Blues is a style of music that can be played in major and minor; today we will look at the (most famous) minor expression. However, how do we go from the major scale:
I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii into the final expression: I-biii-IV-bIV-V-bvii-vii?
First, let us pretend that we come across a major scale in the wild and then we work on turning it minor:
Pentatonic to Gin and Tonic:
Count the amount of notes on the current incarnation of the scale right now: its 7 notes (heptatonic). Lets prune out the ii and the bvii to form this:
This is now what is known as the ubiquitous Penta(5)tonic(note) scale and for many, this becomes the final stop in the pursuit of the blues. However, this is just the skeleton or the blueprint of the house, the function of the space and the rest will be expanding on this to represent the decorations and appliances of the house which makes it livable.
Can we start to play blues from here? Yes, but I want to give you a little more before we talk about using the pentatonic for playing blues.Now that we have established a building, lets turn that building into 2 stations between 2 octaves and a train to shuttle between them:
So now we have two stations and a train, this is one of many ways to attack this scale pattern and we will be adding more to it soon.
Here is a practice riff to help navigate this concept:
If you look at the intervals of the scale, you’ll notice that there are spaces in between each notes that sometimes skip the original formation of the minor scale. Let’s fill in some of those gaps :
This is now what we could refer to as the “blues scale” because of the addition of passing tones ( filled in notes ) or blue notes.
So now there you have it, the evolution of the major scale to the blues scale, but what about a practice lick using the staions concept:
Let’s concentrate on these passing tones, if we start on one these using the station 1-train-station 2 formula your playing will sound a little more rich and “real”.
This isn’t the end-all of blues scale playing but it is a good start into thinking outside the box and attempting to try a more “alive sound” with your guitar. Practice some more and make your own combinations out of this lesson.