How to Play Pentatonic Patterns 3 and 4 on the Guitar

Pentatonic patterns 3 and 4 constitute two more examples of how to finger a five-tone scale on the guitar. When guitar players learn scales, they work on covering one small area of the neck at a time and then connect these individual positions to cover the whole guitar neck. Each position creates a unique pattern.

How to play pentatonic pattern 3 on the guitar

Here are all the notes of E minor pentatonic pattern 3, which fit between frets 4 and 8 on the guitar. Note: A tab is not included for pattern 3. If you don’t feel comfortable following the diagram, practice patterns 1 and 2 until you get more comfortable.

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

Pentatonic pattern 3 is unique because it spans across five frets. All the other pentatonic scale patterns span across four frets. Therefore, you can’t use the one-finger-per-fret fingering approach with pattern 3 (unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to have an extra finger growing out of your left hand).

Most guitar players play all the notes in frets 4 and 5 with the 1st finger and all the notes in frets 7 and 8 with the 3rd finger. You can also try using your 4th finger at the 8th fret of string 2.

Play up and down pentatonic pattern 3 until you’ve memorized it completely, taking it in pieces if you need to. Alternate your pick as you go. When you’re finished, review patterns 1 and 2 to make sure that you haven’t forgotten them. As you review them, note how a portion of each pattern gets reused in the next pattern.

When you visualize and feel how different patterns connect, you can better navigate the fretboard and understand how things go together.

How to play pentatonic pattern 4 on the guitar

Like all pentatonic scale patterns, pattern 4 reuses part of pattern 3, which comes before it. It also fits neatly into four frets, so you can try the one-finger-per-fret fingering approach here.

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

After you memorize pattern 4, take some time to review patterns 1 through 3, noticing the parts of the patterns that get repeated.

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