The Pentatonic Scales are possibly the most adaptable scales in music. This is largely why it’s typically the first scale taught to new players. The B minor pentatonic scale is taken from the notes of the natural B minor scale.
Pentatonic loosely translates to “five sound”. The minor pentatonic uses 5 notes from the natural minor scale and the major pentatonic uses 5 notes of the major scale.
What Are the Notes of the B Minor Pentatonic Scale?
B Minor Pentatonic Scale on Guitar
The notes of the B minor pentatonic scale are B, D, E, F#, and A. The formula with which to reach these is 1, b3, 4, 5, b7. This formula is applied to the Natural Minor Scale. We’ll touch more on that later.
The notes of the B minor pentatonic scale are arranged on the neck as figure 1 shows.
Figure 1 illustrates the fingerboard from the nut on the left side to the 17th fret on the right. The dots indicate the notes of the scale with the red dots representing the tonic. There’s a pattern on the fretboard and one of the keys for unlocking the pattern is the CAGED Method.
How Do You Play the B Minor Pentatonic Scale on Guitar?
The CAGED Method is mentioned a lot across guitar websites, and this one specifically, because it’s a powerful tool for learning the guitar. Let’s look at the notes in the B minor pentatonic scale again and look at them on the neck.
You’ll note that there are 5 unique notes and a repeat of the tonic. When you climb through the notes in any scale, once you’ve been through the whole set, you’ll always come back to the root nut an octave higher.
In figure 2, you’ll see a diagram of the first position of the neck shown above in figure 1 but here I’ll identify the individual notes.
Position one starts at the seventh fret in the B minor scale. This fact should be taken with a grain of salt. There’s no universal agreement for what “position 1’ is when it comes to scale. Some consider it the position that starts at the 1st fret.
Others consider it the position where the “C” shape is applied to the fretboard as C is the first letter in the CAGED Method. For our purposes here its where the “E” shape is applied to the fretboard.
This isn’t random. Note the position of the root note in figure 2 at the top left. This is the tonic’s first appearance on the 6th string. If this were the “G Minor Pentatonic” scale this position would be applied to the 3rd fret as that’s where the first occurrence of G is on the low E string.
You want to work up and down through the B minor pentatonic scale until you’re able to do it confidently. As you increase in fluency you want to increase in speed. A good idea is to call out the notes as you play them to help familiarize yourself with the fretboard and the intervals in which they’re played.
To further help with what is to be played I’ve included some tablature. Start with your index finger on the 7th fret top string and play down to the bottom string continuing your index finger on the seventh fret. For the 9th and 10th frets use your ring and pinky fingers, respectively.
In figure 3 the tonic is highlighted. This can help you gather what the notes in between the root notes are. There are 3 highlighted tonics in the tablature which indicates 3 octaves being played. Also, from root note to root note you can count 5 intervals. If you think of the notes as simply being intervals it will allow you to similarly apply it to other scales.
So, what are the intervals and what do they mean for the B minor pentatonic scale?
What Notes Are in the B Minor Pentatonic Scale?
The notes of the B minor pentatonic scale are derivative of the Natural B Minor Scale. Knowing the note of the Natural B minor will help you comprehend where the pentatonic scale comes from. So, what are the notes of the natural B minor pentatonic scale? They’ll look familiar:
Every scale has its foundation in the major scale. The natural minor is derivative of the major scale and the minor pentatonic is derived of the natural minor. There’s a formula with which to build any scale you’d like.
The formula for the minor pentatonic is 1, b3, 4, 5, b7. If you look at the notes above,they’re numbered 1-8, seven unique notes and the octave. Simply remove the 2nd and 6th notes from the natural minor and you have the B minor pentatonic scale. Here again it will help to remind you of the notes of the B minor pentatonic:
The formula mentioned above applies directly to the major scale. So how does it work? To show you that I’ll have to show you the B major scale. The B major scale is as follows:
If we apply the minor pentatonic formula to the major scale, you will understand how to use it across all the keys. 1 is the tonic, or root note. Next is the flatted(b) 3rd. You may think that means to make the 3rd note a flat note but it means to take the original note back a half step. Therefore, D# of the major scale becomes a D in the pentatonic. The 4th and 5th stay the same and again you simply flatten the 7th and A# becomes A.
Perhaps the simplest way to arrive at the notes of the major pentatonic is to “count” the steps between the intervals. Between notes there is a “step” in pitch. Difference in pitches typically have what is called a “whole” step, meaning two frets. This is the case in all notes except with B-C and E-F. These are only “half” steps, or one fret.
The interval formula in steps for the minor pentatonic is Whole+Half (WH)-Whole (W)-Whole (W)-Whole+Half (WH)-Whole (W). This is most often written with just the first initial, which I added at the end of the words. To apply this, you start at the root, in our case B, and proceed WH-W-W-WH-W. That last whole-step bring you back to the tonic, an octave higher.
Now that you have all the information you need regarding the B minor pentatonic scale how does it apply to soloing?
How Do You Solo with the B Minor Pentatonic Scale?
The pentatonic scale is arguably the easiest scale to employ in your playing. The scale has been driving rock-and-roll and pop music since their inceptions. Every rock star you can think of has used it. To keep things simple, it’s best to apply it to songs in the key of B or just a backing track that you can record and lay down yourself.
To lay down your own backing track, you first want to start with the B minor chord and use a popular chord progression such as I-V-VI-IV. In the key of Bm that would be B minor, F# minor, G, Em.
Those chords will look like this:
B minor E minor F# minor G major
Using the CAGED Method described above, improvise a melody, and take it further. Accentuate the notes that fall on the chords as they progress. You’ll want to use vibratos, bends, and slides. Don’t be afraid, it’s supposed to be fun. Try anything that comes to your mind and through your fingers. As you’re having fun, listen to what sounds good. It’ll help to record your soloing and listen back. If it sounds good to you, chances are it will sound good to someone else.
A good place to start is in the 1st position as shown in figure 3. Further employ the CAGED Method to notes on the neck in figure 1. The figure below will show you the pentatonic shapes for the CAGED Method:
Practice and memorize the shapes above. They’ll work on any pentatonic scale, so it’ll pay off in the long run. The most important thing in the beginning is accuracy. Play in one position until you’re comfortable and slide into the next. Take it slow. You’ll also note that the positions overlap so it’s not as daunting as it might first look.
If you’re not ready to record yourself, start with some popular songs in the key of B minor. People have been making hits with B minor since they’ve been recording hits. A few of them are:
Hotel California by The Eagles
Drain You by Nirvana
Blue on Black by Kenny Wayne Shepherd
One by Metallica
It’s always a great idea to listen to the greats, like some listed above, to learn what you can but have some fun and make your own kind of music.