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Beginning Blues Scales

The following is a beginning lesson on practicing and memorizing blues scales for the guitar.Background: Blues is a distinctly American music form. It most likely originated from African American spirituals from the 19th century.The basis for the Blues is what is known as the blues scale, which is an American variety of the pentatonic scale. The difference between them is that the Blues scale has an additional note. Using the blues scale gives a very distinct American sound.

The blue note started out as a slurring between the minor third and third notes of the major pentatonic scale. This began as a vocal style, and then made it’s way to other instruments. On the guitar they are played more literally as the minor third note in the Major Pentatonic and the sharpened fourth of the Minor Pentatonic.

Major: 1 2 -3 3 5 6

Minor: 1 -3 4 +4 5 -7

Here are the beginner Blues scales shapes for guitar.

These scales work the same way as the pentatonic and diatonic scale shapes as far as the key they are played in.

Shape number one on the above pdf file is the root of the Major blues scale shape. Shape number six is the root of the Minor blues scale shape.

The fret number is included next to each shape and the finger numbers are included inside each dot. The light colored dots are the root note of the major key.

These scales should be practiced using alternate picking (down pick then up pick). Here is a powertab file showing how to play the basic blues scale shapes.

Practice each shape 6 times each up and back and then go to the next shape. Don’t worry about memorizing one shape at a time.

By playing each shape 6 times in one practice setting you will eventually memorize them all and avoid knowing only some of the shapes.

Once you have them memorized, try improvising with them a bit and later on we will look at some specific blues licks and phrases that will utilize these scales and give them much more life.

Thanks, Alan Darby

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