The Blues Scale.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Rockin John, Dec 17, 2005.

  1. To be honest I feel a bit silly posting this question. I feel it's something everybdy already knows therfore I must be a bit thick or something... :eyebrow: :eek:

    Anyway, I'd like to know, please, what constitutes the Blues Scale. I have a couple of books on theory, scales, etc, and both seem to tell a different story. That may be because the indication is that this scale is not a properly accepted scale. Kind-of, as though it's component notes are different, depending on which player is playing at any given time!

    As far as I can figure it out the Blues Scale is a Major Scale modified so that the 3rd, 5th and 7th notes are flattened. Following that I do not know whether the Major's 2nd, 4th, 6th are used in the Blues Scale, or whether they are missed out.

    Help, as always, gratefully appreciated.


  2. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    In relation to major scale...

    no second.
    no sixth.

    A C blues scale is:
    C Eb F Gb G Bb C
  3. Thanks Aaron. :D :D

  4. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Think minor pentatonic with a b5 added.
  5. Phil Smith is right. Minor Pentatonic with an extra note.

    Minor Pentatonic in the key of C:
    C-Eb-F-G-A. Finish it with a 6th note being C.

    This is the Minor pentatonic in the key of C. Now to turn it into a Blues scale you must add the blue note which in this Key is going to be F#. You insert it inbetween the F and the G.

  6. Err, ......nope. :eek:

    Well, I guess I could figure it eventually. I first need to find out what a pentatonic scale is. OK, I know it's got five notes. Next I need to find out how to make that into a minor scale. Then I need to know where to add the blue note, and why it's put there.

    As you can see my muisical theory knowledge can be written on the back of a postage stamp :bawl:

    To be honest, it was easier to simply ask guys what the blues scale is.


  7. Its really up to you. I'm not a teacher but I know what scales there are and what a blues scale is. I just can't get you to understand. There are plenty of good books on theory. There is one very good book on scales that is written in an easy to understand form. It's called "The Bass Grimoire" and it is written by Adam Kadmon.
    I hope this helps. And one more thing.

    Learn the Major scale. Its the same fingering pattern nomatter what key you are playing the scale in, and consider lessons for a while.
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    If you really want to get a frim grasp of the major and minor pentatonic scales and the blues scale, buy "Mel Bay's Complete Blues Bass Book" with CD by Mark Hiland. The clear explanations, illustrations and drills in this book will give you a great foundation in these important scales. Not only that, you won't learn just how to play these scales, you will know how to apply them, where they are used and how they fit into a song.

    This same book also guides you into the all important twelve-bar blues chord progression and its common variations. You will have a much better foundation in theory and music after you have worked your way through this book and the CD. Also, this book will help you get a basis for moving into jazz later if you wish because you will need to know the blues scale and the twelve-bar blues progression.

    By the way, you needn't ever feel "a bit silly" posting a question here at TalkBass. The silly person is the one who is too arrogant or too afraid to post a question here.
  9. Great post Boplicity. I wish I'd have thought of it. I use this book. Alot.
  10. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Huge +1 on the "silly" comment thing. I've been here since 02, and...well...we've all asked some pretty silly questions, believe me!
  11. Boplicity... Sir, I'm honoured. :cool: :D

    Well, I already bought Jon Lliebman's book, Blues Bass: the complete method + CD. And I will certainly get the one you recommend.

    I also have Ed Friedland's books on Jazz Bass.

    I suppose the fact that I posted as I did show's I've not learned that much.... :eek: :eek: :D

    Whilst there are probably loads of big holes in my playing, the theory thing is the biggest. How I long to be able to pick up a score - even a simple one - and play what's written. I know my playing would improve enormously. I got down to it about a year or so ago and made quite good progress. But then a whole lot of personal stuff came along and de-railed it. Whether it'll ever get back is V difficult to say. Anyway, the shops will be back open tomorrow so I'll go a-looking for this title.

    Hmm... The thing about feeling silly is real enough, especially in the company of many guys here on TB. Perhaps I shouldn't feel like that but sometimes I just do. It's 5 years for me now and I still do get like that sometimes.

    Anyway, thanks for the hints and support.

    Best regards for 06 to one and all.

  12. The Blues scale fingering is 1-4 , 1-2-3 , 1-3 if that helps :meh:
  13. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    You know, I've never really thought of the "Blues Scale" as being a proper scale. Rather, I've always just thought of it as a pentatonic scale with a chromatic note inbetween the 4th and 5th degrees. When speaking in terms of tertian harmony, I really don't see how it could be considered a proper scale since you really can't harmonize the chromatic note.

  14. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    One of the ultimate authorities I reference when in search of answers to tricky questions of theory is Mark Levine author of "The Jazz Theory Book."

    Levine dedicates an entire chapter to blues, blues chords and the blues scale. Yes, he does call it a blues "scale." He says the blues scale is "unlike any other in Western music." He adds elsewhere that the blues scale "isn't explained very well by traditional theory."

    One characteristic he mentions is that playing the blues scale over the I-IV-V chords in a basic blues "yields dissonances hardly acceptable in traditional theory." He reminds us, however, that these very dissonances have been a feature of jazz since its beginnings.

    I take it that Levine is not concerned with the status of the chromatic note in the blues scale. He does not touch on the subject in the chapter on blues. It might be a difference of what he considers to be the definition of a scale. Perhaps your definition is stricter, while his is broader. Probably this response has not really answered your question.
  15. At my level I simply accepted that the scale comprised certian notes, and that was that.

    What puzzles me, is why miss out notes 2 and 6? What does it bring to the scale that having them there wouldn't... If that makes sense! :eek:

  16. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    It's not about sense, it's about sound and that pattern or better yet group of tones, has a particular sound to it. Don't get locked into the notion that all scales have 7 different tones because not all of them do.
  17. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    I think the blues scale is more of a melodic application than it is a harmonic devise. Much like the be-bop scales.

    The chromatisms are to mimic the slave shouts or blue notes. To my mind that's why it is hard to put them in the context of European theology.

    They are meant to be played as melodies over European chords (harmonies) - that's what gives them their flavor.
  18. My two cents on the blues scale:

    I actually learned the blues scale before I learned about the 5-7 chord, so I can see what the danger is here. My jazz band teacher refuses to teach the blues scale untill the 5-7 chord is mastered. The reason is that when soloing and learning about harmonic analysis, people tend to "get trapped" in the blues scale, and relying upon those easy blues 'licks and tricks'. I'm not saying the blues scale is a bad thing, on the contrary, but be sure to learn the chords that you'll be playing it over too.
  19. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    The two is a major second interval and the six is a major sixth interval. These intervals, if included in the blues scale would change the sonic character of the scale.

    The blues scale is usually played in conjunction with its typical dominant 7th chord changes, the I, IV, V chords. Using the major second and major sixth intervals of a scale in this context would not result in the sound normally identified as an authentic blues sound.

    Jazz and bebop-era changes are more complex including the use of chord substitutions to add interest and variety to the song. I cannot help much with the complexities of jazz as I never got beyond playing blues. It has been challenging and fulfilling enough for me.
  20. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Also, some scales have more than seven tones, for example, the chromatic scale which contains twelve notes separated from each other by a half step (semi-tone).

    Phil, re-reading your post, I realize that your statement actually does imply that a scale can have less or more than seven notes and that seven notes is not the absolute standard for a scale.