The blues scale is one of the most popular scales for guitarists. Not only is it a common scale used to play blues, but it is also used for much of rock music since rock has its roots in blues. The blues scale is related to the minor pentatonic scale. In fact they share all the same notes except the blues scale has one additional note. Some people call this note the blues note.
Are Blue Notes Wrong?
From the point of view of classical music the blues notes or scale sounds different. The notes don’t fit into any pattern from the classical era and would probably seem like someone made a mistake to Bach. Why is it so different compared to classical? At the start of the 20th century many black music makers in the USA attempted to play their African music styles on western instruments like the guitar and harmonica.The guitar, for example is made to produce the notes in western music to get the notes “between” they needed special techniques. That’s how bending and sliding on the guitar strings was born.
The easiest way to describe the Blues scale in terms of standard music theory is that it is a pentatonic (meaning 5 note) scale with some extra notes.
Guitar Scales Are Cool!
In this video I’ve shown one Blues scale, but not the only one. There are many forms of the blues scale. Some span up and down the neck to encourage sliding between guitar notes. This form of the scale uses the least amount of motion. It is my recommended scale to learn for beginning guitarist that want to experiment with improvising in the blues style. Of course over time it would be helpful to learn many guitar scales and include them as a part of your regular practice routine..
What Are The Guitar Notes?
The notes in the blues scale are the 1, b3, 4, b5, 5 & 7.
In the key of A that will be A – C – D – Eb – E – G.
You’ll notice that’s 6 notes, one more than the pentatonic scale.
Here’s the link mentioned in the video to Guitar Songs To Learn #3 – La Bamba
How To Learn The Blues Scale
I recommend using the scale is an exercise in practicing it with alternating picking. Play the scale up and then back down. The key here is accuracy in the beginning, not speed! Play the scale slowly while making sure that each note is ringing clearly. Use a metronome for some of your practice (not all). This will build strength, coordination and agility.
Once you have a basic facility with just playing the notes try mixing them up and experimenting. When you're ready to take it to the next level try playing along with a backing track of the 12 bar blues in the key of A. This can really be a lot of fun.
12 Bar Blues Jam Track – Key of A
I've created this for you to try out your new scale and jam along. It includes the rhythm guitar, bass and drums. You add the lead (melody) guitar. Have fun! The more you jam the better you get.
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