The Major and Minor Blues Scales and Improvising

Did you know that their are two blues scales? A minor blues scale and a major blues scale. Many students are introduced to improvising on a blues tune using the minor blues scale. The music teacher usually says just use the same scale over the entire song.

The C minor blues scale consists of the notes: C,Eb,F,F#,G,Bb.
The biggest problem with only using this scale is that it limits what you can play and the solos tend to be boring. Furthermore many beginning improvisors don’t know how to properly resolve their ending notes. This scale is most importantly missing the major 3 and also the 2nd and the 6th.

The major blues scale may be conceived by starting with the major pentatonic scale and adding a minor 3rd. The C major blues scale consists of the notes: C,D,Eb,E,G,A.

Please not that the major blues scale contains the same notes as the minor blues scale that is down a minor 3rd. For example the C major blues scale consists of the same notes as the A minor blues scale

Practice Suggestions for simple 3 Chord blues:
1. Practice playing the ascending major blues scale over each chord.
2. Practice playing the descending major blues scale over each chord.
3. Practice playing the major blues scale over the I chord and the minor blues scale over the IV and V chords.
4.Practice moving between both scales.
5. Add the b7 and 4th to the major blues scale
6 Add the 6th or the 9th to the minor blues scale.

Do you have any suggestions for practicing the blues?

The Major and Minor Blues scale with shortcut

The blues scale is a six note scale. The scale can be constructed by starting with a major scale and then using the following formula:

1-b3-4-#4-5-b7

The C blues scale would be C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb. This scale works very nicely over minor 7th chords.

A major blues scale also exists and can be constructed from a major scale using the following formula:

1-2-b3-3-5-6

The major blues scale works on major and dominant chords. On the surface it looks like you have to learn 12 minor blues scales and then 12 major blues scales but dont fret.

Notice that  a D minor blues scale consists of D-F-G-G#-A-C. Notice that an F major blues scale consists of  F-G-Ab-A-C-D.

If you look closely you should note the the notes in a D minor blues scale are identical to an F major blues scale.

The practical outcome is that you only need to learn the 12 minor blues scales because you can play the minor blues scale that is down a minor third from a major or dominant 7 chord.

For example a simple 12 bar blues in the key of C would be:

C7- C7-C7-C7

F7-F7-C7-C7

G7-F7-C7-C7

You can play the A minor blues scale over the C7.

You can play the D minor blues scale over the F7.

You can play the E minor blues scale over the G7.

Have fun playing the blues!