The minor blues scale | Jazz guitar lesson, licks & diagrams

diminished scale guitarThe minor blues scale or "blues scale" or "pentatonic blues scale" contains the same notes as the minor pentatonic scale, including a flat fifth (b5) between the fourth and the sixth referred to as the "blue note". This is a hexatonic scale, it is made up of six notes just as the major blues scale. This scale is very popular in jazz music and widely used by legendary jazz guitarists as Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, or Georges Benson. It's a simple and efficient scale, easy to learn, easy to memorize and very useful when you want to bring bluesy lines to your jazz guitar improvisations. This scale is a must know for anyone who wants to start learning jazz guitar improvisation.

As previously discussed the minor blues scale contains an additional note in comparison with the minor pentatonic scale. As its name implies the minor pentatonic scale is made up of five notes : root, minor third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth  and minor seventh. The minor pentatonic blues scale formula is root : (1), minor third (b3), fourth (4), flat fifth (b5), fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7). It contains six notes. The minor third (b3) can be considered as b10 or #9 just as the flat fifth (b5) can be thought of as #4 or #11.

C minor blues scale C Eb F F# G Bb
C minor pentatonic scale C Eb F X G Bb
Formula 1 b3 (b10 or #9) 4 (11)  b5 (#11 or #4) 5 b7

 

You can apply the minor blues scale over the same chords as the minor pentatonic scale :

  • Minor chords.
  • Major chords.
  • Minor seventh chords.
  • Major seventh chords.
  • Dominant 7th chords.

Minor blues scale | Guitar fretboard diagrams

Here are five guitar fretboard diagrams for the minor blues scale.

The blue note is the green note (b5).3 It is important to locate the root note (R), this is the orange note in the diagram. This note is very important, it will serve as the base for transpose this scale using these diagrams.

Once you have memorized one fingering you must transpose it by moving the root on the desired note keeping the same intervals.

Minor pentatonic blues scale guitar diagram 1

Minor pentatonic blues scale guitar diagram 2

Minor pentatonic blues scale guitar diagram 3

Minor pentatonic blues scale guitar diagram 4

Minor pentatonic blues scale guitar diagram 5

Minor blues lick | I and IV blues sequence

This easy short jazz guitar lick shows you how to apply the minor blues scale over the two first measures of a classic blues progression in the key of A, indeed you can play a A minor blues lick over a dominant 7th chord, which is a major chord.

Before talking about this lick its important to understand how to build a 12-bar blues progression, this is the basis before learning blues, jazz lines. A basic blues progression most of the time is made up of 12 bars with 3 chords of a given key.

I IV I %
IV % I %
V IV I %

 

It means that in the key of A we will take three chords corresponding to the I, IV and V degree of the A major scale :

  • A7 is the I.
  • D7 the IV.
  • E7 the V.

That gives the following basic blues sequence :

A7 D7 A7 %
D7 % A7 %
E7 D7 A7 %

 

In this line below, there is no clash between the minor third of the minor blues scale and the major third of A7 because the minor third is not played here. As you can see in bar one it starts with the fifth (5) then the minor seventh (b7), fifth again, root (R), minor seventh, fifth and the blue note, the flat fifth as a chromatic passing tone between the fifth and the fourth. In bar two the fourth (D)  is the eleventh of D7 and the minor third (C) is the minor seventh of D7. It works perfectly.

Minor blues scale - Jazz guitar lick

Minor blues lick | II-V sequence

The minor blues scale can also be played over a major II-V sequence. This progression is widely used in jazz blues / bebop heads. This II-V sequence is in the key C, to build it you must play the second and the fifth chord of the C major scale which are Dm7 and G7.

C major scale Harmonized

Degrees I II III IV V VI VII
C major scale C D E F G A B
Quadrad chords CMaj7 D-7 E-7 FMaj7 G7 A-7 B-7b5

 

Blues jazz / bebop progression

Here is a blues jazz progression in the key of C including the II-V sequence on bars 9 and 10. 

I6 IV7 I6 I7
IV7 % I6 VI7
IIm7 V7 I6 II  -  V

 

C6 F7 C6 C7
F7 % C6 A7
Dm7 G7 C6 Dm7     G7

 

This lick is built with notes from the D minor blues scale over Dm7 and notes of the G mixolydian scale over G7.

  • D minor blues scale is : D-F-G-Ab-A-C
  • G mixolydian scale is : G-A-B-C-D-E-F

Minor blues guitar lick - II-V sequence

Bb minor blues scale lick

This Bb7 soul jazz guitar lick starts with a chromatic line (Eb-E-F) including "the blue note". This line is repeated an octave higher and repeated again at its original pitch.

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Last edited: 06/03/2017

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