The Blues Scale

Notes of the A blues scale
Notes of the Blues Scale

The blues scale or a pentatonic scale with a blues note is the same thing. After learning the pentatonic scale (links to my pentatonic scale page), you may ask “What’s next?” The blues scale is the next step in spicing up the pentatonic scale. The special note is a b5 added to the pentatonic scale. This b5 (flat 5) or lowered 5th, is also called the tri-tone. One song that comes to mind that plays this b5 and root note is the intro to “Purple Haze” from Jimi Hendrix.

Here is the pattern to the blues scale.

A minor Blues Scale

Root Notes and Flat Five

Notice I put the root notes in red and the b5 blues note in blue. Just add your middle finger on the 5th string sixth fret and use your pinky finger on the third string eighth fret.

The 12 Bar Blues and it’s Chords

To play this scale over a progression, which is a series of chord changes from one chord to the next, play a blues shuffle in the key of A. Use A, D, and E shuffle chords.

To play over these chords, use the Am pentatonic or the blues scale.

12 Bar Blues in A

This format plays the I (one chord) for four measures before going to the IV (four chord) for two measures. Then back to the, I chord for two measures. The last four measures are considered the turnaround. It starts with the V (five chord), then IV chord, then the I chord and finally ends on the V chord to lead us back to the top. If you end the song, play A7 after the last E7 for a feeling of resolution. So you will play the turnaround (E7, D7, A7, E7) and finish on A7.

How to Practice Playing the Blues Scale

When soloing over the progression, you can start by playing mainly root notes with a few of the other notes from the scale, over the chords so you can hear the progression and get use to hearing the chord changes. For example on A7, play any of the A notes in the scale, and feel free to play the next note or two above and below it. Do the same on D7. On the turn around you could just play up and down the scale playing whatever sounds good to you, play just the root notes, or just play the A root note. These are just some examples. As your playing progresses, you can play more ideas that are more exciting.

After doing that and you get comfortable, start to use different starting notes. For instance, the A7 chord has four notes to build this chord. A is the root, C# is the major third, E is the perfect fifth, and G is the b7 or the dominant seventh. The blues scale has A, E, and G so you can use one of these other notes to start and end a phrase. The D7 chord offers D, F#, A, and C. The blues scale in A gives us the D, A, and C notes from this chord. And lastly, for E7 the chord tones are E, G#, B, and D. The blues scale in A has the E and D notes.

That is all for now, have fun playing the blues scale and jamming!