Blues music is an American art form, and the guitar has long been a favorite instrument for playing blues. To truly master blues guitar scales, it is crucial to understand and utilize the blues scales. Blues scales are the foundation of the genre and can be found in nearly every blues song. However, mastering them takes time, effort, and practice.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how to master guitar blues scales, including what they are, and how to play them.
So, let’s get started.
What are Guitar Blues Scales?
To understand the blues scale, it’s helpful to first look at the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is a five-note scale that is used extensively in a variety of musical genres, including blues, rock, and pop. It is derived from the major scale and consists of the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the major scale.
The blues scale builds on the pentatonic scale by adding one extra note, known as the blue note. The blue note is a flattened fifth note and is what gives the blues scale its unique sound. This note is often played with a slight bend, adding to the expressive and emotive qualities of the blues.
The most common blues scale is the minor blues scale, which is made up of the following notes:
- Root note
- Flattened third
- Flattened fifth (blue note)
- Flattened seventh
For example, in the key of A minor, the blues scale would be:
A Blues Scale (A Minor Blues Scale), C Blues Scale, D Blues Scale, D#, E Blues Scale, G
While there are variations of the blues scale, the minor blues scale is the most commonly used in blues music.
Difference Between Major and Minor Blues Scale?
When it comes to playing the blues on guitar, understanding the difference between the major and minor blues scales is crucial. While both scales are used in blues music, they have distinct differences in their sound and usage.
The major blues scale, also known as the happy blues scale, is characterized by its brighter and more uplifting sound.
This is because the scale incorporates the major third, which creates a major chord. In contrast, the minor blues scale has a more melancholy and soulful sound due to its minor third.
Use of Blue Notes:
One of the main differences between the major and minor blues scales is the use of blue notes. While the minor blues scale uses three blue notes, the major blues scale only uses one.
The blue note used in the major blues scale is the flattened third note, also known as the blue third. This note is what gives the major blues scale its distinctive sound.
In terms of structure, the major blues scale follows the same pattern as the minor blues scale, with the addition of the major third. For example, in the key of C, the major blues scale would be:
C, D, E, E♭, G, A
In contrast, the minor blues scale in the key of C would be:
C, E♭, F, F♯, G, B♭
Another difference between the two scales is their usage. The major blues scale is often used in more upbeat and optimistic blues songs, while the minor blues scale is used in more melancholy and emotional pieces.
This is not a hard and fast rule, however, and both scales can be used to convey a wide range of emotions.
Overview of Differences:
Here’s a table with an overview of the main differences between the major and minor blues scales:
Major Blues Scale
Minor Blues Scale
Major Third (happy sound)
Minor Third (sad sound)
One (flat third, also called blue third)
Three (flat third, flat fifth, and flat seventh)
Uplifting and optimistic songs
Melancholy and emotional songs
Example (in the key of C)
C, D, E, E♭, G, A
C, E♭, F, F♯, G, B♭
Free Guitar Lessons Here
Common Blues Scale Patterns on Guitar:
When it comes to playing the blues on guitar, one of the essential tools in your arsenal is the blues scale.
While the notes of the scale remain the same no matter what position you play them in, there are several different common patterns you can use.
In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common blues scale patterns.
Open Position Blues Scale Pattern
The open-position blues scale is a great place to start for beginners as it uses the open strings of the guitar. To play the A minor blues scale in the open position.
Use your index finger for notes on the 1st fret, your middle finger for notes on the 2nd, your ring finger for notes on the 3rd, and your pinky for notes on the 4th fret. This scale is also known as the E-shaped blues scale.
5th Position Blues Scale Pattern
The 5th position blues scale is another common pattern and is often used for solos. To play the A minor blues scale in the 5th position, use your index finger for notes on the 5th fret, your middle finger for the 6th, your ring finger for the 7th, and your pinky for notes on the 8th fret.
This scale starts on the 5th fret of the low E string and is also known as an E-shaped blues scale.
7th Position Blues Scale Pattern
The 7th position blues scale is another commonly used pattern, which is often used in conjunction with the 5th position. To play the A minor blues scale in the 7th position, start with your index finger on the 7th fret of the D string.
You will need to shift your hand position up one fret when you reach the B string so you can play notes on the 8th fret with your index finger. This scale is also known as the D-shaped blues scale.
12th Position Blues Scale Pattern
The 12th-position blues scale is another essential pattern that is often used in guitar solos. To play the A minor blues scale in the 12th position, start with your index finger on the 12th fret of the A string.
This scale does require you to shift your hand position up one fret once you reach the B string so that your index finger is on the 13th fret. Then, you must shift your hand back to your starting position for the high E string. This scale is also known as the A-shaped blues scale.
Here is a complete video tutorial,
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any common mistakes to avoid when practicing guitar blues scales?
Yes, one common mistake is practicing too fast. It’s important to start slow and focus on accuracy and timing. Also, make sure to use proper finger placement and avoid unnecessary tension in your hands and fingers.
What are 5 notes of the blues scale?
The 5 notes of the blues scale are the root note, flat third, fourth, flat fifth, and flat seventh.
What is the typical blues scale?
The typical blues scale is a variation of the pentatonic scale, which includes an additional “blue” note – the flat fifth note. This is also known as the minor blues scale.
What is the blues scale for each key?
The blues scale guitar for each key is determined by the root note of the scale. For example, the A minor blues scale includes the notes A, C, D, D#, E, and G. The B minor blues scale includes the notes B, D, E, F, F#, and A.
- Weed A. Improvisation in the Guitar Classroom: Teaching Beyond the Blues Scale : дис. – Radford University, 2016.
- Baily J., Driver P. Spatio-motor thinking in playing folk blues guitar //The world of music. – 1992. – Т. 34. – №. 3. – С. 57-71.
- Pedler P. THE BLUES SCALE.
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Marko is a passionate composer, producer, and multimedia artist with a Master of Music degree. His career involves performing, creating, and producing his own music in his home studio using digital and analogue equipment. Marko is a multi-instrumentalist (he plays guitar, bass, piano, theremin, and other instruments). performs live acts and DJ sets, and works on feature and short films, documentaries, festivals, theaters, and government initiatives.