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Open Chords and Pentatonic

This article serves as a part two to the “Connecting Chords to a Scale” article. The purpose here is to provide a list of open position chords and the pentatonic scales that they fit into. By soaking in the chord shapes, scale shapes and intervals we take what seems to be a complicated thing and make it glaringly obvious and even simple. Without these three things it’s like driving around windy roads and making lots of turns without a map. Once you look at the map, the path you’re traversing becomes clear. [Tweet "Without mastering chord & scale shapes, guitar can seem like driving around without a map"]

Since the pentatonic scale has five notes then there are five chord possibilities. One major chord, one minor chord, two suspended chords (sus means to replace the 3rd with the 4th and sus2 means to replace the 3rd with the 2nd) and it turns out that the last chord is a minor augmented chord which is just the root major chord inverted.

Knowing the connections between chords and scales is crucial for advancing your rhythm and lead playing. Whether you just memorize the shapes (most guitarists), learn the sound and fingering (ala BB King and others), learn the theory (more of a composer thing especially pre-computer) or all of the above (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai etc.) it will all help.

If you aren’t familiar with the terminology like 3rd, 4th etcetera, don’t know the chords or scales Rock Prodigy can fill in the gaps. We’ve created a lesson path that will take you from total beginner. Contact us at and we’ll point you in the right direction.
  • Let’s use C pentatonic as our example. C pentatonic consists of C root, D 2nd, E 3rd, G 5th and A 6th.

  • C-E-G makes up C major

  • A-C-E makes A minor

  • D-E-A is Dsus2

  • D-G-A is Dsus

  • G-A-D is Gsus2

  • G-C-D is Gsus

  • E-C-G is an inversion of C major

There are a lot of possibilities, here’s what I came up with for C. Sticking with three note chords (triads):

  • C-E-G makes up C major

  • Using scale tones to make alternate C chords you have:

  • C-D-G is Csus2

  • C-E-A is C6

  • C-D-A is C6/9

  • C-G-A I guess you could call it C5add6


Knowing the scale tones around the chord you’re playing or the scale that the chord progression fits into is great for adding color and internal riffs/fills to your rhythm playing. [Tweet "Using scale tones around the chord adds color and internal riffs to your rhythm playing."]

In the video below I demonstrate how you can utilize the pentatonic scale notes to add variety and dimension to your rhythm playing.



Knowing where the chord tones of the chord progression you’re playing over helps to make your playing more melodic and will steer you away from hitting “wrong-sounding” notes.


C with its relative minor, Am, works well in open position. Also, you can play the fully movable CAGED box shape by shifting all the notes up the neck to change key.


For Am, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and flat 7.

Here’s a video link to watch the Rock Prodigy Exercise, Am and Am Pentatonic:

Am and Am Pentatonic


For C, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.


There are two sus chords that fit into the pentatonic scale they work both as a sus 2 and a sus 4. Notice how Dsus is the same notes as Gsus2. Since G is the 4th of Dsus then we know that Gsus must be some sus2 chord. C is the 4th of G so now we have a new Csus2 shape. Aren’t inversions fun?


For Gsus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and 6th.


For Gsus2, the pentatonic scale adds the 4th and 6th.


For Dsus, the pentatonic scale adds the 2nd and flat 7th.

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