E Minor Pentatonic Scale: 5 Simple Positions and Advice

Introducing the Scale

The E minor pentatonic scale is, without a doubt, the most popular scale on the guitar. The notes of the E minor pentatonic scale are beginner-friendly, and after memorizing one pattern you are ready to rock. The versatility of this scale cannot be overstated. It’s used in a wide range of musical genres, like rock, blues, country, and pop, and so it is a fundamental scale that guitarists should master.

Many people struggle to remember the notes or to use the scale to make something that sounds great. All of these problems and some others will be solved in this post!

What Does E Minor Pentatonic Scale Even Mean?

e minor pentatonic scale

E Minor(Skip This Section If You Don’t Like Music Theory)

The “E Minor” prefix means that the scale is in the key of E Minor. E Minor is the relative minor of G Major, and there is one sharp note, which is F#.

Pentatonic

The prefix “penta” means “five.” The suffix “tonic” means tone. So putting that together, pentatonic means 5 tones. So there are 5 tones in this scale. The five notes chosen are the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th notes in an E minor scale. This is because the 2nd, and the 6th are harder to use and still sound melodic. Basically you can’t go wrong mashing these notes together. So we have an E, G, A, B, D, and E.

NOTE: In a major pentatonic scale, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th are the notes kept, so if this was e major pentatonic we would use those scale degrees from the e major scale!

Scale

A scale is a group of notes in a distinct pattern, that past musicians have decided sound pleasant, so we remembered that pattern and passed it on. Lucky for us, someone did all the experimentation to find out this pentatonic scale and was kind enough to share the knowledge.

All Together Now

So now we know that an e minor pentatonic scale is a series of five notes that sound pleasing together in the key of e minor!

Playing The E Minor Pentatonic Scale

e minor pentatonic scale
The Numbers Inside the Circles Denote the Finger Used To Play Them

Shown here is the basic, first position that most guitarists learn. This is the easiest way to play the e minor pentatonic scale. If you are beginner guitarist watch this. If you are more advanced we will continue to break down the scale and give some extra practice exercises that will have you nailing this scale in no time!

First Position

e minor pentatonic scale 1

Well this is the same as the graphic above, just in tabular form!

Root Notes:

  • Open E Low
  • 2nd fret D String
  • Open E High

Fingerings:

Same as tab

Second Position

e minor pentatonic scale 2

Root Notes:

  • 2nd fret of the D string.
  • 5th fret of the B string.

Suggeted Fingering:

  • Middle and Pinky on the big E string.
  • Index and Pinky on the A string.
  • Index and Pinky on the D string.
  • Index and Ring on the G string.
  • Middle and Pinky on the B string.
  • Middle and Pinky on the little E string.

Third Position

3rd pattern e minor

Root Notes:

  • 7th fret of the A string.
  • 5th fret of the B string.

Fingerings:

  • Index and Ring fingers on the big E string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the A string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the D string.
  • Index and Pinky fingers on the G string.
  • Index and Pinky fingers on the B string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the little E string.

Fourth Position

4thpattern e minor

Root Notes:

  • 7th fret of the A string.
  • 9th fret of the G string.

Suggeted Fingering:

  • Index and Pinky fingers on the big E string.
  • Index and Pinky fingers on the A string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the D string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the G string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the B string.
  • Index and Pinky fingers on the little E string!

Fifth Position

5th edition

Root Notes:

  • 12th fret of the low E string.
  • 9th fret of the G string.
  • 12th fret of the high E string.

Fingerings:

  • Index and Ring fingers on the big E string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the A string.
  • Index and Pinky fingers on the D string.
  • Index and Pinky fingers on the G string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the B string.
  • Index and Ring fingers on the little E string.

All Together: Entire E Minor Pentatonic Scale

Entire pentatonic e minor
Now Put All Those Patterns Together and You Get

And now you may be wondering, what exactly do you do with all this information now? Well like always… you practice. And so we have created a nice little practice tab that incorporates all these positions into one exercise, and so I encourage you to use it and to experiment and create variations on it as well.

Tip! Keep track of where the root notes are they are important once, you starting getting into soloing and improv

Practice

Pentatonic practice
From First to Fifth Position!

Now this is just one of many ways to practice all this new-found knowledge. I believe integrating the scale and everything you learned is the best way of solidifying your understanding.

Final Tips

#1, Don’t Move On Too Fast

Well, now you’ve just learned the entire e minor pentatonic scale, it is important to let that knowledge consolidate! I suggest practicing for at least a week or two, this whole scale and it’s layout. Find the patterns learn what sounds good to you and what doesn’t. Get a good feel for where the root notes are and have fun

#2, Learn A Few Licks

rock lick
A nice little lick to get you started, play it slowly!

Come up with some of your own or try out, some e minor pentatonic scale licks from the internet! This will make the process of learning more fun!

Take a famous lick (from a pentatonic scale) and transpose it onto the E minor penatonic scale, that’ll do you a lot of good!

#3, Jam Out With Someone

You can play the E minor pentatonic scale over the following musical keys and it will sounds great.

  • E Minor
  • G Major
  • E Major (Will sound jazzy)
  • A blues in the key of E

Get a friend, or a backing track and just vibe with your scale on top of any of these keys.

Now that you’ve learned all this you deserve a break! Head to the homepage or post directory and read something relaxing!

Dave N. Bennett

Hi, I'm Dave. I've been playing instruments since I was just a little kid. I've worked at Guitar Center and tried producing nearly every genre of music. I've graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, and now I perform locally and write and practice music. I also run this blog where I share interesting things I've learned. I hope you Enjoy my posts!

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