Understanding Blues Scales For Guitar

Are you a budding blues guitarist wanting to improve your knowledge of scales used for improvisation? Do you want to discover the most essential scales that you need to learn for expressive blues guitar solos? If you answered yes…then you're in the right place! :-)

In this guitar scale article we take a look at two incredibly common scales used in blues guitar. Both of these scales have probably been used in hundreds (if not thousands!) of blues guitar solos. So it is vital that you understand and eventually master them by learning them over your entire fretboard. Let's take a look at them now…

 

Essential Scale #1: The Minor Blues Scale

The Minor Blues scale is a six note scale that has the following scale degrees…

 

1  b3  4  b5  5  b7

So what does this mean?

The above formula tells us what we need to do to the major scale, in order to create the minor blues scale. Let's look at an example to make this clearer…

Example: If we wanted to work out the notes of the A Minor Blues scale, we would do the following…

Step 1: Write out the notes and scale degrees of the A Major scale…

This would give us…

A Major Scale

 

Step 2: Remove the 2 and 6 from the A Major scale…

We have to do this because the formula of the A Minor Blues scale doesn't contain a 2 or 6. Removing these two scale degrees would give us this…

A Major Scale

 

Step 3: Add a b5 and Flatten the 3 and 7 of the A Major scale…

This would give us…

A Minor Blues Scale Table

These are the notes and scale degrees of the A Minor Blues Scale.

ACTION STEPS: Now that you understand how the notes of the A Minor Blues scale are formed, please do the following…

  • Memorize both the note names and scale degrees of the A Minor Blues scale.
  • Memorize the useful A Minor Blues scale fingering shown below…

A Minor Blues Scale Fingering

 

 

Essential Scale #2: The Major Blues Scale

This is another six note guitar scale used in blues guitar improvisation that has the following formula…

1  2  b3  3  5  6

Let's go through an example by working out the notes of the A Major Blues scale…

Step 1: Write out the notes and scale degrees of the A Major scale. This gives us…

A Major Scale Table

 

Step 2: Remove the 4 and 7 from the A Major Scale…

We do this because the formula of the A Major Blues Scale doesn't contain a 4 or a 7. Removing these two notes gives us…

 

Step 3: Add a b3. Doing this gives us…

A Major Blues Scale Table

These are the notes and scale degrees of the A Major Blues scale.

 

ACTION STEPS: Please do the following…

  • Memorize both the scale degrees and note names of the A Major Blues Scale.
  • Memorize the following useful fingering for the A Major Blues Scale…

A Major Blues Scale Fingering

I hope you enjoyed this very quick introduction to Blues Scales. They are very useful (and cool sounding) tools for blues guitar soloing.


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