The Guitarist’s Best Buddy: The Blues Scale

Last week, I teased a scale with the 1-1 Block. I’ve decided not to keep you waiting, so here it is: The Blues Scale! Based on the minor pentatonic, it adds a note a tritone away from the root to make things interesting (This is also one of the “blue notes” in the context of the major scale. See? Jazz Theory really is a thing!). It’s easy to understand, simple to use, and acts as a good confidence builder by helping you make some “cool” sounds early on in your playing career. Worked for a 12-year-old me, that’s for sure…

The blues scale consists of four blocks. I have already taught three of them (Block 2, Block 3, and Block 1-1) and the fourth is an essential one I’ll get to next week. Every block starts on fret 5 here (That’s another nice thing about the blues scale – no position changes required), so you’ll easily figure where that fourth block is. Here you go!

Blues Scale Example

Usually, in guitar scale books, an extra note is added on the top string for the sake of uniformity. If you wish to add it, then move on from that last note in measure two to Fret 8 – completing Block 3.

So there you have it. It’s a scale that, despite its name, winds up in all sorts of contemporary music from… well… Blues to most Rock sub-genres. As an example of the latter, check out the middle of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” – specifically, the riff going into and out of the first guitar solo. Also, to go back a little further, most (if not all) of the King Crimson classic “21st Century Schizoid Man” is based on the blues scale. I could name more, but then I’d be typing all day. So… get searchin’ and you’ll find plenty of examples on your own. Have fun and I’ll see you next week!

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