5 Jazzy Pentatonic Scale Patterns

As many guitarists begin playing rock, blues, and pop music before exploring jazz, one of the first scales we have under our fingers are the various positions of the major and minor pentatonic scales. To help you translate these commonly used scales to a jazz context, here are 5 jazz pentatonic scale patterns that you can work on in the woodshed as you bring your pentatonic knowledge into the jazz realm.

While the examples in this lesson are applied to the first position of a minor pentatonic scale, any of these patterns can be applied to any position of any guitar scale that you know or are working on in the practice room.

While each pattern in this lesson is written in ascending order only, you can also practice these patterns descending on any pentatonic scale that you apply them to.

Pentatonic Scale Patterns 1 – 123

The first pattern consists of a 3-note grouping that you play from each note in the scale. When doing so, you produce a 123, 234, 345, etc. pattern as you ascend the scale with this three-note shape.

As was noted in the intro, make sure to work this, and any, pattern ascending and descending the scale as you expand upon it further in your jazz guitar practice routine.


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 1-png


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 2 – Left vs. Right 1

The next scale pattern is based on the left vs. right nature of any pentatonic scale shape. When you play the pentatonic scale using two notes per string, you have a left side of the scale (the notes closest to the nut) and a right side of the scale (the notes closest to the pickups).

You can use this construction to your advantage when working on pentatonic scale patterns by playing two notes on the left side of the scale followed by two notes on the right side.

When doing so, you are emphasizing a lot of 4th intervals within the scale, which produces a modern sounding pattern as you ascend and descend the scale in your practicing and jazz guitar soloing ideas.


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 2-png


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 3 – Left vs. Right 2

You can also play 3 notes on each side of the scale, as you can see and hear in the next scale pattern.

When playing this pentatonic scale pattern, make sure that you make three-note group connected, yet don’t let them ring so much that they sound like a chord being strummed.

Aim for connected, yet not overlapping, sounds when playing each of these three-note shapes on either side of the pentatonic scale in your practice and soloing ideas based on this pattern.


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 3-png


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 4 – Enclosures

This pattern applies a commonly used bebop concept, the enclosure, to each of the notes in a pentatonic scale.

There are many variations of the enclosure in jazz, but the one we’ll focus on uses one fret above, one fret below, and then the target note from the scale.

When applying enclosures to the minor pentatonic scale, as you can hear in the example below, there is an outside/tense sound that is created with the two chromatic notes, which are then resolved into each note in the underlying scale.


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 4-png


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 5 – Side Stepping

The final pattern comes from a concept commonly used by saxophonist John Coltrane, among others, and it is called side-stepping.

This technique uses two pentatonic scales, your tonic scale and one a fret higher, to build an “inside-outside” or “tension and release” sound in your practicing and soloing ideas.

In this example, you will play 4 notes from the A minor pentatonic scale, followed by 4 notes from the Bb minor pentatonic scale, alternating between these two scales as you ascend all six strings on the fretboard.

This pattern can be a bit dissonant for some players, but give it a try as you might be surprised at how quickly your ears will adjust and this type of slippery, outside sound becomes normal in both your technical and improvisational patterns.


Pentatonic Scale Patterns 5-png


After you have worked on these scale patterns, try putting on a backing track and soloing over that track using one or more of these patterns as the basis for your improvised lines.

Scale patterns are a great way to learn new scales, develop your technique on the guitar, as well as provide you material that you can apply to your jazz guitar solos at the same time.



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68 thoughts on “5 Jazzy Pentatonic Scale Patterns”

  1. jim

    One of the most usable in many genres lessons yet

  2. countthis

    Nice lesson, thanks! Also just had loads of fun jamming around with the two semitone separated scales – a really nice way into atonality.

  3. Garry

    Very helpful thanks for the lesson.

  4. Lewis M

    Matt & Dirk, the quality and variety you offer is amazing. Practice cannot be dull. Through your site I’m getting the sounds I want to hear me play. No waiting. Just, sigh, a shortage of practice time. Thanks ever so much.

  5. Whitster

    This web sight is one of the best Ive seen for jazz guitar. Its really informative and set up right who ever did this did everyone who likes jazz guitar a great service. many thanks!!

  6. Jimmy Townsend

    great exercises. Will be fun to apply them to the other Pentatonic patterns on the guitar neck. thanks and good job

  7. Mike C.

    Do you have a video showing fingerings for the enclosures? I assume one needs three fingers for these enclosures, unless there is a slide from the leading tone below. I guess there’s not much for options, but I’d be interested in how you make these happen smoothly.

    1. Matt Warnock

      Hi Mike, I like to do 2-1-1 on the “left” side of the scale, where you would normally play the notes with your index finger. For the other notes on the “right” side of the scale/string, I use 423. Cheers.

  8. huseyin tuter

    Thanks alot for the nice sharing. Jazz guitar has recently attracted my ears and I really found of your site. I am thankful to you for the basic ideas of sharing.

  9. robemazzoli

    Thank you Matt, i’m glad to use these suggestions!

  10. John M

    Excellent examples for someone like me who has been playing awhile but is still relatively new to jazz guitar improvisational concepts. Great way to show us blues and rock guys struggling to learn some jazz vocabulary how some simple ideas and techniques can open the door to using familiar patterns – like the minor pentatonic scale – in a jazz context.

  11. Chuckbluz

    Excellent transitional lesson for us blues/rock players. I can’t wait to work on this. I’m getting back to jazz late in life, and lessons like this give me the confidence that maybe I can learn this stuff before I forget how to even play a guitar!

  12. David

    For a beginning Jazz guitarist these patterns are quite useful.Scales straight up and down can get awful boring.

  13. jimmy

    awesome! i love the concepts of enclosures and side stepping!

  14. Rahul

    thank you much for this (y) 🙂

  15. johnnycockatoo100

    great stuff Dirk I don’t worry about the timing and just go loose and sloppy

    so free the notes give some construction

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