D Major Pentatonic Scale | Ultimate Guitar to Major Pentatonic Scales

guitarist playing d major pentatonic scale

The D Major pentatonic scale offers a bright and groovy sound with minimal effort.  As a pentatonic scale, it has five notes instead of seven.  They are:

D

E

F#

A

B

d major pentatonic scale

Every major pentatonic scale follows the formula: 1-2-3-5-6.  The scale is identical to the major scale, except for the omission of the 4th and 7th notes.  We’ll get into the music theory part of things in a bit.

The only sharp in the D major pentatonic scale is F#.

Be prepared to see some diagrams as you read.  These intuitive illustrations represent the notes’ locations on your guitar’s fretboard.  From left to right, the strings are E-A-D-G-B-E.  If you see a number on the side, that tells you which fret the scale begins.

Finally, the numbers on each dot dictate which finger should fret the note.  Here’s what each value means:

         0 – no finger, play the open string

         1 – index finger

         2 – middle finger

         3 – ring finger

         4 – pinky finger

What Notes are in the D Major Pentatonic Scale?

Let’s hammer this in; the notes of the D major pentatonic scale are as follows:

D

E

F#

A

B

Why these notes?  Once again, you build every scale with a particular formula. The formula for pentatonic major scales, 1-2-3-5-6, indicates why the D major pentatonic scale has the notes it does. 

Let’s break it down by looking at the “default” major scale.  It follows the formula: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.  Any time this pattern looks different, you can modify it to get a different scale. For example, for D major pentatonic, you’d skip the 4th and the 7th.

Additionally, you may see the major pentatonic scale listed as W-W-WH-W-WH or 2-2-3-2-3.  Both of these formulas refer to the spaces between notes.  “W” means you play the 2nd note (or skip one) after the last one.  WH means you play the 3rd note (or skip two notes) after the previous.

Starting with D, you skip D# to get E.  From E, you jump over F to get F#.  Then, you play the third note from F# by skipping G and G#, which gives you A.  After skipping A# to B, your final leap over C and C# brings you back to D.

How Do You Play a D Major Pentatonic Scale on Guitar?

Most guitarists don’t memorize every note in every scale.  Instead, the best way to learn the D major pentatonic scale is through understanding the positions. So, let’s start with the first position.

d major pentatonic scale

Start with the 10th fret on the low E string. Then, play each note until you reach the following root note, marked in bold, on the 12th fret of the D string.  Next, play the notes in descending order until you reach the note you first played.

d major pentatonic scale

The second position begins where the first one ends.  Starting with the 12th fret of the D string, play the notes indicated to the 15th fret of the B string.  Challenge yourself by jumping from the first position straight into this one, playing the scale through two octaves, ascending and descending.

There are plenty of positions for the D major pentatonic scale. For example, you can start on the open D string, the 5th fret of the A string, the 7th fret on the G string, and in many more places.

What Are The 5 Pentatonic Scales/Positions in the Key of D Major?

The D major pentatonic scale is amazingly versatile.  By changing the tonal center, you modify the ratio between notes.  The result is five pentatonic scales, each with a unique sound, mood, and feel.

They are:

D Major pentatonic

E Egyptian, Suspended

F# Blues minor

A Blues Major

B Minor Pentatonic

You can use the same positions you learned for the D major pentatonic scale to play these scales.  However, instead of starting on D, begin on the note indicated in the scales’ names.  In position 1, for example, you’d play E Egyptian Suspended by beginning on the second note and ending two frets higher.

Once again, the intervals apply to all major scales.  The Egyptian, blues minor, blues minor, and minor pentatonic fall on the major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 5th, and sixth intervals of the major scale.

Additionally, each note has a degree.

1-     Tonic (D)

2-     Supertonic (E)

3-     Mediant (F#)

4-     Dominant (A)

5-     Sixth (B)

Remember, there’s no need to memorize every position. For example, if you know how to play the D major pentatonic scale, you can play each scale above.  All you need to do is start and end on a different note.

How Do You Solo in the key of D Major using the D Major Pentatonic Scale?

d major pentatonic scale

While the repetition of playing through guitar scales may get tiring, being able to solo confidently makes it all worth it. So, to begin, play through each scale pattern one more time to warm yourself up.  Now, go to YouTube and search for “guitar backing tracks D major.”  Choose one that speaks to you and start improvising!

Congratulations!  Now, you’re effectively playing lead guitar.  Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately sound like Eric Clapton.  Talent plays a part here, but persistence plays the most significant role in making you great.  Accidentally or intentionally, you’ll notice aspects of your playing that pierce the veil and give you goosebumps. 

So, pick out what you did well and embellish those elements the next time you solo.  And if the backing track is in a major key other than D, you know that all you need to do is move the scale!

Looking to play along with some classics in D major?  Here are some popular choices:

·        Hotel California by The Eagles

·        Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

·        Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams

·        With or Without You by U2 

D Major Pentatonic Scale Theory and Summary 

d major pentatonic scale

The D Major pentatonic scale is a crucial tool for any guitarist.  Despite the straightforward note pattern of the D Major pentatonic scale, it’s an amazingly versatile scale that sounds amazing in the right hands.

Thankfully, no guitarist should suffer learning every note of every scale.  The major pentatonic scale has the same intervals in every key.  Once you know how to play in D major, you can play along to, or create, any song in a major key.

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