The blue note in blues scale
Blues scale is the pentatonic scale with one more note (added in the scale). This note is known as “Blue note” and it is the flattened fifth in the case of the minor pentatonic, or the flattened third in the case of the major pentatonic. See that the note that was added is the same in both scales; it is just to memorize the Blues minor scale and transmit this note to all the other Greek modes while doing the solo. Check below the shape of A minor Blues scale (highlighting the Blue note in red):
A minor blues scale
Check now the C major Blues scale and notice as the added note is the same (D#):
C major blues scale
Nice, but now some basic questions appear: Where did this scale come from? What is the use of it?
The Blues scale is one the first scales that students of improvisation learn and generally it ends as being the only scale that they use besides the major and pentatonic scales.
It had its roots in Afro-American music with the slaves and became being really used in Blues, receiving the name of “Blues scale”. The term “Blue note” is generally translated into Portuguese as “out note”, due to the fact of this note does not belong to natural scale.
How to use Blues scale?
The utilization of Blues scale is the same as pentatonic scale. We can use it in any place that we would use the traditional pentatonic scale, just taking care to the fact that the Blue note is a passing note, in other words, it must appear just among other notes and not as a resting note. This is not hard to understand, because the Blue note is a dissonant note to the natural diatonic scale. We should not “rest” in it because this would sound like untune.
Try to do the test. Listen to a song in C tonality and play the D# note. It is strange, isn’t it? Now play the Blues scale in this song. Did you see that this same D# when played with other notes sounds really nice?!
The chromaticism of the blue note is one of the most pleasant among all, this is why this is scale is really widespread. To know how to use it well demands practice, but the progress is fast.
Some tips and examples to practice the blues scale
Let’s give that push in your studies showing some riffs with the Blues scale, whether in the tonal context as in the Blues context. Train these riffs and also create your own riffs. Soon, the Blues scale will be dominated by you.
It is worth to practice this scale, because the Blue note gives some special “taste” to any song when well used! Just don’t be tied to this scale as it was the only one in the world, because it is really common that musicians use it to exhaust their ideas and being tied to nothing more than this. You have to understand that this scale was and goes on being reproduced millions of times from musicians all over the world, in other words, we will not differentiate yourself playing the Blues scale. It is one of the most jaded artifices in music, so don’t be surprised with the easy produced gratification.
Of course this does not mean that you should despise it, not at all. You have to dominate it well, but keep studying other things later. Follow your learning process here in the website and make your mixtures of Blues scale with other scales and resources to create your own “taste”.
Very well, below you have some examples/exercises from Guitar Pro:
Blues scale in the tonal context: tonalbluescale.gpro
Observation: The tonality of this solo is the minor (chords Am, F, C and G).
Blues scale in Blues context: bluesscale ( in Blues).gpro
Observation: This Blues is in G
Practice now your solos using the E Blues scale in this backing track (download the file): Traditional E blues.gpro
To finish, we will show the drawings of the Blues scale in the whole guitar fretboard. The idea is the same as we mentioned before to the pentatonic scale: to dominate the Blues scale in all the fretboard! As you are supposed to be dominating the complete pentatonic scale, this process will be really easy! So, have good studies!
Go to: Module 5
Back to: Simplifying Theory