UD#25 The Major Pentatonic Scale: Solo Anyone?

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UD#25 The Major Pentatonic Scale: Solo Anyone?
from Ukulele in the Dark
w/ Guido Heistek

When I was starting out as a player I loved to play blues music. I would play along with blues recordings for hours and hours. I used to jam with my uncle and we’d take turns accompanying each other as we took solos. What a blast! My main soloing material came from the Minor Pentatonic Scale which was first shown to me by my father. This worked great for blues songs and some songs in minor keys but I noticed that the Minor Pentatonic Scale didn’t always work on all songs. When that happened I used the Major Pentatonic Scale.

So, my approach to soloing was very simple: Try the Minor Pentatonic Scale and if that doesn’t sound any good try the Major Pentatonic Scale. We looked at the Minor Pentatonic in UD #21 and UD #22 , so let’s learn to play the Major Pentatonic Scale this week. With the Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales you should be able to cook up a simple solo to pretty much any song.

In this newsletter we will learn:

-The C Major Pentatonic Scale up one string and in open position.

-How to move the Major Pentatonic Scale shape up the neck to play the scale in different keys.

Figure it out by ear!

Here is a recording of me playing a C Major Pentatonic Scale Ascending (Going up from lowest note to highest note). See if you can figure out how to play the scale by ear and then check your work below. Stop the recording as often as you like. HINT: I start on an open C note. Good luck!




There are several ways fret the C Major Pentatonic Scale. Here are two:

1. Up the C string string:

(Notice that there are only 5 different notes in the scale. That’s why it’s called a pentatonic scale.)

2. In open position:

Standard Fingering:

Here is a C Major Pentatonic Scale in open position along with the standard left hand fingering shown below the tab. It’s useful to play the scale this way because we don’t have to shift around as much as when we play the scale up one string. Practice the scale ascending (Starting on the lowest note) and descending (starting on the highest note) until you get used to it’s shape and sound.

 New Fingering:

In preparation for moving the scale up the neck let’s use a different fingering for the scale. Please practice playing the scale with the left hand fingering shown below:

Practice this version of the scale until you get comfortable.


OK let’s play the scale in a different key. To do that we need to move it up the neck.

First use your index finger to bar across any fret on the uke. Let’s use the 5th fret to start. You only need to bar the C E and A strings. Like this:





These barred notes are now the open notes from the C pentatonic scale. We play the remaining notes with the ring finger and pinky on our left hand as we did in the open position. You may be able to see that we are playing the same shape as we did in open position. Only now the open notes are played by the index finger on the 5th fret.

When we move this scale shape up the neck the note that we start on gives the scale its’ name. In this case we start on the 5th fret of the C string (an F note) so we are now playing an F Major Pentatonic Scale.

Here is a little video that explains the process in a little more depth. Please watch the video through before moving on to the next section:

Once you get comfortable with playing the Major Pentatonic Scale up the Neck and also identifying the name of the new scale. See if you can figure out by ear what Major Pentatonic Scales I am playing in the next segment. The answers are at the very bottom of the page.

Major Pentatonic Ear Training Challenge: (ANSWERS BELOW!)

I am planning to do one Newsletter in September. I will put together some jam tracks and play along examples for both the minor pentatonic and the major pentatonic. In October I plan to be back to publishing weekly. It’s been a busy summer!

All for now,


p.s. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe below to receive the lessons by e-mail. Be sure not to miss a thing…

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Answers to Major Pentatonic Ear Training Challenge

scale 1: G Major Pentatonic

scale 2: D Major Pentatonic

scale 3: E Major Pentatonic

scale 4: F Major Pentatonic

Please share!