Blues Scales And Progressions

author: thesmartguy50 date: 05/18/2005 category: guitar styles
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Blues Scales And Progressions
This little document is mainly on how to solo using the blues pentatonic scales.

A blues pentatonic scale, from what I understand, is simply a minor pentatonic scale with a blues note between the 3rd and 4th tone.

Now, the scale is located on five places on the fretboard.

The first one is the simplest I think, as it is the one most popularly known. It goes like this:

Ascending Descending

Box I

Obviously, seeing the tabs, this scale is in E. However, if you want to make it in, say, G, then all you have to do is transpose all the tabs up three frets... get it? Now then, while you can actually use just this little box to solo with (and quite nicely, too), I think that it would highly benefit you to learn the next four boxes, as well.

Now, all these are in E, so in order to make them into a different key, you must simply transpose them accordingly. Also, (and this refers to the previous scale as well), the fingers used really depend on your preference; I personally use my index and ring finger, and occasionally my middle, which leaves my pinky to be used only when holding a chord. So, it's all up to you.

Ascending Descending

Box II

Ascending Descending




Box IV



Box V

So, there's the boxes. Now, if you just didn't want to play those middle notes, and just use the pentatonic scale, well, that would be alright, but it wouldn't sound as... rich, for lack of a better word, when played with a blues song. It's a little difficult to incorporate that note into a solo, but when you find out where it fits, it adds a nice touch to the song. Oh, and let me throw in a hint for soloing: when I first started, I solo'ed only picking in one direction, which slowed down my tempo. If you alternate picking a string down and up, your speed could more than double. I dunno, that was just meant for beginners.

Now, onto the blues progressions. The 12 bar blues progression is simply made up of the first, fourth, and fifth tones in a major scale, and is spread over twelve measures (bars). For example, in E, the first tone would be E, then - (E, F#, G#, A) - A would be the fourth, and - (E, F#, G#, A, B) - B would be the fifth. Thus, the chords would be E, A, & B. Now, we know the chords... what about the progression? Well, let's say that each letter below is a whole note held in that chord (in 4/4 time, so whole note = 4 beats). In order to play just the plain old 12 bar, you would go:

E - E - E - E - A - A - E - E - B - A - E - E (end)

A|-2-|A|-0-|A|-X-| (muted)

Go on, play it. Get the hang of it. Now, most blues songs aren't in the major. Most are in seventh. So, try it in seventh now.

E7 - E7 - E7 - E7 - A7 - A7 - E7 - E7 - B7 - A7 - E7 - E7

E7 A7 B7
E|-0-|E|-0-|E|-2-| (Pinky)
G|-1-|G|-0-|G|-2-| (Ring)
D|-0-|D|-2-|D|-1-| (Index)
A|-2-|A|-0-|A|-2-| (Middle)

B7 is hard to go into, but it sounds nice.

Now, then... you've gotten this far. To make it a little better sounding, let's throw in an extra A7, for extra flavor:

E7 - A7 - E7 - E7 - A7 - A7 - E7 - E7 - B7 - A7 - E7 - E7

That's what the song, "Sweet Home Chicago" uses in its progression. Now, to finish it off, let's add another B7:

E7 - A7 - E7 - E7 - A7 - A7 - E7 - E7 - B7 - A7 - E7 - B7

Like it? I do. Now, to make it sound better, use this stroking technique, where the sound isn't like "one-and-two-and" but is instead, "one-a-two-a" so that you sound like you are actually playing blues rhythms (listen to a few blues songs to get what I'm talking about)

Up... and down... up... and down...

I'm sorry, I just can't think of any other way to describe it. I don't have access to note symbols... Well, anyways, on to the next step. Now, you have the chords... let's add a little riff in there to make it sound better. We're still in E7, so here it is.

This next chords are E7 and A7, with an extra note in there to throw in so that it sounds more complex:

E7 A7

Now, use these extra notes with your ring or pinky finger (whichever is easier). Hit them every other beat, and your sound will be a lot better! B7 doesn't have an extra note as far as I know, or at least one that is fairly simple to reach. And now you know the 12 bar blues progression! I will answer any questions on the comments board, or you can email me at Have fun!
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