Mandolin pentatonic scale patterns

Mandolin pentatonic scale patterns DEFAULT

Mandolin Scales with Four Fingers

mandolin scales with four fingers

If you're into playing bluegrass, it's a good idea to learn about four finger mandolin scales.

As with any string instrument, learning to use all of your fingers is going to be an essential task. Although all four fingers aren’t always needed, there are times when using the 4th finger will make it easier to shift positions and to properly execute hammer-ons and pull-offs. Economy of motion is particularly important when key changes require large position shifts or when the other three fingers are fretting other notes.

One thing beginning mandolin students often do is tuck the 4th finger behind the neck because it’s so difficult to use when starting out. This is due to tendon weakness, and lack of muscle memory. We’ll touch briefly on how you can keep that little finger active and increase your playing agility, stamina, and knowledge of scales and patterns all over the neck.

Beginner Mandolin: Basic Scales, Finger Patterns and Positions

When beginning a string instrument, you always need to learn the fretting patterns for major and minor scales. Once you learn the patterns in one position you can easily move that shape to other keys and play the same pattern to produce a major or minor scale in the desired key. A common place to start is with an open position. This requires at least three of your fingers (1st, 2nd and 3rd) in addition to an open string.

When playing basic mandolin scale patterns it is a good practice to use a new finger for each consecutive note in the scale, assigning one finger to each fret. This is much more efficient than moving the 1st finger from fret to fret or avoiding the use of the 4th finger altogether.

mandolin scales

Once you get familiar with the sound of the scales, it is time to move on to the closed position. In a closed position you will follow the same interval pattern for the major or minor scale, only this time all notes will be fretted. In other words, no tucking the pinky. Remember, once you learn the closed position scale you can simply move that shape throughout each key and play the same pattern.

Variations of the Major and Minor Scales: Arpeggios and Pentatonics

Once you have mastered the basic major and minor scales in open and closed positions, try learning different variations of the scales. For example, arpeggios are a great way to spice up your playing. This involves playing the notes of a chord (the root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th) individually, sounding them one at a time rather than sweeping across them all at once with the pick.

Pentatonics are also great way to apply your knowledge of the minor scale, producing a sound that will be right at home in any blues or jazz setting. The prefix ‘penta’ indicates that this is a five-note-per-octave scale, meaning that you will omit two of the notes found in the basic minor scale. For example, in the key of A minor, the pentatonic scale is spelled: A-C-D-E-G. In other words, in any minor key, the pentatonic scale will always be the following scale degrees: 1, b3, 4, 5, b7.

mandolin scales

Player’s Tip: If you want an extra ‘bluesy’ sound, lower the 5th of the scale by ½ step (one fret), keeping all the other notes, including the natural 5th, the same.

Let’s change strategies, and take our knowledge to the next level. At this point, you know what the major and minor scales sound like. If you play the wrong fretted note, you can hear it and correct it. Learning to play the same major and minor scales by starting on lead fingers is fun and challenging, and requires a more intimate understanding of the fretboard.

Similar to closed position patterns that begin on the 1st finger, lead finger patterns begin the scale with each of the other three fingers. To preserve the interval pattern that produces the major or minor scale, we continue by assigning each finger to a new fret based on the new starting point.

For example, if you begin the major scale with 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the G string, the 3rd and 4th fingers will fall on frets 6 and 8, respectively. This fingering pattern will change if you start the major scale on the 3rd finger, 6th fret G string, making it your tonic note.

mandolin scales

By practicing these exercises, you will soon realize that there are many different ways and places on the neck to play the same scales. An effective learning method is to play each lead finger in a chromatic progression (beginning one fret higher or lower each time). You’ll also want to practice moving in whole steps (beginning two frets higher or lower each time) to really test your ears and your muscle memory.

Practice these techniques every day, and soon you’ll be able to improvise over complex chord progressions, consistently changing lead fingers and seamlessly weaving smooth, melodic lines.

Good luck and happy picking!

free mandolin lessons

Do you play mandolin? click here for free sample lessons!


Related Blogs: 

Mandolin Cafe

  1. May, pm#1
    Registered User stringalong's Avatar
    Join Date

    Default Box shapes for moveable pentatonic scales?

    There are good places to find directions on how to play moveable pentatonic scales.

    I also have a Kay's Frets mandolin rubber stamp for chord shape which, of course, can be used to put in box shapes for scales.

