The Blues Scale

In this Post we will be looking at the Blues Scale. To me this is one of the top most useful Scales. Most reference sources will show you the Blues Scale in its Minor Form with a Flattened 3 rd degree (bIII) and a flattened fifth degree( bV). This is okay but it is really half of the story and half of the usefulness of this particular Scale. This is because if you make the Blues Scale into a Major Scale Pattern then the Flattened fifth note (bV) actually now becomes the flattened 3rd (bIII). The Flattened 3rd when played against a Major Chord or Dominant 7th chord is a true Blues Note found in many examples of Blues Styles. So by changing the Blues Scale to a Major pattern you have got instant access to the Blues. I will show you how to do this but most of you will already have covered all this if you have already been studying my approach to the CAGED System (C-A-G-E-D). If not go and have a look at this as it shows you how to use the 5 patterns to find both major and minor scales from pentatonic scale shapes.

Another really useful thing about the Blues Scale is that it’s shapes are really easy to memorise and there is only one note added to the patterns that we covered in the C-A-G-E-D System. Once you know where this note is it;s easy to drop it into phrases when you want evoke a more Blues-like-quality to a phrase. Once you know where it is you know where to find both a bV note or a bIII note depending on whether you are playing in a minor pattern or a Major pattern. It just gives your playing an edge.

Before we go on we just need to recall some of what we covered in the C-A-G-E-D  System. We need to remember that every minor scale can be considered to be a relative of a Major Scale. therefore from a minor shape pattern we can find a Major Scale Pattern in there as well. All we need to know is the Root of our Chord we are paying against or the Key we are playing in . Key Signatures can be considered a Root Note. So playing in Key C find the C Note and use this as the Root. Or playing against a C Chord use the C note as the Root note again. Pretty straightforward so far. For any given Root Note there are 2 Choices you can play a minor Scale pattern from the Root Note or you can count back 3 frets from the Root to find the VI Note in the Major scale. Once you have found the VI (6th) note use this to relocate the same Scale Pattern now you will be playing the notes of the relative minor scale so its easy to find the Major Pattern for the Root Note you are using. Here it is in a simple diagram.


Here we are using the C note as the Root Note so playing in the Key of C moving back to the Vi note in the C scale ( rule just move back 3 frets from the Root Note you are using) to find the note A. A minor scale is the relative minor of C major in that they both share the same notes so if you locate a minor Scale Shape Pattern there you can play notes from the C major Scale. If this is not clear see Part V of the CAGED System for further explanation & examples.

Now here is an example of the Blues Scale built on both the Major and the minor Scale Patterns.


The blues note retains the same position in both of the 2 patterns but it changes it’s relationship to the scale depending on whether it is a minor Scale Pattern or a Major Scale Pattern that you are using. It is either a bV (flattened 5th note) in the minor pattern or a bIII (flattened 3rd) in the Major Scale Pattern. The pattern itself does not change it remains constant.

This theme can be developed in all the other 4 patterns. There is a position for the Blues Note in all the Patterns. I will give you the other 4 Minor pattern Shapes with the Blues note included. It’s up to you to convert these Patterns to Major patterns using the rules I have outlined above and in my explanation of the system to use in the CAGED System. Quite simply move back 3 frets to relocate the minor pattern you are using to start on the VI note. You are now playing the Relative Minor scale of the Major Key that you want to play in.

The next scales of importance we are going on to consider will be the Dorian and the Mixolydian Scales. We will look at how to build the Dorian Scale from the Minor Pentatonic scale shapes that we have been using in our C-A-G-E-D System. We will look at how to build the Mixolydian Scale from the Major Scale patterns that we have been using and then how to hybrid the scale to include a few extra notes. We will then look at how to apply these scales to a Chord Progression. (Access to these lessons will be restricted to paid members only)

The Blues Scale diagram for all positions

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