Blues Scale - Junior Year Blues Lesson 9

Scales provide musical pathways. Other lessons have considered the major scale. Now that you have a good understanding of bending (hopefully!), we can introduce the blues scale. This will "fatten up" your blues solos, and provide a new pathway through your instrument.

Begin by playing a major scale, namely 4B 4D 5B 5D 6B 6D 7D 7B, like this


Recall that the 4B is the root, 5B is the third, 5D is the fourth, 6B is the fifth and the 7B is the root an octave higher. As discussed previously, this is a first position major scale. We have been played blues in second position however, where the 2D, 6B and 9B are root notes. In second position, the 3D and 7D are thirds, the 1B, 4B, 7B and 10B are fourths, and the 1D, 4D and 8D are fifths. We now consider these notes within the blues scale.

First we play it. The notes are 2D 3D' 4B 4D' 4D 5D 6B, and sound like this


Play it a few times, then play the first position major scale again. There is a big difference. Like the major scale, the blues scale has a root (2D), fourth (4B) and fifth (4D). However, the third (3D') is flat, and there is a flat fifth (4D') and a seventh. Play the scale up and down a few times, with a blues backing, like this


Notice how good the scale sounds with blues (notice also that an old valve amplifier has been used to fatten up the harmonica sound).

A subtle but important point is how far to bend the 3D'. The 3D note is a B (on a C harmonica), the 3D' is normally a Bb, and the 3D" is an A. They sound like this


However, for the harmonica, the blues scale (and blues in general) sound better if the 3D' is a little higher, that is, between a Bb and a B. Listen carefully to this blues scale


Can you hear that the 3D' is a little higher than you might at first expect? It takes much practice to gain this precise control over the 3D bend, however your blues playing will improve as a result.

Continuing downwards from the root note (2D), the blues scale notes are 2D, 2D", 1D, 1D' and 1B, sounding like this


Play these notes a few times, down and then back up, with this backing


Now play the blues scale notes, starting from 1B up to 6B, sounding like this


The notes are 1B 1D' 1D 2D" 2D 3D' 4B 4D' 4D 5D 6B. Play these notes up and then down a few times, with this backing


Now click on the next page link for part 2 of this lesson.

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