9 January 2012

Blues Guitar Licks With Major Thirds

Here are some example blues guitar licks that will show you how to incorporate the major third of the current chord into the first position of the minor pentatonic scale.

When you use the major third of each chord in the blues progression you really make that chord stand out. You'll get lots of points at the jam session as someone who really knows where they're at. Provided you use the thirds in the right places, of course...

In the example licks we're going to work in the key of G major, so our I, IV and V chords will be G7, C7 and D7 respectively. Each lick is going to target the major third of the current chord. This note is not part of the minor pentatonic scale, but is easily found within the position.

Major Third Target Notes

The major third target notes of each chord around the first minor pentatonic position are shown in the fretboard diagram below.


  • On the I chord - G7 - target the major thirds shown by green dots: fifth string 2nd fret, third string 4th fret, first string 7th fret.
  • On the IV chord - C7 - target the major thirds shown by blue dots: fourth string 2nd fret, second string 5th fret.
  • On the V chord - D7 - target the major thirds shown by orange dots: fourth string 4th fret, second string 7th fret.



The extra notes for the I and IV chord are the major 3rd and the 6th of the I chord. They are part of a scale called the myxolidian scale, but you don't have to worry about that fancy name. I find it's much simpler to simply think of them as extra notes added around the minor pentatonic position.


Licks on the I Chord

Here’s an example lick on the I chord that plays around the 3rd at the fourth fret of the 3rd string. An easy way to identify this note is to think of the G7 bar chord at the third fret.


This next lick uses the 3rd at the second fret of the fifth string. The current chord is also played as part of the lick to further underline it.


Licks on the IV Chord

Here is a lick using the major third of the C7 chord at the fifth fret of the second string.


The second C7 chord lick incorporates some chord hits in the second measure. These are followed by a short series of notes that leads back into the I chord, ending on its root note.


Licks on the V Chord

The following two examples on the V chord make use of some playing effects with the major 3rd notes. In the first example below, the b7 of the scale box is bent up a half step to the D7 chord’s major third. You can slide up to the 7th fret of the third string with your third (ring) finger and perform the bend on the string below with your second finger.


In this final lick the major third of the D7 chord is played as a trill – a rapid alternation between the two notes using hammer-ons and pull-offs.


These licks show some examples of how to use the major third of the current chord in licks based on the first minor pentatonic box. The major 3rd really makes the sound of the chord stand out in your playing. When you practice with it you will learn to listen and follow the progression better because if you hit these notes on the wrong chord they will sound odd.

Have fun practicing these licks and making up more of your own with the major third.

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