The Minor Blues Scale | Guitar Positions and Theory

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 meaning that 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 very effective scale, easy to learn, easy to memorize and very useful when you want to bring bluesy lines to your jazz guitar improvisations. 

Minor 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.

So, the minor pentatonic blues scale formula would is root : (1), minor third (b3), fourth (4), flat fifth (b5), fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7). 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

 

Difference Between The Major Blues And Minor Blues Scale

The major blues scale can be seen as the major pentatonic scale with an added note, a b3 between the second and the third. The interval structure is root (1), second (2), minor third (b3), major third (3), fifth (5) and sixth (6) making the major blues scale entirely different from the minor blues scale.

Minor blues scale vs major blues scale

Minor Blues Scale Application

You can apply the minor blues scale over any minor chords and also over dom7 chords for a bluesy sound.

Minor Blues Scale Types

There are three types of minor blues scales 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 basic pentatonic scale, thus giving three different minor blues scales:

  • One with a major third between the b3 and the 4th.
  • One with a flat fifth between the 4th and th 5th.
  • One with a major seventh between the b7 and the root.
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

How to Play the Minor Blues Scale on Guitar?

The four guitar diagrams show how to play the minor blues scale starting from the sixth, fifth, fourth and third string.

Minor Blues Scale Guitar Positions

Here are five guitar positions for the minor blues scale. It is important to locate the root note (R), which is the orange note in the diagram.

This note is very important, it will help you transpose the scale.

 

Minor Blues Scale Patterns

Here are four easy blues guitar patterns using the A minor blues scale (A - C - D - D# - E - G). The principle is to practice the minor blues scale starting on each tones of the minor pentatonic scale that are root (1), minor third (b3), fourth (4), fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7) keep playing the passing tone (b5) on the and of the beat.Minor blues scale guitar pattern 1

The second line starts on the b3 of Am.

Minor blues scale guitar pattern 2

This third lick starts on the 4th of Am.

Minor blues scale guitar pattern 3

This fourth pattern starts on the fifth.

Minor blues scale guitar pattern 4

And to finish, this last lick starts on the b7 of Am.

Minor blues scale guitar pattern 5

 

Minor Blues Scale And Dominant 7 Chords

The next four minor pentatonic licks show how the minor blues scale sounds with a dom7 chord. These lines can be applied to the first two bars of a classic blues progression in A7

 

Minor blues scale and dom7 chord guitar tab 1

Minor blues scale and dom7 chord guitar tab 3

Minor blues scale and dom7 chord guitar tab 4

Minor blues scale and dom7 chord guitar tab 2

Minor Blues Scale over 2 5 1 Progression

In the next two tabs you see the D minor blues scale applied to the iim chord of major II V I Sequence in C major.

Minor blues scale over 2 5 1 progression guitar tab 1

Minor blues scale over 2 5 1 progression guitar tab 2

 

Bb Jazz Blues Study 

The following guitar study is a Bb jazz blues that demonstrates how to connect the minor blues scale with basic chords.

Two minor blues scales (with a b5) as a passing tone are used here :

  • Bb minor blues (Bb - Db - Eb - F - Ab)
  • C minor blues (C - Eb - F - G - Bb)

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Last edited: 03/06/2020