Ukulele Scales: Minor Pentatonic

This week, I thought I’d go over the easiest scale around. It only has five notes in – as the ancient Romans amongst you will have already worked out. It’s also used almost exclusively in blues and rock music.

C Minor Pentatonic

The C minor pentatonic looks like this on the fretboard:

c minor pentatonic ukulele

This in tab:

c minor pentatonic ukulele tab

And sounds like this:

C Minor Pentatonic (MP3)

The minor pentatonic is a great scale to improvise with – particularly with bluesy songs. Here’s me playing around with the notes in this pattern.

C Minor Pentatonic Improvisation (MP3)

The end lick in that is easy to play and very effective. Here’s the tab of it:

blues ukulele tab

D Minor Pentatonic

As with the major scale, the minor pentatonic pattern can be moved up the neck to fit with whichever key you’re playing in. Find the root note on the C string and start the pattern from there. For example, if you’re playing in the key of D minor, start the pattern on the second fret so it looks like this on the fretboard:

d minor pentatonic ukulele

And this in tab:

d minor pentatonic scale ukulele tab

F Minor Pentatonic

Similarly for F minor, you start on the fifth fret of the C string like this:

f minor pentatonic scale tab

And this:

f minor pentatonic tab

If you can get this scale under your fingers, next week’s scale – the blues scale – will be a doddle.

If you want to learn more stuff you can do with this scale, check out my Blues Ukulele ebook.

View Comments

28 Comments

  1. todd July 2nd, 2008 6:38 pm

    nice little tutorial……I love the blues and I love the uke….a great combination indeed!!!!

  2. newbie July 2nd, 2008 8:32 pm

    These scale tutorials are really useful. Love them

  3. LonnaB July 2nd, 2008 8:39 pm

    So cool, Woodshed. Now I know what I’ll be doing this afternoon!

    I’m looking forward to your blues e-book- that still in the works?

    I wanna be first in line.

  4. Woodshed July 2nd, 2008 9:58 pm

    todd & newbie: Glad you found them useful.

    LonnaB: Yeah, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  5. maduke July 3rd, 2008 9:43 am

    Very good. I was waiting for that kind of thing. Thanks again.

  6. Alf July 3rd, 2008 6:58 pm

    Whilst, of course, any ancient Romans stumbling across this corner of the interweb may well know how many notes constitute a pentatonic scale, I suspect an ancient Greek would work it out slightly more quickly, pentatonic being a word derived from Greek rather than Latin roots.

    My grasp of the need to get out more is not always equal to my grasp of classical languages, but such is life.

  7. J-Hob July 3rd, 2008 8:30 pm

    I had always wondered what a pentatonic scale was and now I know! I had thought that it might just take some notes from the major scale but I notice that it doesn’t.

    Anyway, I’ve already enjoyed twiddling away with little blues riffs tonight. Thanks for sharing, once again you have increased my musical knowledge!

  8. Woodshed July 3rd, 2008 10:42 pm

    maduke: You’re welcome.

    Alf: I’m hanging my head in shame.

    Jon: The major pentatonic has notes from the major scale and the minor pentatonic has notes from the minor scale. Is was going to write about the minor scale first. But I decided just to go ahead and give the people what they wanted.

  9. Isaac July 7th, 2008 4:39 am

    I liked your improv- any chance of putting the tab for the whole thing? I know I should work it out or come up with my own but lack of skill is preventing me.

  10. Woodshed July 7th, 2008 11:12 pm

    Thanks, Isaac. I’m working on a Ukulele Blues ebook at the moment and tab for this, or something like it, will probably turn up in there.

  11. mike July 10th, 2008 6:31 pm

    being new to the ukulele can you tell me if you are picking with finger or pick,regards mike

  12. J-Hob July 10th, 2008 6:34 pm

    Mike – he’ll be using fingers, of this I am 99.99% certain.

    Ukulele players, for the most part, tend not to use picks, Zach Condon of Beirut being an exception. The most common type of pick used with a uke is a felt one.

    In general you will have greater versatility of sounds if you play with fingers that you just can’t get with a pick.

  13. Woodshed July 10th, 2008 9:46 pm

    John is spot on. I hardly ever use a pick on the uke.

  14. mark jaffe April 14th, 2009 1:02 am

    i can’t figure out how to play the C minor pentatonic improvisation scale. Any tips? I don’t know how to play the notes that are connected by the brackets.
    Any help would be much appreciated

  15. Wayne Wilson March 11th, 2010 8:21 pm

    just wanted to thank you for this great and awesome site!

    THANK YOU!!

    love it!

    ww

  16. Andrew January 5th, 2011 3:19 am

    Woodshed, I’v heard that its bad to use a pick on a ukulele, is this true?

  17. Kent January 8th, 2011 11:13 pm

    spent 2 minutes on your website and I already feel like a pro… good lesson! And coming from steel string guitar I always use a pick on the uke, sound good though perhaps less versatile

  18. Woodshed January 16th, 2011 11:41 am

    Kent: Thanks. Glad you’re finding it useful.

  19. Kieran June 9th, 2011 6:06 am

    I was just wondering, im sure there is a good reason…but why is there no high(or low) g string in any of these scales?

  20. Woodshed June 9th, 2011 9:49 am

    Kieran: It’s easiest to think of scales going straight up and down. So the re-entrant string confuses matters a bit.

  21. Kieran June 9th, 2011 11:39 am

    hmm yeah that makes sense, i guess ill just fool around on my own, it seems weird to practice scales on just 3 strings.

  22. Greg January 18th, 2012 6:51 pm

    wait so how do I play this? whats the struming on it? since idk how to read music yet this is out of my league. The one I’m talking about is c Minor Pentatronic Improvisation. The tabs are what on the because I can read simple tabs

  23. john June 21st, 2012 12:05 am

    What about second position on these and third?
    How to play c min pent all the way up the neck for example? That’s what I’m having trouble finding.

  24. beej April 1st, 2013 4:55 am

    Just discovered this site. Many thanks for a treasure trove of information and help for those of us who have come over from the dark side(bass,guitar, mandolin).
    Hooray for Woodshed!

  25. Woodshed April 1st, 2013 7:56 am

    beej: You’re very welcome!

  26. did August 5th, 2013 10:17 pm

    Great stuff…very useful for me as a beginner. Like John said, it would be fun to have the 3 position. Is it going to be on your ebook.Will you let us know when it is available….Amitiés

  27. Bill September 3rd, 2013 10:16 pm

    You have shown minor pentatonic scales but you didn’t the BLUE NOTE that is added to make it a Blues scale which technically is a hexatonic scale. Search on blues scales if you want to get down and play blues.

  28. Woodshed September 4th, 2013 9:26 am

    Bill: I wrote about the blues scale here.

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