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The minor pentatonic scale is an amazing scale that can create stunningly beautiful riffs, runs, and melodies. It is a fantastic way to start improvising and exploring in minor keys because there are only 5 notes!

If you don’t know the minor pentatonic scale, I’m so excited for you. It will change the way you think about improvising.

In this lesson, I’m going to show you how to play the minor pentatonic scale, and then show you 3 really cool patterns to start your improvising with. As always, these are just guides to get you started. I’d really encourage you to take them and make them your own!

The Minor Pentatonic Scale & Pattern 1

The coolest thing about the minor pentatonic scale is that the notes of the scale are exactly the same as the notes of the RELATIVE major pentatonic scale. For example, the notes of the D major pentatonic scale are D-E-F#-A-B.

The relative minor of D major is B minor. So the B minor pentatonic scale has EXACTLY the same notes, just starting on B.

So it’s B-D-E-F#-A.

This leads us to our first pattern. Just get to know the pentatonic scale by playing the notes up and down over a chord progression. This progression is Bm-G-D-A.

Pattern 2

This one is similar to the first, but now we are going to explore the scale a bit more. First, you can play the scale all the way up, but this time add the B at the top. 

Then start playing around with landing on other notes of the scale. Remember there are 5 to choose from, and they will all sound good. This is a great way to explore your creativity while knowing that you will still be safe within the scale.

Pattern 3

This final pattern sounds really different from the other two because we are actually taking some notes OUT of the scale. All of the notes in the pentatonic scale will sound good over the progression, but that doesn’t mean you have to play all of them!

This time just play B-F#-A-B. So really we are only using 3 of the 5 notes of the scale, but it still sounds beautiful.

Take these patterns, get comfortable with the scale and then start improvising and exploring on your own!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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