Essential Blues Scales

June 16th, 2010

Guitar scales in blues music are one of the most important factors to consider when playing blues guitar. If you fail to learn the fundamentals behind these vital gems, you will consequently fail to gain a real understanding of the notes you’re playing or how to eventually create your own sound.

Today’s lesson?

Discover the two essential blues scale patterns – pentatonic scale and blues scale:

Pentatonic Scale in E
E: Open & Three, A: Open & Two, D: Open & Two, G: Open & Two, B: Open & Three, E: Open & Three

Blues Scale in E
E: Open & Three, A: Open, One & Two, D: Open & Two, G: Open, Two & Three, B: Open & Three, E: Open & Three

(letters represent the strings and the numbers represent the frets)

If you studied the above diagram, you’ll easily note that the blues scale is more or less the same as the pentatonic. The only difference is the extra note, in this case, the Bb. This note plays an important function in blues guitar as it’s often referred to simply as “the blue note.”

The blue note is what gives the blues it’s unique style and sound. GLC could attempt to describe what this sound does to your music, but don’t you think it would be a lot more practical just to try it yourself? 

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The best way to play with the pentatonic and blues scales are with a backing track. It’s important to hear how the scales sound within the context of a song. See if you can locate something with a particular “blues feel” or merely build your own with such handy devices as the looper pedal.

Once you have the backing track, try to shred some licks. What exactly is a lick? Guitar licks are essentially phrases written using these scale shapes. Hence, they’re perfect for incorporating the scales interactively into the sound rather than just settling with a simple collection of notes.

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The world of improvisation (a trademark of the blues) is sure to open a broad understanding of the different blues scales and how they blend into the musical process. Thus, you must possess these basic skills in order to become a successful guitarist who can improvise and create brilliant riffs.

1. You should be able to visualize the scale on the fret board and play them instantly.
2. Your fingers should be able to instantly play each note of the scale on the entire fret board.
3. You must also know how many notes are there in the scale, what are their degrees and where you can exactly use a particular scale.
4. The last but not the least and the most important thing is to reproduce the scale in a musical way without the monotony of just playing the notes of the scales on the fret board.

If you fail to meet any of the four vitals above, than it’s a clear indication that your knowledge of guitar scales is less than 50 percent. Unfortunately, this will really affect your improvisation skills.

Fret not (no pun intended). The people who possess all of the above are in the minority and that is the minority group of “guitar masters.” It will take a lot of determination, hard work, and patience to become an expert.

Patience, it would seem, is the key to everything.

One Response to “Essential Blues Scales”

  1. [...] Lessons Critic has always been drawn to the blues guitar. Do not ask us why. When you truly love an art, or a form of art (in this case blues music), [...]

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