The minor blues scale is arguably the most used scale by guitarists for soloing and improvising. The ‘blue’ note is what gives the scale its characteristic sound. Although it is an obvious go-to scale for the blues, it is used extensively in rock, jazz, folk, pop, and just about every other style too. The amazing thing about the minor blues scale, is that it works in a range of musical contexts. It can be used effectively over both minor chords and major chords.
So what makes up the minor blues scale? The scale is almost identical to the minor pentatonic scale, but has one extra note – the b5. This note is also known as the ‘blue note’, because it is what gives the scale its blues sound. If you are familiar with minor pentatonic scales, you would know that the C minor pentatonic scale (for example) contains the following:
C – Eb – F – G – Bb
To make this a C minor blues scale, we simply need to add the b5 (blue note)
C – Eb – F – Gb – G – Bb
1 – b3 – 4 – b5 – 5 – b7
The scale produces 3 notes in a row that are 1 semitone apart. Because of this, using bends is a very effective tool with the blues scale. If we take the example of the C minor blues scale above, the 3rd note of the scale (F), is followed by a semitone interval to Gb and then another semitone interval to G. This means that when we bend F, we are increasing the pitch upwards, towards the next note – Gb. If we continue bending the note past Gb, we are increasing the pitch towards the next note after Gb – G. This is one of the reasons why blues guitarists use bends extensively. The bends can be used to move from one note of the scale to the next and the ‘in between’ sounds of the bends add to the bluesy sound. This does not mean that bends can only be used to connect notes that are a semitone apart, or that they can only be used for blues scales, but the minor blues scale definitely lends itself to the use of bends.
Of course, as with any scale, we want to learn the 5 movable positions along the guitar fretboard and then apply them to different keys. Let’s look at the minor blues scale in the key of C, in all 5 positions.
If you are new to scales, I would recommend reading the following related posts:
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