The following 3 guitar chord shapes are a staple of jazz, rock, and other genres that rely heavily on the 4-note pentatonic scale.
Chord Shape #1: 4,5,6 #3 is the root chord in the 4-note pentatonic scale in a major key. The 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th notes of each note of the scale form a minor pentatonic chord (also called dominant minor or dominant 7th chord) in a major key. When an open G string is extended downward above the G note, it becomes the dominant chord of the scale. The following pentatonic chord in the root position of the scale looks like the root of the root of the maj7 chord with a G-V-I-D-E-I shape.
Chord Shape #2: 6,7,8 #3 is the first note in the 5th note pentatonic scale in a major key. When there is not a G chord below the root, it becomes a dominant 6th chord just like the root of the maj7 chord. The following pentatonic chord in the 6th note position of the scale looks just like the root maj7 chord with a G-I-V-I-D-E-I shape.
Chord Shape #3: 3,4,5 #3 is the 6th note in the 3 chord in a minor major key. When there is not an open G string below the G note, it becomes a dominant 3 chord. The following 3 pentatonic chords in the root position of the 3 chord look just like the root 3 chord with a G-I-V-I-D-E-I shape.
Click to hear pentatonic shapes 1
What do the other chords in the pentatonic scale sound like?
To find out what the other chords in the pentatonic scale sound like, we can try playing each shape for a few notes.
The root shape of the pentatonic scale (C major) is the most common. You can hear it in a number of rock songs and chord progressions including some of the popular songs from Miles Davis’ Graceland album and “The Jazz Album.” The next most common pentatonic is the minor pentatonic scale – the 7th note (C major) in the minor scale is in the 2 chord. To hear this chord, listen to the following guitar chord
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