 6th (clashing notes) you are left with:  A –  C – D – E – G  as the notes for the Am Pentatonic Scale.

-The following diagram shows the 5 notes of the “A minor Pentatonic Scale” taken from the 7 note “A minor Scale”.

Am Pentatonic Scale

Fig.1. The Commonly used Am Pentatonic Scale uses five of the seven notes from the a minor scale
(Note: the 2nd & 6th notes are omitted).

-The Pentatonic Notes can be repeated from 1 string to the next going from one Octave to the next higher Octave as shown below.

Primary Am Pentatonic Shape 1

Fig.2. Starting at the first A note (the Tonic note) on the low E string (shown in blue)
the five Am pentatonic notes repeat themselves up the strings to form a “Pentatonic Shape”.

This Pentatonic Shape is the 1st of Five Pentatonic Shapes, known as Boxes ↓,
and is the most commonly used.

Pentatonic BOX

Fig.3. Each Pentatonic Shape is also known as a “BOX” because they each loosely resembles a box shape.

Video 2. The Am Pentatonic Box Shape is the most common pentatonic shape.
Here it is played both ascending & descending.  

-The remaining 4 pentatonic shapes are simply extensions of this main pentatonic shape as it is moved up and down the fretboard (the right side of the 1st box becomes the left side of the 2nd box).

-In the following example the Key is shifted down to “F Minor” with the root note of the 1st box being the 1st fret of the 6th string.  This allows me to better show the relationship of the Pentatonic Boxes (shapes) in their 5 positions.

Pentatonic Positions in Key of F minor

Fig.4. The 5 Pentatonic Shapes.  The Key of “F Minor” is shown in this example with the 1st Position nearest the Nut.  They ALL use the same 5 notes of the F Minor Pentatonic Scale.
-Note how the second row of notes from the 1st Position becomes the first row of notes of the 2nd Position and so on through all the positions.
-The 1st Position repeats off the back of the 5th Position (at the 13th Fret).

-If you shift all of the above notes up one fret you will be playing in the key of F# minor.  If you move the same shapes up yet another fret you will be playing in the key of G minor, and so on up the fretboard: G#-A-A#-B-C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F# (the chromatic scale). 

-if you shift the above notes down one fret then the nut becomes the first row of notes and the key is E minor.

Em Pentatonic Scale 1st position E minor

Fig.5. The E minor Pentatonic scale in the 1st position is the easiest position to play the minor Pentatonic scale because you do not have to fret the first row of notes.
By simply fretting each string once, you can play through 2 Octaves plus 2 notes of the Em Pentatonic Scale.

– You can see how it is quite easy to change the Key of a song simply by repositioning the same shape up and down the fretboard.
Changing Key by repositioning a group of notes in this way is known as “TRANSPOSING”.


Quiz Question: Which minor scale degrees are the clashing tones?

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