In Part 1 of Guitar Goblin’s five-part series, “Learning the Minor Pentatonic Scale”, we explored the first form of the scale, learned some of the underlying theory, and investigated a few practice patterns we can use to develop our skills on the guitar.
In Part 2, we will dive into the second form of the minor pentatonic scale. We will use some similar approaches to practice form 2 as we did in form 1.
Are you ready? Then let’s get to work!
(If you haven’t learned Pattern One of the Minor Pentatonic Scale, I suggest starting with the first article in this series.)
Foundations Of The Forms
Since we have so many repeated notes on the fretboard, we most often break scales up into different “forms” or patterns. Remember that the nature of the guitar’s tuning and layout allows us to play the same shapes and patterns in multiple different positions.
Each form of the scale contains all the same notes. The only real differences are the starting notes and the visual shape the scale form produces on the fretboard. It is helpful to practice and conceptualize scale forms in this sense because it eventually allows us to open up the entire fretboard for our creativity.
How Do We Build The Second Form?
In Part 1, we learned how to build to the first form of the E minor pentatonic scale. So now we will learn how to build the second form in E minor.
Remember that the notes of the E minor pentatonic scale are E – G – A – B – D – E. To build the second form, all we need to do is start the scale pattern from G. This means the second form will be spelled G – A – B – D – E – G.
Start here from G on the 3rd fret of the low E string:
The best fingering pattern for this form is 2 – 4, 1 – 4, 1 – 4, 1 – 3, 2 – 4, 2 – 4 (see the illustration below). Try to be consistent with this fingering when you first learn the scale. Once you master this pattern, you will have an easier time mixing it up when the time comes.
Having Trouble Grasping How To Apply The Pentatonics?
Check out this article for direct examples referencing both major and minor pentatonic scales:
The Minor/Major Connection
Ok, we’re going to introduce a bit of a curveball here if you’re new to musical theory. Have you ever heard of the concept of relative major/relative minor?
Think of it like this: for every major key, there is a relative minor key with all the same notes and vice versa. The connection on the guitar between relative major/relative minor is a distance of three frets (or 3 semitones).
So, three frets moving down the neck will bring you to the relative minor of a major key and three frets up the neck brings you to a relative major of a minor key.
For example, if we are in Form 1 of E Minor (as we are learning the minor pentatonic scale), and we count up three frets the same sequence of notes (now G – A – B – D – E – G), we have found the Relative Major – G Major.
This means that the Second Form of the E minor pentatonic scale is also known as the First Form of the G major pentatonic scale. (Conversely, the 5th form of the G Major Pentatonic scale is the same thing as the 1st Form of the E minor pentatonic scale. You’ll begin understanding that later if you learn the theory behind Major Pentatonics.)
We will come back to this concept at the end of the series and build a larger web of connections between the 5 different scale forms and the relative major/minor concept, so don’t worry if that didn’t quite make sense yet. It will.
Editor’s Note: Just understand, that while G Major Pentatonic and E Minor Pentatonic share the same notes, how you apply the notes will determine the key. If you’re continuing to accentuate and resolve back to the E notes in the scale, then you’re going to be in E minor.
Practicing With The Second Form
Ok, now it’s time to put down the pen and paper and break out your guitar. You have the second form of the minor pentatonic scale under your belt and have been introduced to the relative major/relative minor concept. Let’s put it to work.
The second half of the equation is learning to apply the Second Form and building the muscle memory in your fingers, so it becomes second nature. Then, we will link the two forms together.
Moving The Shape Around The Fretboard
As we did with the First Form in Part 1, move the second form of the E minor pentatonic scale all around the fretboard. Practice it from every root note and try to identify based on the “home” key, not just the starting note.
For example, if we start the scale from C on the 8th fret of the low E string, this is really the second form of the A minor pentatonic scale (think about that three fret connection):
If we play the second form from D on the 10th fret of the low E string, this is really the second form of the B minor pentatonic scale (again, the three fret connection):
Your Next Sequence Pattern
Here is a new sequence pattern you can use to practice the Second Form of the E minor pentatonic scale:
This pattern is called a four-note sequence. Start with G and ascend four notes to D, then start from A and ascend four notes to E, then from B, etc. Like before, practice this sequence pattern from every root note.
When you feel comfortable with it in the Second Form, practice it in the First Form! You can also practice the three-note sequence pattern from Part 1 with the second form.
Linking the forms
Finally, let’s practice linking the first and second forms together. This is a crucial step as it is the gateway to opening the entire fretboard. Check out this diagram of the first and second forms together on the fretboard:
You’ll notice that the notes of your scale will start to repeat at the 12th fret. At that point, you are back to Form 1, but you’re just an octave higher.
There are endless ways you can practice linking these scale forms together. You can practice all three notes on a string. You can alternate forms between strings. You can play the first three strings in one form, then switch to another form for the top three strings. Use your imagination for this as it is where you will find the most useful pathways!
Summing it up
In Part 2 of our Five-part series on The Minor Pentatonic Scale, we explored the second form of the scale. The second form includes all the same notes as the first form. The only real differences are the starting notes and the visual patterns on the fretboard.
In addition to focused, deliberate practice, try mindlessly exploring the scales while you watch TV at night. You’ll not only begin deeply ingraining these patterns into your subconscious but you’ll also be surprised at the little melodies you come up with (It will sound horrible at first; that’s ok, it will improve).
A great book I recommend for learning scales is The Complete Technique, Theory and Scales Compilation for Guitar (found here on Amazon).
Make use of the tools and patterns we have been practicing in Parts 1 and 2 and get ready for Part 3 where we explore the third form of the scale! Happy practicing!