One of the easiest scales to begin using for lead guitar is the major pentatonic scale in its diagonal form. The pentatonic scale takes 5 notes from the major scale numbered 1-2-3-5-6. The 4th and 7th notes are omitted, and these five notes can be played virtually anywhere over the music of the song.

G Major Pentatonic Scale – E String 3rd Fret

This is perhaps one of the easiest and most valuable scales to learn in my opinion. As you can see in a few sections below, it is fairly easy to adapt this into the major scale.

Play this scale ascending and descending. Important: Use Pointer finger and Ring finger only!

Observe the pattern (3 notes a whole step apart on one string, then 2 notes a whole step apart on the next). Notice, too, once we get to the B-string, the notes shift up a fret. that is because the interval between the G- and the B-strings are 4 frets (2 whole steps), whereas all the other string intervals are 5 frets. The last note on the 15th fret is the root note (finishing the scale on the root).

Listen to this scale:

The ‘*’ denotes the root.

   *         *         *                   *
   G A B D E G A B D E G  A  B  D  E       G

Practice this ascending and descending. If you practice this scale using Pointer and Ring Finger, and use one pluck per string you will automatically be incorporating “hammer-ons”, “slides”, and “pull-offs”.

Then practice this moving to other positions on the fretboard.

G Major Pentatonic Scale – A String 10th Fret

Practice this similar pattern on the A string 10th fret, ascending and descending. Again, remember that the B string shifts notes up a fret. Practice in other positions up and down the fretboard.

Listen to this scale:

    *              *              *
    G  A  B  D  E  G  A  B  D  E  G
Building the Major Scale from the Pentatonic

Sometimes when playing lead, you will want more than the 5 notes of the Pentatonic scale. A quick trick for grabbing the two missing notes from the major scale (the 4 and the 7), is for every location where there are three notes a whole step apart, the missing notes will be one fret lower than the first note (the 7th note), and one fret higher than the third note (the 4th note).

Look at the scale below. Notice the notes in parentheses. They represent the F# and C notes in the G major scale, the two missing notes in the G Major Pentatonic Scale.

Listen to this scale:

       G A B     D E     G A B      D E     G  A  B        D E
G Major Pentatonic Scale – Box Style

This is good to know, however, I do not use it much. But it is great for incorporating hammer-ons and pull-offs in different locations than the diagonal form. Notice this is taken from the G Major Scale in the previous section.

Listen to this scale:

   *         *         *
   G A B D E G A B D E G