The E Minor Pentatonic Scale: Segmented for Guitar

This is a segmented version of the E Minor Pentatonic Scale for Guitar.

In this section, we are going to provide an answer to a straightforward question: what is the E minor pentatonic scale, and how can it be used on the guitar?

This article is written for people who are just starting out in music, or at the very least, those who are unfamiliar with the pentatonic scale and how it functions. On the other hand, intermediate guitar players who may focus more on chords and rhythm will also benefit from this lesson.

This lesson will primarily cover lead guitar, with a strong emphasis placed on musical theory.

To begin, we will provide an answer to our question in its most basic form.

What is the pentatonic scale in the key of E minor?

In the key of E minor, the E minor pentatonic scale is a series of five notes that are spaced out over a single octave. The scale degree pattern that it follows is I-III-IV-V-VII (more on scale degrees later). The Aeolian mode serves as the foundation for the minor pentatonic scale, which does not adhere to any particular key.

The following is a diagram of a guitar scale that uses the E minor pentatonic scale, and it shows the five notes of that scale:

The pattern begins at the root note of E, which also serves as the “key” or letter value for the scale. The degrees of the scale, specifically III, IV, V, and VII, are what give us the designation of minor pentatonic.

Even though we’ve focused on a certain part of the scale, the pattern we’ve established will continue to repeat itself in both directions, eventually giving you a pattern that covers the entirety of the fretboard and is difficult to take in at a glance because it’s so extensive.

Here is what the E minor pentatonic scale would look like if it were allowed to continue in both directions along the length of the fretboard.

In guitar tablature terms, the pattern in question would look like this:

When playing it on the guitar, however, you only need to choose a single segment or form of the scale, just like we did in the example before this one. After that, you can make use of the scale as a framework for improvising and developing your own solos or melodies, particularly for rock and blues music.

Alternate Forms

Understanding the E minor pentatonic scale, as well as other commonly used pentatonic scales, is best accomplished by breaking the scale down into its component parts, which we have outlined here.

This next example of an E minor pentatonic form that you might use on the guitar is expanded with a few more notes than the previous example we looked at. If you play the guitar, you might find this example useful. Even though it is still a relatively small segment, it provides you with a greater margin of error to work with.

Form of the Third Fret

Due to the fact that we are concentrating on E minor, this version begins on the third fret of the low G string. However, the initial note of the scale is still E.

The corresponding guitar tab can be found here:

The guitar tab version displays an ascending scale beginning on a low G and moving up through the lower sixth string notes.

The guitar tab version displays an ascending scale beginning on a low G and moving up through the lower sixth string notes.

These forms initially have an odd sound to them until you begin to experiment with them and add some of your own techniques, such as bends and tremolo, to the mix. Because there is a large selection of lower notes available to work within this particular form of the E minor pentatonic, it is a great one to use when you want to build heavier and darker melody lines.

Open Form


Playing the E minor pentatonic scale using the open form is one of the more straightforward ways to do so. The diagram that shows the notes between two octaves can be found here.

If we extend this scale to higher registers, where the strings are thinner, we get a larger scale diagram similar to the one that follows:

The guitar tablature that corresponds to this larger version of the scale can be found here:

Another portion of the E minor pentatonic, this time is taken from its form on the eighth fret, is presented below. We’ll return to the more manageable octave-to-octave section, this time concentrating on just five notes.

Even though this is the eighth fret form of the scale, the root note is actually located at the ninth fret, and the majority of the notes fall between the 10th and 12th frets when you expand it to its full form.

I’m not going to draw a complete diagram for this one, but here’s a screenshot from the all-guitar-chords scale tool:

A portion of the E minor pentatonic scale is expressed in the form of the eighth fret.

Studying the E minor Pentatonic Scale from a Theoretical Perspective

A pentatonic scale can be written in scale degrees like this regardless of the key it is in; however, this example uses a major key as its basis:

1, ♭3, 4, 5, ♭7

You could also refer to this as the “formula” of the scale.

This means that you take the first note, minor or “flatted” third note, fourth, fifth, and minor seventh note of whatever key you want your pentatonic scale to be in. If you use that specific formula, the key you want your pentatonic scale to be in is E major.

In our particular situation, we need to find a pentatonic scale that corresponds to the key of E minor.

This indicates that we need to look at our scale in E minor and pull out the first, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh notes:

A, B, C, and D, followed by E, F, and G

The notes that are highlighted in red are the ones that correspond to our formula.

Since we now have these notes, we are able to locate an E as the root note on the fretboard and then plot the rest of the notes in the scale by plotting the next four notes. The following is the process that I used to construct the diagram, beginning at the E note on the fifth string at the seventh fret, which you may recall from the first illustration we looked at.

We have followed the notes of the scale from the low E all the way up to the high E, which gives us a total of four notes, all within the same octave as one another. The same pattern is presented here in guitar tab form:

The E minor pentatonic scale is transcribed as a tab for the seventh fret position.

The addition of this note brings the total number of notes in our E minor pentatonic scale to five; however, if you count the additional octave, the scale contains six notes. What if we wanted to work with more notes at our disposal?

