The Naming of The Pentatonic Minor Scale Fingerings

The Naming of The Pentatonic Minor Scale Fingerings.

There seems to be quite some confusion about the correct naming of the fingerings in the minor pentatonic scale.

I’ve had quite a number of students through the years who learned the fingerins as the 1st fingering, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th fingering.
There is unfortunately no theoretical basis in this system of naming the fingerings.
It’s also confusing. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th fingering in relationship to what?

Music teachers who know what they are doing, teach the pentatonic scale, naming the 5 fingerings for that scale by the intervallic relationship to the starting note of the scale.
Here’s how?

The formula for the minor pentatonic scale is 1 b3 4 5 b7.
1 can also be called the “tonic” or “root” (although the word “root” is more commonly used for chords, not for scales)

Looking at that scale formula, it shows that the scale consists of

  1. a starting note 1
  2. a note a minor 3rd (b3) above 1
  3. a note a 4th above 1
  4. a note a 5th above 1
  5. a note a minor 7th (b7) above 1

In the key of A minor pentatonic, this gives the notes A C D E G

A is 1
C is b3
D is 4
E is 5
G is b7

And THAT is how you name the 5 fingerings!

  1. When you start the A minor pentatonic scale from the note A on the 5th fret on the low E string, that finger pattern is called the 1 (or root) shape.
  2. When you start the A minor pentatonic scale from the note C on the 8th fret on the low E string, that finger pattern is called the b3 shape.
  3. When you start the A minor pentatonic scale from the note D on the 10th fret on the low E string, that finger pattern is called the 4 shape.
  4. When you start the A minor pentatonic scale from the note E on the 12th fret on the low E string, that finger pattern is called the 5 shape.
  5. When you start the A minor pentatonic scale from the note G on the 3rd fret on the low E string, that finger pattern is called the b7 shape.

This makes music theoretically much more sense than calling it the 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc shape.

Here’s how the 5 fingerings look like with their names. (The lowest guitar neck showes all fingerings on 1 guitar neck)

Conclusion

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