The Major Blues Scale | Guitar Lesson with Shapes

What is The Major Blues Scale?

The major blues scale is one of the most important blues scales to know. It is built with root (1), second (2), minor third (b3 - passing tone), major third (3), fifth (5) and sixth (6). The major blues scale  is a useful device when you want to improvise over major and dominant chords. It gives bluesy vibes to your guitar solos.

How Is Built The Major Blues Scale?

This is a hexatonic scale, it means that it contains six notes per octaves just as the minor blues scale. In comparison with the major pentatonic scale, there is an additional note between the second (2) and the major third (3).

This note is named flat tenth (b10) or flat third (b3), this a blue note. Flat tenth is more appropriate in this harmonic context because a scale can't have two thirds in its composition. 

In brief the major blues scale is made up of : root (1), major second (2), a flat tenth (b10) or minor third (b3), major third (3), fifth (5) and sixth (6).

C major blues scale C D Eb E G A
Formula 1 2 b10 or b3 3 5 6
Intervals W H H W + H W W+H

 

Comparison With The Major Pentatonic Scale

As you see in the shapes below, the major blues scale has a b3 in comparison with the major pentatonic scale. In other words, it's a major pentatonic scale with an additional note.

Major blues scale vs major pentatonic

 

Comparison With The Minor Blues Scale

The two diagrams below show the differences between the minor blues scale and the major blues scale. The minor blues scale interval pattern is 1 - b3 - 4 - b5 - 5 - b7. This is a minor pentatonic scale with a b5 between the fourth and the fifth generally employed over minor chords and dom7 chords.

Major blues scale and minor blues scale

Here is a comparative chart between the major scale, the major pentatonic scale, the major blues scale, the minor pentatonic scale and the minor blues scale :

Major scale 1 2 X 3 4 X 5 6 X 7
Major pentatonic scale 1 2 X 3 X X 5 6 X X
Major blues scale 1 2 b10 or b3 3 X X 5 6 X X
Minor pentatonic scale 1 X b3 X 4 X 5 X b7 X
Minor blues scale 1 X b3 X 4 b5 5 X b7 X

 

Major Blues Scale Application 

The major blues scale can be used over major chords as maj6, maj7, maj9 and maj13. It can also be employed over dominant chords as dom7, dom9, and dom13. Playing a major blues scale over dominant and major chord highlights the 9 and 13.

 

How To Play the Major Blues Scale on Guitar?

Here are some guitar shapes to play the major blues scale. The first thing to do is to locate the root note (R), this is the orange note in the diagrams. It gives the tonality and will serve as basis for the transposition of these shapes. The passing tone (b3) is represented in blue.

The first four charts show how to play the major blues scale in positions within the space of one octave.

Here are the five positions of the major blues scale (G) covering the whole guitar neck.

Major Blues Scale Guitar Patterns

Here are six easy guitar patterns using the A major blues scale (A - B - C - C# - E - F#). Each  lick starts on a specific interval of the scale : Root (A), second (B), minor third (C), major third (C#), fifth (E) and sixth (F#).

  • Exercise 1: Starting on the root

Major blues scale guitar lick exercise with tab 1

 

Exercise 2 : Starting with the second (B)

Major blues scale guitar lick exercise with tab 8

 

Exercise 3 : Starting with the minor third (C)

Major blues scale guitar lick exercise with tab 3

 

Exercise 4 : Starting with the third (C#)

Major blues scale guitar lick exercise with tab 4

 

Exercise 5 : Starting with the fifth (E)

Major blues scale guitar lick exercise with tab 5

 

Exercise 6 : Starting with the sixth (F#)

Major blues scale guitar lick exercise with tab 6

Major Blues Scale Study

The following exercise is a classic blues in A7. There are only three chords A7, D7 and E7 corresponding to I7, IV7 and V7 degrees.  As you can hear, three major blues scale are employed, A major blues over A7, D major blues over D7 and E major blues over E7.

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Last edited: 03/06/2020

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