Blues scale

This lesson will be short.

Just the patterns please.


Blues scale "E-shape" (root note on 6th string)


Blues Scale "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)


Blues scale "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)


Blues scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)


Blues scale "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)


And the basics:

Blues scale = 1,b3,4,#4/b5,5,b7 = m3-W-1/2-1/2-m3-W
A-Blues = A,C,D,D#/Eb,E,G

For those wanting more...

First, a Review...

Recall that a scale is a collection of notes within an octave usually not played at the same time. (May 3rd's lesson)

A minor scale is a scale that contains a minor chord built on its root note. In other words, the scale contains 1,b3,5.

a pentatonic minor scale is a scale of five distinct notes with a minor chord built on the 1. It is a five note scale with the notes 1,b3,5, and any two other distinct notes.

THE Pentatonic Minor scale we are discussing (and everyone else talks about) contains the notes 1,b3,4,5,b7. It's step pattern is m3-W-W-m3-W. In the key of Am, it would be the notes A-C-D-E-G.

Now the Blues scale is the same as the minor pentatonic scale with one added note:
the tritone = #4/b5
minor pent = 1,b3,4,5,b7
Blues = 1,b3,4,#4/b5,5,b7

A previous lesson on the Minor pentatonic scale can be found at

Assuming that we've understood that lesson, we wish to consider the implications of adding the tritone.

We'll look at 3 different approaches:
1.) It's just the Pentatonic minor with the tritone added (passing tone)
2.) The melodic implications
3.) The harmonic implications.

Note: this is not a lesson on Blues theory, or playing Blues riffs, etc. We are currently only focusing on the selection of notes available in the Blues Scale.

Option one - it's just a passing tone
Perhaps the most often used and least interesting option is to say that it includes the tritone as a passing note. In such a case, you would use the tritone ascending while going to the 5, or descending going to the 4 (mainly fitting inbetween the 4 and 5).


Option two - Melodic implications - some thoughts
* idea one - Jump right to it (BE BOLD!!!)
Want to say it's not an accident that you played the tritone? Go straight from the tonic to the tritone, and don't jump right back out (try resolving up to the octave).

* idea two - Moving between the b7 and b3
If you play (within one octave) from the m3 to the m7 or in reverse, play the tritone inbetween, you are outlining a minor triad (arpeggio).

* idea three - play with the half-notes.
Go to the 4 and then go back and forth between the 4 and tritone (ignoring the 5), and maybe resolve up to the m7. maybe on another line , flutter between the 5 and tritone (ignoring the 4), and resolve to the m7 or m3.

* idea four - throw some angularity into your lines going beyond the target note to the tritone, and resolving to the target note.

* idea five - Consider the context that you're in.
Most likely Blues, jazz, or rock. consider adding the tritone through hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, and slides. Add some vibrato, consider string attack and decay.

* practical idea - as an ear-trining exercise.
take two adjacent strings (one containing 4-T-5), and begin scatting with the guitar. Sing every note that you play. Start by playing patterns you can recognize and sing along with. When you reach the point where your fingers can move at the same speed correctly hitting all the notes that you sing (at the same time), switch to trying to play patterns that aren't obvious. When you know where the next note is going to be (before you get there) abandon the known pattern and switch to another note. When two strings become easy, add an adjacent string and repeat.

Option Three - harmonic implications
All the harmonic possibilities of the Minor pentatonic scale are still there (see plus the harmonies including the tritone (including using the tritone for the root of chords).

The following chords (and others) can be created from notes in the scale:

i, i7, i7/11, Isus4, I7sus4, Isus#4, I7sus#4, i7#11, i7b5, i7/11b5,
bIII, bIIIsus2, bIII6, bIII6/9, bIIIadd9, biii, biii6, biii6/9,
IV5, IV7(no3), IV7sus2, IV7sus4, IV11(no3), IV9sus4, IV11b9(no3),
#IVb5, #IVmaj7b5, #IVmaj7b9b5, #IVmaj13#11b9b5, #IV6b9b5,
v(no5), v7(no5), v7+5, v7/11+5, vmaj7(no5), vmaj7#5, vmaj7(4),
vmaj7/11(no5), vmaj7/11#5,
bVII5, bVIIsus2, bVIIsus4, bVII6/9(no3), bVII13(no3,no7),
bVIIb6/9(no3), bVII11b13(no3,no7)

Soloing over
So, looking at the chords above, we can see some possibilities for using the Blues Scale to Solo over a chord:

- over the i chord (I7sus#4, etc.), play the i-Blues scale.

- over the bIII chords, play the Blues scale a m3 lower (ex. over C, play A-Blues; over Cm, play A-Blues).

- over the IV chords, play the blues scale a P5 higher (or P4 lower), (e.g. over the F5, play C-Blues Scale).

- over the #IV chords, play the Blues scale a tritone higher or lower (over Cmaj7b5, play Gb-Blues scale).

- over v+ chords, play the Blues scale a P5 lower or P4 higher (over G7+5, play C-Blues)

- over bVII chords, play the Blues scale a whole step higher (over Csus2, play D-Blues Scale).

that's it for now.

next lesson is on Modes of the pentatonic scales.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

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Last updated December 26, 2002
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