I love pentatonic scales! I love them even more than I love breakfast!

They have an open quality that gives me a feeling of freedom and possibility. Learning and practicing these will help you to learn tunes, improvise and enjoy practicing more.

In this lesson I’ll go over how to play the basic pentatonic scale, how to build them from traditional 7-note scales and then show you how to play them across the entire range of the fiddle.


Here’s the basic D Major Pentatonic scale. D0-1-2-A0-1

Practice this scale with a D drone.

You can easily play a basic G Pentatonic scale by starting on open G string with the same fingering {demo}. Same goes for the basic A Pentatonic scale {demo}.

I’ve been playing with a new term: Atomic scales. These are smaller scales that can be used to practice particular challenges and problems.

  • Atomic scales as building blocks of scales with more notes, like the seven-note major and minor scales.
  • Pentatonic scales and triads are good examples of atomic scales.

It’s useful to know that you can reverse-engineer pentatonic scales from regular 7-note scales. It’s actually a process of subtraction.

Play a D Major scale.


To make it’s pentatonic scale, simply play the first, second, third, fifth and sixth notes of that scale.

So we have subtracted the 4th and 7th notes of the regular major scale.

In this way, you can make major pentatonic scales from any major scale. This will work differently for minor pentatonic scales, and I’ll talk about that in another lesson.

Cool, so let me know if that makes sense or not. In the learning chunks below, you’ll learn to play “full-range” pentatonic scales (all possible pentatonic notes in first position).

Let’s practice…

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D Major Pentatonic 1


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Sheet music

Supplemental video

In the video below, I demonstrate pentatonic scales in other keys: G, A, C, F and Bb.

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