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Music Factsheet No. 10: Playing Blues Scales

Music Factsheet No. 10: Playing Blues Scales

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Published by Suzannah Doyle
The secret to improvising jazz, blues, and even heavy rock. Does “Smoke on the Water” really use blues scales?
The secret to improvising jazz, blues, and even heavy rock. Does “Smoke on the Water” really use blues scales?

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Published by: Suzannah Doyle on Dec 04, 2008
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03/18/2013

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Music Musings No.10:

The Blues Scale

Music Facts to play with! by Suzannah Doyle • www.SuzDoyle.com © 2004 Suzannah Doyle Music

The Blues Scale -- the secret to cool improvising!
Learning the blues scale is the secret to creating impressive blues and jazz style improvisations. A blues scales alters a few notes of the major scale to make it sound a bit more feisty! Let’s compare the C scale and the C Blues scale:

C Scale

C Blues Scale Eb F# F G b3 4 #4 5 b7 Bb C 8

C D 1 2

E F G A B C 3 4 5 6 7 8

C 1

The C Blues scales leaves out the 2, 3, 6 and 7 notes, and adds a b3 (b =playing the note one key lower), #4 (raised one note higher) and a b7.

Scale “Formula”: C Major Scale:
SCALE NOTE NUMBER: NOTES OF THE C SCALE: 1 C 2 D 3 E 4 F 5 G 6 A 7 B (8) C

Scale “Formula”: C Blues Scale:
BLUES SCALE NUMBERS C BLUES SCALE NOTES: 1 C b3 Eb 4 F #4 F# 5 G b7 Bb (8) C

Rock song melodies are often made out of notes of the Blues Scale:
Try playing the rock classic “Smoke on the Water” as shown below. Notice all those blue notes? Tricky, eh?

(Smoke on the Water, using notes of the Blues scale)
C Eb Bum bum C Eb Bum bum F - Smoke F - Smoke C Eb He’s an F C Eb F# F bum Bum Bum Bum Bum F C Eb F# F bum Bum Bum Bum Bum Eb C Eb C C C C on the wa -ter. The fi - re Eb C Eb C on the wa -ter. Eb iF F Ab ron man; da G da C Bum C Bum Eb in Eb F Bum Bum Eb F Bum Bum C Bb C the sky -- . Eb C Bum Bum Eb C Bum Bum

(Iron Man, using notes of the Blues scale -- with one non-blues scale note)
Ab G Ab G da da da da Eb Eb F F da da da da.

(Indagadadavida riff, using notes of the Blues scale )
C C Eb D Bb C Bum bum ba da bum bum
© www.SuzDoyle.com

G F# F Bb bam bam bam bum

C C Eb D Bb C Bum bum ba da bum bum.
continued . . .

Music Musings No. 10 - The Blues Scale -- page 2 Now let’s try playing 3 different blues scales - based on the 1, 4 and 5 chords in the key of C!
With the left hand, play the C chord and hold. Meanwhile, play the notes of the C Blues scale, from the bottom note to the top one and back again.

1. C Chord

C Blues Scale Eb F# F G b3 4 #4 5 b7 Bb C 8

C D 1 2

E F G A B C 3 4 5 6 7 8

C 1

. . . and now the F Blues scale
The tricky thing here is that the F Blues scale is built on notes of the F scale, not the C scale. So the 1 note is an F, not a C. Play and hold the F chord in the left hand while playing the F Blues scale notes, from bottom to top and back again.

4. F Chord

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F Blues Scale Ab Bb Eb F b7 8

C D 1 2

E F G A B C 3 4 5 6 7 8

F 1

B C b3 4 #4 5

. . . and the G Blues scale
The notes of the G Blues scale are built on the G scale (not the C). So the “1” note is G. Play and hold the G chord in the Left Hand while playing each note of the G Blues scale, from bottom to top and back again.

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5. G Chord

G Blues Scale Bb C# C D b3 4 #4 5 F G b7 8

C D 1 2

E F G A B C D 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

G 1

THE BLUES SCALE notes that go with the C, F and G chords:
BLUES SCALE NUMBERS C BLUES SCALE NOTES: F BLUES SCALE NOTES: G BLUES SCALE NOTES: 1 C F G b3 Eb Ab Bb 4 F Bb C #4 F# B C# 5 G C D b7 Bb Eb F (8) C F G

Music Musings ©2004 by Suzannah Doyle Music. Share freely with others, but not for profit. For info: Suz@SuzDoyleMusic.com

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