Blues Scales

 

 

Warning! Blues Scales need to be approached with caution.

They create as many problems as they solve.  

But first, let's look at the benefits Blues Guitar Scales offer.

 

The major scale is the most important Blues Guitar Scale.  

Not for melody.  But for harmony.

Knowing how to spell your major scales lets you spell chords in any, and every, key.

The second most important harmony scale is the minor scale.

For all the same reasons as the major scale.

Bottom line?  You know about chords and chord progressions.

You learn songs way faster by ear.

And you read music faster too (Because you know what you're reading. Duh!)

 

The most important melody blues guitar scale is--wait for it--the blues scale.

This is the scale that gives you the blue notes and the bluesy sound.

The second most important blues scale is the pentatonic scale.  Both the major and minor pentatonic forms.

This scale is what blues guitar beginner players learn first in most cases.

There are two kinds of blues guitar scales:  harmony scales and melody scales.

That's a big distinction.

Understanding it will save you lots of grief.

Which raises the first caution about scales.

In classical music the harmony rules were created in the royal courts of Europe.  The melody rules were created in the  royal courts of Europe too.

Result?

You have a harmony and melody system that agree tightly with each other.

In Blues music, the harmony rules were created in the royal courts of Europe.  The melody rules were created in the cotton fields of America.

The harmony rules were created by courtiers. The melody rules by slaves.

Result?

You have a different harmony and different melody system working with each other in a "looser" kind of way because they came from two different places under different conditions.

Takeway?  

You need to know how to manage the differences for your blues playing to work.

The second caution is this: scales are too often played like alphabets.

When you create an idea, don't use all the letters of the alphabet.  Use only some of them.

Unfortunately scales tend to make guitar players act in the opposite way.

They feel  compelled to play two and three octave scales everytime they want to say something.

Result?

The playing sounds like a formula.  Not like a conversation.

As Yoda would say:  "Good that is not !"

The third caution is this:  scales are learned only as ladders.

That is, you learn to play a scale up. Or down.

Let's see.  How many different shapes are those?

Right! Two.

You may or may not know that there are seven notes in a blues scale.

You may or may not know that these seven notes can be reorganised into 5,040 shapes.

And played that many ways.

But you only learn two?

Huh?

 

The last caution is this: scales take your eye off the important balll---rhythm!  

There's a reason why Blues is often called Rhythm and Blues.

(Not scales and blues or chords and blues!)

You can guess why.  Right?

And you can guess why teachers don't teach the rhythm part, right?

(If no, then there is more detail on this point at Blues Guitar Lessons)

To summarise, scales are important as harmony and melody scales.

 

  • Good melody phrases don't use every note in the scale.
  • Melodic shape and melodic rhythm are more important than scales.
  • Shape and rhythm are the keys.

 

But the blues scale is strictly a melody scale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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