2 April 2008

Blues Scale Variations

Tony Hogan presents a useful blues scale variations exercise for blues guitar lick novices over on his Acoustic Guitar Player site. This exercise should give you some ideas for breaking out of the usual pentatonic scale.

It makes use of the minor - major 3rd notes of the blues chords. This combination is a distinctive hallmark of blues playing. Let's take a more detailed look at it in use in the exercise.

The minor 3rd and major 3rd first show up over the A chord in bars 1 and 4. The minor 3rd is played on the 5th string at the 3rd fret followed by its major cousin one fret higher.

The trick is repeated over the D chord, this time using the minor and major 3rd of the D scale - 3rd and 4th frets of the 4th string. Our faithful blues players friends finally show up over the E chord in bar 12, the open string and 1st fret of the 3rd string.

The use of minor and major 3rd is a simple and effective way of making your blues guitar licks sound more bluesy. Learn where these minor 3rd - major 3rd combinations occur in your favourite chord and scale positions and practice using them.

This exercises also features another favourite blues note, the b5 (flatted 5th, also known as #4, sharped 4th). You can see an example of this used in bars two and three over the A chord, 1st fret on 4th string. This note also introduces a distinctive blues feeling into your licks.

The b5/#4 note sounds best on the I chord of the blues progression, as is the case in Tony's example. Play this one over the IV chord and you'll get some funny looks from the rest of the band. It's also best restricted to a role as a passing note, don't end your licks on this note.

The b5 is easily incorporated into your favourite minor pentatonic positions. Just bend a half note or slide up one fret from the 4th of the scale.

Time to get back to the fretboard now and practice those blues tones...

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