    It would be useful to actually find shape diagrams online for moveable pentatonic scales. Anyone know where?

  2. May, pm#2
    Registered User KGreene's Avatar
    Join Date

    Default Re: Box shapes for moveable pentatonic scales? Here's a decent video on movable pentatonic.
    Gibson 'Harvey' F5G
    Gibson F2
    'The' Loar LMVS
    Morgan Monroe 4FJ
    Blue Chip Picks
    The Scallywag Social Club

  3. May, pm#3
    Registered User stringalong's Avatar
    Join Date

    Default Re: Box shapes for moveable pentatonic scales?

    Thanks, Kgreene, I've got that link already. It is great! Yes, very good indeed. What's I am hoping for, though, is that somebody somewhere has actually charted out the moveable pentatonic scales (in a tab block like I can do with the Kay's Frets rubber stamp blank block shape) . No biggie, though -- I've already charted out the first one that can chart them out using this video. It's just more trouble, is all.

  4. May, pm#4
    Registered User stringalong's Avatar
    Join Date

    Default Re: Box shapes for moveable pentatonic scales?

    And the answer is

    Here's the box shapes for pentatonic chords, all on one page. $4 to download:

    Here is the info: a diagram of the mandolin neck with the notes placed for the scale/double stop patterns. Pentatonic Scales can be found here:

  5. May, pm#5

  6. May, pm#6

Quick NavigationTheory, Technique, Tips and TricksTop
  • Site Areas
  • Settings
  • Private Messages
  • Subscriptions
  • Who's Online
  • Search Forums
  • Forums Home
  • Forums
  • Instruments and Equipment
    1. Builders and Repair
    2. Videos, Pictures & Sound Files
    3. Equipment
  • General Mandolin Topics
    1. General Mandolin Discussions
    2. Looking for Information About Mandolins
    3. Jams, Workshops, Camps, Places To Meet Others
    4. Vintage Instruments
    5. eBay, Craig's List, etc.
    6. Mandolin Cafe News Discussions
  • Technique, Theory, Playing Tips and Tricks
    1. Theory, Technique, Tips and Tricks
  • Song and Tune Projects
    1. Song and Tune Projects
  • Music by Genre
    1. Bluegrass, Newgrass, Country, Gospel Variants
    2. Rock, Folk Rock, Roots Rock, Rockabilly
    3. Old-Time, Roots, Early Country, Cajun, Tex-Mex
    4. Jazz/Blues Variants, Bossa, Choro, Klezmer
    5. Celtic, U.K., Nordic, Quebecois, European Folk
    6. Orchestral, Classical, Italian, Medieval, Renaissance
  • Octaves, Zouks, Citterns, Tenors and Electrics
    1. CBOM
    2. Four, Five and Eight-String Electrics
    3. Tenor Guitars
  • RSS News Feeds
    1. RSS News Feeds
  • User Support
    1. Forum Software Support

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Forum Rules

  1. Believer roblox id
  2. Svu season 18 episode 12
  3. Flocabulary vocab game
  4. Universal catalytic converter
  5. Value stream manager jobs


The framework for all music is built from scales. From them, chords are formed, keys are established, licks are plucked. The possible scales, combinations of notes, stretches on relentlessly on. That&#;s why there&#;s no end in sight for new music to be composed.

Each culture has their own scales, and these scales give the culture&#;s tunes their specific accent. Japanese hōgaku music is built from a different scale than Czechoslovakian polka.

Scales evoke emotion. Minor scales are serious and impassioned. Locrian is ambiguous. These provocations are what turn noise to music. It&#;s why we play mandolin.

Thankfully, scales are like the color wheel. The choices are cosmic, but you can get by fine only knowing a few. In this lesson we&#;ll discover the red, yellow, green, and blue of scales. These are the scales which, with only the limit of your imagination, and following a few rules, you&#;ll be able to play along to just about anything.


We&#;re going to be focusing on the key of D for these scales. The tabs will be provided for that key. To try them out in other keys, the internet beyond is a fantastic resource.


Here&#;s the vanilla ice cream of scales – not to say it&#;s boring! It&#;s a magical scale. Just play in time, and with the correct key, and everything you pluck will sound pure and reasonable. It goes with everything.