The Expansion of the Scale, Beginning at the Seventh Fret Position

It is plain to see that a linear extension could be made in either direction along this scale. Consider the example provided by the diagram below:

It is possible to “straighten out” the exact same scale and play it in a linear line on a single string, which makes it simple to expand the same five notes up or down the fretboard.

If we want to continue the shape above the seventh fret position, as you can see, we simply need to build into the same scale by moving up to the same notes within the E minor pentatonic scale. This will allow us to continue where we left off. They can continue in either direction, provided that there are more frets available for you to work with.

Developing the pentatonic scale based on the E minor key in our guitar diagram.

The note of the root, E, can be added at the 12th fret, and then these notes can be sectioned off to show how they might fit together.

Two variations of the E minor pentatonic scale have been sectioned off and coupled together with roots located at the seventh, ninth, and 12th frets, respectively.

One way to look at the above diagram is as an amalgamation of three distinct variations of the E minor pentatonic scale into a single fretboard shape. You will now have a substantial grid of notes from which to improvise as the seventh, ninth, and 12th fret forms of the scale are being combined into one shape.

Despite the fact that you could keep constructing the scale in either direction, let’s take this section and practice some improvisation instead.

Using the E minor Pentatonic Scale for Improvisation


As you become more familiar with the theory and the scale degree patterns that we showed you earlier, adding notes and expanding the shape will become simpler and more intuitive for you to do. During our practice of improvisation using the forms of the E minor pentatonic scale that we’ve developed so far, this should take place on its own naturally.

During the time we spend improvising, we are going to put the following ideas into practice:

Keeping to a predetermined key (E minor)

Using a format that has already been established (E minor pentatonic forms between the seventh and 12th frets)

Making use of fundamental technical adjustments and rhythmic variations (bends, vibrato, different-timed notes, etc.)

As a result of the fact that scales, on their own, do not produce original or distinctive melodies, we are able to use them as structural boundaries to construct melody within a given key. I’ll begin by playing the fundamental note, then move a few degrees higher up the scale while bending and vibrating the note as I go.

Root, Third, Fourth, Bends, and Vibrato are the First Recipe’s Ingredients.

Example of basic improvisation using the E minor pentatonic scale, including the root, third, and fourth scale degrees, as well as a full bend and vibrato.

Even though there are only three notes involved, there is a lot that can be done with this shape once the variety that is provided by the applied technique is taken into account. In this example, I play the note G with a full bend (the note G bends to A and then back again), and I play the note A at the seventh fret with a slight vibrato. Let’s give a similar strategy a shot, but this time we’ll move up the fretboard.

Root, Third, Fourth, Bends, and Staccato are the ingredients for the Second Recipe.

A similar improvisation that included bends and staccato notes, all of which were performed between the 10th and 12th frets.

Now that our pattern is established, we can expand it by moving up the fretboard through the 12th and 14th frets while maintaining the established note sequence as follows:


A blues-style run can be developed using the structure of the scale, and we can start at the 12th fret on the sixth string and work our way all the way up to the 14th fret on the first string.

Performing the Steps Again, This Time at a Different Fret


As you can see, the E minor pentatonic scale can be applied in a variety of different styles and configurations, and you have plenty of options to choose from. The procedure that we have outlined here can be repeated at any one of those different stages. For instance, let’s say you wanted to improvise a melody using the E minor pentatonic scale while playing in the open position. You would use the following segment:

  • To continue the improvisational process, you can repeat any step using any part of the E minor pentatonic scale.
  • To continue the improvisational process, you can repeat any step using any part of the E minor pentatonic scale.
  • After you have decided on a portion of the scale, you can proceed through the steps that are outlined below in order to locate a manageable improvisation sequence:

Locate the root letter E.


Determine which pentatonic scale exists between the root note of E and the octave above it (should be five notes total). You can continue playing on the fretboard in either a vertical or horizontal direction using those five notes.

Introduce some variety into your timing and approach.

It is difficult to use or even make sense of that much information when you look at a scale diagram that spans the entire fretboard. This is because there is so much information. Because it teaches you that an actual pentatonic scale is only made up of five notes, knowing the theory behind the E minor pentatonic scale comes in very handy at this point in the process. The most effective method for learning and instructing this scale is, to begin with, those five notes and learn how they are derived from the key of E minor. This is true for both learning the scale and teaching it.

As soon as you have mastered this technique, you will be able to find those notes anywhere on the fretboard where you are able to find a root E note.


These are some of the more common forms and segments that guitarists can use when playing the E minor pentatonic scale on their instrument. They are simple to play because they are brief, and their visual presentation is not as bewildering as that of the full fretboard versions. Because there are only two possible directions to move in when playing the piano, longer scales are somewhat simpler to comprehend. On the other hand, playing the guitar allows you to move in any one of four different directions, which makes it challenging to understand a full-length scale when depicted on a fretboard diagram.

For example, the E minor pentatonic scale is easily divisible into these smaller sections, which can then be utilized for improvising in blues, rock, and a wide variety of other musical styles.

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