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Major, Minor and/or Blues Scales in Blues? (DQ #339)


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One more today, and then I'll shut up and read for a few days. :)


If I'm playing Blues, and going through the common I-IV-V progression, should I be playing Imaj-IVmaj-V7, OR can I simply play blues scales for each of these chords (Im7b5-IVm7b5-Vm7b5)?


As always, THANKS!

C.V.: Snowboarder (1983-), Bass Owner (1996-), Chemistry Teacher (1997-) & Serious Bass Student (2003-)
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There are a few different types of Blues progressions that are common. The most common Blues progression (and the one I think you're asking about,) is based on a I7 IV7 V7 progression,(Dominant 7 chords.)


I would start by playing the 1 of each chord on the first beat, then go up the other chord tones, (3,5, b7,) for each chord. The first choice scale for Dominant 7 Chords is Mixolydian, so once you get the hang of playing through the changes experiment with other notes in the scale,even chromatics to acheive a more interesting line.


The b5 (found in the Blues Scale,)is often used in Turnarounds, but the b3 often clashes with a I7 chord because it contains a 3.)


Blues is not based on Major key harmony so people often get a bit confused about what to play.


I hope these suggestions help to spark some ideas for you.


Have fun!



Marzuki Grinage

Progressive Soul

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Martin, I may have misled you unwittingly.


On most jazz tunes, you should add a diatonic 7th to each chord. For that reason, if you see an F chord in the key of C, you would play it as maj7.


However, Blues is it's own, unique entity. As Marzuki said, the blues uses a dominant 7 for EVERY chord...also known as a minor 7th, full step below the root.


The reason this works is voice leading gets really nice. However, there is always a tension present, because you never play a true cadence with an ending.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.


Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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MARZUKI: Thanks! This is great stuff.


DAVE: Nope, you didn't mislead me. I asked two different questions; I think that I probably confused the issue. Again, THANKS for your help!

C.V.: Snowboarder (1983-), Bass Owner (1996-), Chemistry Teacher (1997-) & Serious Bass Student (2003-)
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In a typical three chord blues, say in the key of C, all three chords are 7th chords.

C E G Bb, F A C Eb, G B D F.


So as we look at this, we can see that this is not a C major scale, in fact there is no scale that we recognize.


Note: the following instructions are for soloing, not for playing basslines.


One way to play would be to play a C dominant (also known as mixolydian) scale on the C7 chord (C D E F G A Bb), F dominant (F G A Bb C D Eb)on the F7 and G dominant (G A B C D E F) on the G7 chord. This will work for a solo and it also will work for a bassline.


But this isn't the best way to play a blues solo, it's actually easier than that.


You should be playing in one scale all the way across all three changes. That scale is known as a blues scale and you will see different versions of it.


First of all you could play a C minor pentatonic scale: C Eb F G Bb. It will work. Yes, there will be a "clash" between the Eb in the scale you are playing and the E in a C7 chord. Note than when you get to the F7 chord, Eb is in the chord.

The clash is supposed to be there. It is called a blue note.


Now we could add a note: the b5 or the #4, whatever you want to call it.


Now our scale is C Eb F F# G Bb.


We now have three blue notes: Eb F# and Bb, or the b3, the b5 and the b7.


You could just hammer away on the F#, but it might sound a little strange. Use this note either to lead in to the G in a riff like:

F# G Bb G highC Bb G Eb lowC.


Or use it to lead in to the F in a riff like:

F# F Eb F Eb C.


Here's a riff that has the F# used both ways:

F# G Bb F# F Eb C.


I'm now going to add one more note to the blues scale: The major third.


So now we have 1 b3 3 4 #4 5 b7 or

C Eb E F F# G Bb.


When you are playing the C7 chord you can use the E. When you get to the F7 chord you must use the Eb.


Now we have what I think is the essence of the blues...the contrast between E and Eb or the major third and the minor third. Some blues soloists will bend a note and get something in between. Some pianists will hit both notes at once in an attempt to "play in the cracks" (between the keys).


Play the progression just hitting certain notes.

They are called guide tones.

I have written the chord names above and the melody notes to hit in the line below.


C7 /F7 /C7 /C7 /F7 /F7 /C7 /C7 /G7 /F7 /C7 /C7 /

E /Eb /E /E /Eb /Eb /E /E /F /Eb /E /E /


Now go on from there construct a solo, using the extended blues scale that I have given you, and emphasize the guide notes at the beginning of each measure.


Have some one else play the chords, tape yourself, use a computer program. You must have something to listen to so you can hear the chords changing as you play your solo.


Eventually you should be able to hear the chords in your head as you solo and you won't need an accompaniment.


Have fun. And of course listen to blues records and attempt to copy the solos that you hear.

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