The D minor pentatonic scale is a favorite among blues, rock, and metal artists seeking a somber sound. It’s a perfect scale for beginners, too. Because it’s a pentatonic scale, it has only five notes:
With the minor pentatonic scale formula, none of the notes are flat or sharp. This is because the scale follows the formula 1 b3 4 5 b7 regardless of key. The lowercase Bs mean that the 3rd and 7th notes are flattened. Because the pentatonic scale omits the 2nd and 6th notes, the 3rd and 7th notes are actually the 2nd and 5th notes.
You can play the Dm pentatonic scale virtually anywhere you wish on your guitar’s fretboard. We’ll go over five positions, so you’ll have some good groundwork when it’s time to perform sick solos later.
You’ll encounter several fretboard diagrams. While they may look complicated, they’re pretty intuitive. The images represent each string and fret on your guitar.
Imagine placing your guitar on your lap, flipping the front toward you, and sitting it so that the head is pointing toward the ceiling. The diagrams assume this perspective.
Lastly, each dot represents which notes to play in the Dm pentatonic scale. The numbers indicate which finger should press each note as such:
0 – no finger, play the open string
1 – index finger
2 – middle finger
3 – ring finger
4 – pinky finger
How Do You Play a D Minor Pentatonic Scale on Guitar?
Let’s get started with position 1. Be aware that we’re assuming your guitar is in standard, EADGBE tuning.
The R tells you where the root note of D is. In this case, the position starts on fret 5 of the A string. Play each marked note from there until you reach the next D on the 7th fret of the G string. Now, the scale backward until you’re where you started.
Keep practicing until you play through it without error. Once you’re able to do so, pat yourself on the back! 1 position down, 4 to go.
Position 2 begins where position 1 ends. Play through position one again. This time, however, doesn’t reverse. Play through the marked notes until you end at the next D, on the 10th fret of the thin E string. Play through both positions before playing the notes in reverse. Keep doing this until you’re flawless.
Note: it’s okay to be slow and flawless!
Position 3 begins on the 10th fret of the thick E string and ends on the 12th fret of the D string. Again, it’s the same pattern as position one, just in a different spot.
Once again, position 4 ends where the last one began. Play through the notes of position 3, and keep going through position 4 until you reach the 15th fret of the B string.
Position 5 starts on the same note as position 4. However, it ends on the same D that position 2 does. You can choose to play the next octave through this position or stick to position 4. Do whichever you like!
What Notes are in the D Minor Pentatonic Scale?
Remember, the notes of the D Minor pentatonic scale are:
You can memorize these by the expression I just made up, “Don’t Fret, Give A Care.” Otherwise, the notes don’t matter as long as you understand the fret positions.
What’s great about the D minor pentatonic scale, besides the way it sounds, is that it can be modified to fit any minor key. No matter the root note, a pentatonic minor scale always follows the formula:
(W+H) – (W) – (W) – (W+H) – (W)
Confused? That’s understandable. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as it looks. “W” means one whole step — to get from one note to the next, you skip a whole fret. “H” implies one-half step — you don’t skip any frets, just slide to the next highest note. “W+H” means you skip two frets (or notes).
With the D minor pentatonic scale, you start at the root and take a whole step and a half-step to get to the following note, F. You’ll skip two notes, D# and E.
From F, you take a whole step to G. This time, you only skip one note: F#. Then, skip another note to A, skip two notes to C, and skip one more note to reach D at the next octave.
“How do I apply this note-skipping method when going to the next string?” you ask.
Each string is tuned five notes higher than the last except for B, which is tuned four notes higher. Thus, the fifth fret on one string is the tonal equivalent of the open string below it.
How Do You Solo with D Minor Pentatonic Scale?
Your patience in playing through the various Dm pentatonic scale positions pays off here. Now, it’s time to play along to some tracks and do some lead guitar practice.
To eliminate your inhibitions and practice improvising, go to YouTube and find some jam tracks in D minor. Then, choose the one you like and get creative with the notes you learned.
Don’t worry if you hit a wrong note from time to time. Part of being a great guitarist is playing off your mistakes as if they were intentional. Jimmy Page, for example, played out-of-tune notes frequently. However, there’s a reason he’s on nearly every online list of “Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
If you need a refresher, take a look at the tablature below. If you have issues understanding it, know that each number represents which fret to play while the lines represent strings. So, for example, the bottom is the thick E string, and it reads upward as EADGBE.
Better yet, take a look at some sheet music. Your classical training pays off here!
D Minor Scale Theory and Summary
The D minor pentatonic scale is bluesy, gloomy, and sounds incredible. It’s easy to learn, yet the payoff of a jaw-dropping solo point straight to the contrary. Once you can play the D minor pentatonic scale, you can play any minor pentatonic scale with ease by changing the root note.
That’s enough reading for you, however. If you haven’t already, it’s time to pick up your guitar and play some fantastic melodies!