How to Play the D Minor Pentatonic Scale on Guitar
The D Minor Pentatonic Scale is used by many genres like blues or rock to add a sad, darker sound.
By Ben Nemeroff
Lesson: Playing the D Minor Pentatonic Scale on Guitar
The D minor pentatonic scale is a moody scale commonly found in blues and jazz music. It’s also a popular scale for expanding your skillset, which makes learning it essential for any promising guitarist looking to experiment with different sounds.
From the mysterious “Black Magic Woman” by Santana to the heavy-hitting “Killing In the Name Of” by Rage Against the Machine to countless other songs spanning the rock, pop, and blues genres, the D minor pentatonic scale is the cornerstone of creating songs that pack a lot of punch.
The reason why this type of scale is called a pentatonic scale is because it has five notes, derived from “penta,” the Greek word for “five.” Making this abbreviated scale easier to learn is that the D minor pentatonic scale does not include any flat or sharp notes. Nevertheless, it still retains the moody feel of the full D minor scale counterpart.
In this article, we’ll teach you about the different notes that compose the D minor pentatonic scale, as well as show you a few ways to play it using charts and tabs.
D Minor Pentatonic Scale Notes
Like all pentatonic scales, the D minor pentatonic scale is made up of five notes, but as you move your fingers across the fretboard, you’ll repeat these notes in higher and lower octaves giving it the illusion of containing more notes. The five notes that make up the D minor pentatonic scale are:
These five notes can also be found among the seven notes making up the D minor scale. The two missing notes being E and B flat (Bb). The notes D, F and A -- which can all be found in the D minor pentatonic scale -- comprise the D minor triad chord.
D Minor Pentatonic Scale Positions
There are a variety of ways to play the D minor pentatonic scale. In this lesson, we’ll learn how to play it in the open position and in the 10th position. Play both positions once you learn them to hear the differences in tone.
For this first lesson, we’re going to learn how to play using charts. These diagrams represent the neck of your guitar’s fretboard. In the diagrams below, each dot shows you which note you’ll play on a specific fret and string. If you see a dot with a note above the string, play the string in an open position. The yellow dots indicate the root note of the scale – in this case, the root note is D.
D Minor Pentatonic Scale Chart: Open position
To start playing the D minor pentatonic scale in the open position, place your index finger on the 1st fret of the low E string. Stretch your ring finger to the 3rd fret of the same string. As you move through the notes in the scale, notice your index finger will remain on the 1st fret of and that your ring finger will remain on the 3rd fret to play the accompanying back and forth notes as you move across the strings. Your middle finger will also get involved on the G (3rd) string for a note while you play this scale.
D Minor Pentatonic 10th Position
For the 10th position of the D minor pentatonic scale, you’ll start by placing your index finger on the 10th fret of the low E string. Next, slide your pinky to the 13th fret to play the second note in the scale. On the next string (A), you’ll keep your index finger on the 10th fret and your ring finger will play the 12th fret as the next note in the series.Take note of the D minor pentatonic 10th position chart below and work your way across the scale, playing the corresponding notes in that pattern from the low E to the high E string.
D Minor Pentatonic Scale Tabs
Because every guitarist is different, there are different ways to study pentatonic scales. Some find it easier reading charts, like the ones above, while others prefer to learn how to play scales using tablature. To show you the comparison and see what works better for you, let’s take a look at playing those same D minor pentatonic scales using tabs.
D Minor Pentatonic Scale Tabs: Open Position
Here is the same open position D minor pentatonic scale, but we’ll use tablature to play it instead of a chart. Start with the low E string (the one closest to you, if you’re looking down at your guitar). To play it, fret the first note in the scale on the 1st fret. Consider the 1st fret your starting point as you move across the fretboard and strings to the corresponding notes.
D Minor Pentatonic 10th Position
For the 10th position, the same rules apply. Start with your index finger on the 10th fret followed by your pinky finger on the 13th fret. Work your way up the scale moving from the 10th, 12th and 13th fret in the noted order.
Although you just played 12 total notes, did you notice that there were only five unique notes in the D minor pentatonic scale? This is because, as we continue ascending or descending the scale, we enter new octaves. So, if we start on the low E string and play the D note on the 10th fret, after playing the first five notes of the scale, the sixth note played will be D again, but in the next highest octave.
D Minor Pentatonic Scale Exercises on Guitar
If you want to quickly master this scale, or any pentatonic scale, practice playing them in ascending and descending order. Start with the root note of D, then play F, G, A, C and then a higher D. Use the open or 10th position to play these notes, working your way up and then back down the scale, D, C, A, G, F and then a low D.
Looking for even more ways to improve your playing? Try practicing alternate picking techniques when playing the scale. It’s a great way to train your ears, your fingers and your memory as you master the D minor pentatonic scale.
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