How to Play Pentatonic Pattern 2 on the Guitar

Here are all the notes of E minor pentatonic that fit between frets 2 and 5 on the guitar. Notice that half of the notes in this new pattern 2 position you use in pattern 1. Visualizing how shapes and patterns connect is the key to navigating the fretboard.

[Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

Here is pattern 2 ascending and descending in tab.

[Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

How to finger pattern 2 on the guitar

Because pattern 2 doesn’t include any open strings, you have to finger every note; fingerings are a matter of preference. That being said, here are two fingerings you should try.

Here you see the one-finger-per-fret approach. Because this scale pattern spans across four frets, you can assign one finger per fret.

[Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

With this approach, your 1st finger plays all the notes in the 2nd fret, your 2nd finger plays all the notes in the 3rd fret, your 3rd finger plays all the notes in the 4th fret, and your 4th finger plays all the notes in the 5th fret. Notice that the first note of this pattern is at fret 3, not fret 2. Start this pattern with your 2nd finger.

Here is another way to play pattern 2 — by using the three-finger approach.

[Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit:     Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

Many guitar players, including some of the most skilled guitar soloists like Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan, have done the bulk of their lead playing with the first three fingers. For most players, these fingers tend to be stronger and more coordinated than the 4th finger. Others find using three fingers too much of a stretch, especially in a position where the frets are far apart.

No matter what fingering you decide to use, don’t try to play pentatonic pattern 2 with only one finger or with only your first two fingers. The goal is to keep your left hand in one stationary position and still reach every note with your fingers. Some players can do this by using only fingers 1 and 3; pick whichever one is most comfortable for you.

How to practice and review pattern 2 on the guitar

After you decide on a fingering, play up and down pentatonic pattern 2 by starting on the lowest-pitched note and ascending from there. When you reach the top — the top being the highest-pitched note in this position — reverse the order of the notes and play descending.

If making it through the whole pattern is too much to grasp right now, just work on playing half of it first. For example, you can play just the notes on strings 6, 5, and 4. After you memorize them, add the 3rd string. Continue to add one string at a time until you’ve memorized the whole thing. Also, practice alternate picking with your right hand as you go.

After you have pattern 2 under your belt, review pentatonic pattern 1 to make sure you haven’t forgotten it. Remember, a portion of pattern 1 is reused in pattern 2, and it’s important to visualize how the patterns connect. When you’re ready to continue, proceed to pattern 3.

The way the five pentatonic patterns are numbered here is just for reference. Although the patterns themselves are universally the same among all guitar players, different players learn the patterns in different orders. For example, some guitar players practice pattern 2 first and so call it pattern 1.

Generally speaking, this numbering system is the most common, but you may come across the same patterns numbered differently by another guitar player or teacher. Don’t let this confuse you. The numbers don’t mean anything. Focus on the patterns themselves.

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