The Minor Blues Scale | Guitar Positions and Theory
The minor blues scale with a b5
What's The Minor Blues Scale?
The 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.
What is The Blues Scale Formula?
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 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 Blues Scale Groups
Minor blues scale can be devided into three groups, depending on the added note. Indeed, there are three blue notes, the major third (3), the flat fifth (b5) and the major seventh (7). It means that you can add one of these three notes to the common pentatonic scale, thus giving three different minor blues scales. One minor pentatonic scale with a major third, one with a flat fifth and two with a major seventh.
|Minor blues scale with a major third||1||b3||3||4||5||b7|
|Minor blues scale with a flat fifth||1||b3||4||b5||5||b7|
|Minor blues scale with a major seventh||1||b3||4||5||b7||7|
Minor Blues Licks
How to Use The Minor Blues Scale Over a Blues?
This easy short jazz guitar lick shows you how to apply the minor blues scale over the first two 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, it's 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 three chords of a given key.
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 :
In the 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.
How to Play the Minor Blues Scale Over a 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.
Harmonized C major scale
|C major scale||C||D||E||F||G||A||B|
Blues jazz / bebop progression
Here is a blues jazz progression in the key of C including a II-V sequence on bars 9 and 10.
|IIm7||V7||I6||II - V|
This lick is built with notes from the D minor blues scale over Dm7 and notes from 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
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Last edited: 03/06/2019