Blues Scales

The origins of the blues go back to the early field cries of the Deep South of the United States.

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The blues scale originated out of a need to bridge the gap between the diatonic 7 note scales and modes of European music and the sounds brought to the United States from Africa.

The origins of the blues go back to the early field cries of the Deep South of the United States.

There was a call and response that was sung as the workers worked the fields.

A little known fact is that through these songs stories were told but also gossip and when the Under Ground Railroad (a network of safe houses used to free the escaped slaves) was running information was transferred singing these early hymns and field songs.

So the Blues scale tries to bridge the gap.

You can use the blues scale to get the blues sound by the arrangement of the notes.

The A Blues Scale notes are:

A, C, D, Eflat, E, G 1, min3, 4, flat 5, 5, flat 7

Here is the Blues Scale in A tablature:

E|--------------------------------------5--8----- B|--------------------------------5--8----------- G|-----------------------5--7--8----------------- D|-----------------5--7-------------------------- A|--------5--6--7-------------------------------- E|--5--8-----------------------------------------

The fingering is simple: Place your 1st finger on the 5th fret Place your 2nd finger on the 6th fret Place your 3rd finger on the 7th fret Place your 4th finger on the 8th fret

Notice the A string has frets 5, 6, 7 in a row.

The flat 5 is a dissonant note but when played as a passing note it gives an edge to the sound.

You can also add the major 3rd or C# in this case.

Eventually you will realize in playing the blues that all notes are fair game and it is how you approach each note or series of notes that will make it work or not.

Remember you are trying to emulate the human voice.

I know whenever I hear B.B. King I hear a dialogue in his playing. Its as if I can hear him having an argument with his Old Lady. Her screaming, him pleading for forgiveness or the other way around.

If you learn the blues scale eventually you will be able to draw from your own emotional experience and create your own blues style.

Andrew Koblick has played and taught guitar for 30 years. His site provides free guitar lessons newsletter, discussion forum and guitar links.

Find out more here about Blues Guitar Lessons.

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    B345T
    God's Guitarist wrote: Hosscat wrote: 1st position A blues scale. Show all five!! its the same "pattern" the whole way along the fretboard - same notes, just move up a few frets. ie A C D Eb E G but start from the A on the 4th string (7th fret) - the arrangement would look different but its the same progression of notes, hence a no-brainer to work out what the position looks like. or do a search on google for blues scale and you'll get 5 million responses!
    It still would have been handy to include the other boxes for the blues scale
    Shaharz
    damm_punks wrote: why does everything on this website turn into a arguement
    That's democracy's fault
    ZepoLed
    brandonhayes99 wrote: im not sure if im correct but when i was taugh the blues scale shouldnt the g string look like this? g|--5--7--9 because that way when u want to due a little solo or riff off of it you can create an albert box which looks like this E--8 8 b--8 8 g---9
    9 on the g string equals 5 on the b string. it goes -5-7-8 on the G string. also, that albert box you're talking about can be found on UG under the name B.B. King Box.
    fLYinGV23
    Actually I read that came about from a combination of negro slave songs and the pentatonic scale which has its orgins in asia not Africa. But in modern times people use the blues scale when they don't want to be as fancy as a diatonic scale and don't want the limit of the 5 notes of strictly pentatonic that sounds racist, but i kno its not...
    whitebluesboy
    Actually I read that came about from a combination of negro slave songs and the pentatonic scale which has its orgins in asia not Africa. But in modern times people use the blues scale when they don't want to be as fancy as a diatonic scale and don't want the limit of the 5 notes of strictly pentatonic.
    jakefox
    why is the pentatonic scale never mentioned? thats all a blues scale is, really, but with an accidental incorporated into the scale. most blues solos don't even use that note, it just sometimes tends to add a bluesy tone.
    brandonhayes99
    im not sure if im correct but when i was taugh the blues scale shouldnt the g string look like this? g|--5--7--9 because that way when u want to due a little solo or riff off of it you can create an albert box which looks like this E--8 8 b--8 8 g---9
    Shaharz
    Well, you kinda missed something: There is the C#, a very useful blue-note if you know how to use it. It is usualy played going up (for example - from fret 5 to 6 on the G string, but not from 7 to 6). Try it, you'll see what I'm talking about. Anyway, nice article.
    slann101
    its good. ive been practicing the standard scales, and blues is so much cooler
    DString
    In music, a scale is a collection of musical notes that provides material for part or all of a musical work. Scales are ordered in pitch or pitch class, with their ordering providing a measure of musical distance.
    Atreideslegend
    wbeckham wrote: a scale is just a fancy way to go from octave to octave... like lets say u start from an A note. you use a scale to go to another A note but a in a higher octave That's the best description of a scale I've seen in a while. It's also the beginning of solo guitar work
    really? Thats pretty much the worst ive heard in a while lol A scale is basically a collection of notes that sound nice together. For the most part these notes reside within one octave (so starting on for example a C and moving up until it reaches the same C of a higher pitch, then repeating) and are represented in terms of Half-tone (One fret on the guitar) and Whole-tone steps (two frets on the guitar). Could go on but its not really the time or place lol.
    thesmartguy50
    What would be confusing to those who didn't know is that the flat fifth is not usually an actual note to use for an extended amount of time, but rather a "go to" note to give it that inherently bluesish tone. If you hold that note too long, the "tension and release" aspect of blues soloing would be so unbalanced that I think someone would crap their pants. I'm wondering if maybe the author didn't post this solely as advertisement for his other websites, that may be equally as vague?
    God's Guitarist
    Hosscat wrote: 1st position A blues scale. Show all five!!
    its the same "pattern" the whole way along the fretboard - same notes, just move up a few frets. ie A C D Eb E G but start from the A on the 4th string (7th fret) - the arrangement would look different but its the same progression of notes, hence a no-brainer to work out what the position looks like. or do a search on google for blues scale and you'll get 5 million responses!
    james0489
    Nice lesson, clear and informative although you probably should have mentioned that the scale you show is a minor scale, no big deal tho.
    wbeckham
    a scale is just a fancy way to go from octave to octave... like lets say u start from an A note. you use a scale to go to another A note but a in a higher octave
    That's the best description of a scale I've seen in a while. It's also the beginning of solo guitar work
    josh_ri22
    ShamiqSevenfold wrote: uuuh,cud sumone tell me wat a scale is,kinda new to da thoery
    a scale is just a fancy way to go from octave to octave... like lets say u start from an A note. you use a scale to go to another A note but a in a higher octave
    Blaws42166
    The best way I've found to describe scales is " A collection of notes to help you flavor the music your playing." Want a happy sounding solo? Go pure major scale. Want something dark and or spanish sounding? Shoot for the Minor scale. Sad sounding? Throw a blues scale in there. Of course this could go on for pages getting into different scales and modes, but it all boils down to how you want a piece of music to sound and knowing how to get that sound from a set of notes.