It&#;s easy to figure out the notes of the pentatonic scale by examining the circle of fifths. Pick the note that the key is in, for instance C: C, D, E, G, A. G&#;s pentatonic scale is G, A, B, D, E. Do you see the pattern? You may do this for all the rest of the notes too to find the pentatonic.

Here are the tabs for the D pentatonic:

Play through this, it is the first full pentatonic scale on your mandolin&#;s neck.

The notes above show all of the D pentatonic notes on the first position of your neck. This means that all these notes are fair game to use in a song that is in the key of D.

Pluck through that a few times. Now, pull up the song in How to Play Melody Between Chords. Try making up some riffs &#; basically as long as you stay in time and use only the notes in the scale above you&#;ll sound great!

The pentatonic scale is the most simple of scales. But with creativity you&#;ll be able to string these notes together in new and inventive ways.

Think about how all of the notes of the pentatonic scale blend so well into any song. What does that mean? The emotion behind the scale is plain. Sure, it&#;ll sound great almost all of the time. You won&#;t have to worry about any notes sounding out of place. But in order to take your solos and licks to the next level, you&#;ll have to let in some dissonance. That&#;s what we&#;ll explore in the next scales.


Blues, what better hamlet to explore the sensitivity of music. This is a fantastic scale to have in your back pocket. It has an additional note that&#;s not typically found in the standard key of the song. The one additional note is, essentially, the blues of the blues scale.

Here is the blues scale in D:

Not every song is home for the blues scale, in fact most are not. It is a scale to use diplomatically. Applied reasonably, it is sure to pleasantly nudge ears off balance; impassive audience&#;s attention regained.


The major scale, identical to the Ionian mode, is the Sound of Music scale:

Seven unique notes and an octave for repetition. The notes that don&#;t also fall into the pentatonic scale give this scale density. It&#;s only two extra notes than the pentatonic, but that&#;s 30 precent more. Much more sound to work with.

Here is the D major scale:

Go up and down the scale, slowly.

After you begin to memorize the pattern, try mixing it up as you did with the pentatonic. Notice how the additional notes sound. They won&#;t be as discordant as the blues scale&#;s added note, but there is some more tension.

This will be made more noticeable as you use to to play along to music. Turn again to the song in How to Play Melody Between Chords, or the other D major backing track on this page. Play a few riffs using the major scale, then only the notes of the pentatonic. Use the notes of the blues scale, then back to the major. Listen to how they all work, but have their own distinct flavor. This is the flavor that you&#;re providing the song.

Natural Minor

The natural minor or Aeolian Mode, is the same notes as the major scale, but the emphasis is on the relative minor. Check out this post to figure out a key&#;s relative minor. If you already know, let&#;s continue on.

What is meant by emphasis is where a scale resolves; where the tension is eased. For the purposes of the scale, the tension will build from the beginning and resolve with the final note an octave up. However, when you&#;re improvising with the scale, you&#;ll find your own ways to build tension and find resolution.

The relative minor for D is B. So, B natural minor is the scale we&#;ll use.

Do you notice the difference? It&#;s very interesting how even though both the major scale and natural minor have the same exact notes, the emotions they emit contrast so vastly.

I think of it similar to this optical illusion above. The blocks seem like two shades of grey, right? Well, hold a pen or your finger between where the squares meet. How do the colors look now?

Harmonic Minor

This scale brings about a much more minor feeling than the natural minor does. This is because, compared to the natural minor, the note before the root note is brought up a half step.

With the B harmonic minor scale, this means that the A notes in the natural minor scale become A#s.

Try the notes of the scale over this backing track:

Take care memorizing these scale patterns, and you&#;ll be able to do so much with your mandolin. When it&#;s your time to solo, all you&#;ll need to do is play notes that fit within those scales and you&#;ll sound great.

Pentatonic is the safest scale. So if you find yourself riffing in some very strange territory with one of the other scales, or you hit some wrong notes completely, move back to the pentatonic and it&#;ll all seem like the wrong notes were on purpose. That&#;s what I do and what everyone else does too.

Like this:


How toblues scale mandolin, harmonic minor mandolin, mandolin impovising, mandolin scales, most important scales mandolin

Major Pentatonic Scale (Movable): Mandolin Lesson - Part 1


Scale patterns pentatonic mandolin


How to Play a Minor Pentatonic Scale on the Mandolin


You will also like:


1743 1744 1745 1746 1747