In this lesson we’re going to look at the most common scale in all of rock, pop and funk bass – The E Minor Pentatonic Scale!

E Minor Pentatonic

This lesson will explore the E minor pentatonic scale which is built using degrees 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 of the E natural minor scale. Click here if you haven’t yet seen the lesson on pentatonic scales or could use a refresher on the subject.

The E minor pentatonic scale is used loads in popular music – especially in rock, pop and funk.

Firstly, you will need to memorise this two-octave E minor pentatonic scale:

Before moving on, make sure you can:

  • Play the scale fluently without gaps between notes
  • Play it without notation (from memory)
  • Descend without ascending first


As with any theory you learn, this new scale needs to be put into context. We are going to do by playing a few different riffs using the E minor pentatonic scale.

This first one has a classic rock feel to it:

This riff makes use of all the stereotypical E minor pentatonic characteristics – things you are likely to get in a standard rock bassline. One especially popular fill features in this riff in the third beat of bar two – we can call this a ‘skip’ rhythm. The skip is pretty easy to play and is used by loads of famous bass players such as Geddy Lee and John Entwhistle. Here are a few examples to show you how to fit the rhythm into different parts of a riff:

Here is another riff with a rock feel to it. This run descends the minor pentatonic scale using a straight 16th note rhythm.

Penatonic Slap Riff

As well as rock and pop, the E minor pentatonic scale is also used loads in funk music. This is because the open E and A can be played while the fretting hand is somewhere else on the neck. Here is a cool riff that will improve your slapping as well as your knowledge of the pentatonic scale:

S = Slap
P = Pop
LH = Left Palm Slap

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