GBol Arts

Music Notes Archive

Blues Scales

George with Guitar

This month will be an example of how you can take a scale that you already know, and by adding or altering one note, get a whole new scale. In this case we are going to take the Pentatonic scale and add one note to get the Blues scale.

To first review from a previous article on the Pentatonic scale, you form a Pentatonic scale by playing the 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the Major scale. Now we want to take this scale and add one note to it to form a Blues scale. In order to do this, we must use the 6 as the root and then add the b5 of that key to the scale. To demonstrate, let’s take a Bb Pentatonic scale as an example. The notes of the scale would be, Bb, C, D, F and G, the G note being the 6th. Now take the G note and treat it as the root, giving us G, Bb, C, D, and F. For those of you who have been following past articles you will recognize the major to relative minor relationship here.

Now that you have your base scale, take the b5 of the key of G and add that to the scale. Or, looking at it another way, take the fourth note of the scale you just created, flat it and add it to the scale. Either way you add a Db to the scale giving you G, Bb, C, Db, D and F. This is your G Blues scale. The main point to notice here is that, instead of looking at this as an entirely new scale, see that it is a scale you already know with just one extra note added. Always try to look for things like this that will cut down your learning curve. Make sure that you do this in all twelve keys so that you are fluent with the scales, no matter what the key. These work not only in Blues, but other styles of music as well, so try them in a range of styles to see how they fit in.

All of the practice principles for the Pentatonic scale and from past articles are applicable to this scale also. Once again, ideas such as using rhythmic or melodic motifs are useful here. Try as many different variations and patterns as you can think of. You may not like everything you try, but the more angles you come at these scales from, the more you will break out of old patterns and come up with fresh ideas.

What you want to come away from this with is that, besides learning the Blues scale, you want to look at any new scale or pattern that you are learning and see if there is something you already know that you can use to learn the new scale or pattern more quickly. Anything that reduces the learning curve will allow you to put the new material into your playing quicker and allow you to use it in a creative manner without having to think too much. Remember the goal is to create and let your ideas flow as you play.