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Author Topic:  Using the Blues Scale.
Keith Hilton


From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post Posted 3 May 2017 10:14 am     Reply with quote

Back in 1985 I was playing traditional pedal steel in a large night club. A new guitar player was hired in. The new guitar player was great, but different. My playing was based off of a harmonized major scale. His playing was based off of the blues scale. It became obvious to me the new guitar player learned his craft from a "different" school. The new guitar player could not play a "major" scale. Playing a C major scale: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C was totally foreign to him. I tried to explain a major scale to him, and it became obvious he did not grasp the concept. Even though he could not play a major scale, he was a great player, who was able to improvise over common traditional country chord progressions.
I have never been able to fully understand improvising with the blues scale, over traditional country chord progressions. Seems to me the traditional E9th tuning, pedal, and knee lever set up was built around a harmonized major scale. C,Dm,Em,F,G7,Am,Bdim.C. I have always wondered how the traditional E9th set up could be used to fully utilize the blues scale. What tuning, pedals, or knee levers would have to be added or changed to fully utilize the blues scale?
People say one blues scale can be used over a entire chord progression. I am able to understand that, if the cords are all dominate 7th sounding. I simply can't seem to grasp the concept when the blues scale is played over major cords in traditional country song. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks
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Dustin Rigsby


From:
Parts Unknown, Ohio
Post Posted 3 May 2017 10:50 am     Reply with quote

When I started taking guitar lessons around the same time, that was the first scale I was taught. I wouldn't change your setup. Think of it as flatting 3,5, and 7 of your major scale

http://www.jazclass.aust.com/scales/scablu.htm
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Last edited by Dustin Rigsby on 3 May 2017 3:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 3 May 2017 12:09 pm     Reply with quote

Would a blues scale be a minor scale?
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Don Drummer


From:
West Virginia, USA
Post Posted 3 May 2017 12:12 pm     blues scale Reply with quote

The simple blues scale is just a major scale minus the 7th and 4th tone. Using the same notes based on the 6th note gives you a minor / or blues sound. An example in the key of C major gives you the relative minor: A minor. Playing blues in A you can use the C major pentatonic with the emphasis on the notes A and E. You can easily use the same note groups for C major in a simple I IV V progression and for the most part not play a note that clashes. This also works for chord progressions that are more complex. An example would be the tune Cherokee. Its melody is very pentatonic while the chord changes, while blues based, are not simple to say the least.
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Keith Hilton


From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post Posted 3 May 2017 12:38 pm     Reply with quote

Don, the related minor to C is A minor. Everything I read on the C blues scale has these notes:
C Blues scale
C - Eb - F - Gb - G - Bb - C
So the 4th F is there, and the 7th is there only flatted.
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Gordon Hartin


From:
Durham, NC
Post Posted 3 May 2017 1:10 pm     Reply with quote

I think people can get confused fast when talking about the Modes or Relative Scales, vs a Particular Scale.

The C Major Scale is
C D E F G A B C

The C Major Pentatonic Scale is
C D E G A

The A Minor Scale is
A B C D E F G A (Notice same notes as C major Scale)

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale is
A C D E G (Notice same notes as C major Pentatonic Scale)

----------------

The C Minor Scale is
C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

The C Minor Pentatonic Scale is
C Eb F G Bb

----------------

The Blues Scale also ads the b5 interval in relation to the Root note of the scale,

The A Minor Blues Scale is
A C D Eb E G (Notice same notes as C major Pentatonic Scale + b5)

The C Minor Blues Scale is
C Eb F Gb G Bb
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Stuart Legg


Post Posted 3 May 2017 1:38 pm     Reply with quote

Only a country guitar player could limit his playing so.
It only works because the progressions are simple and the rest of the band naturally fills up the holes in his playing.
It is a wonderful scale if your steel guitar is basic.
The Major Blues Scale (if you are just using the one scale) will work through the chord cycle because lacking a major or minor 7 it doesn't define it's self to a dominant or major chord. It works better if you use the major blues scale with the root of each chord of the progression.
Here is a few examples in G on E9

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Dustin Rigsby


From:
Parts Unknown, Ohio
Post Posted 3 May 2017 3:36 pm     Reply with quote

I knew someone who was better than me at theory would jump in here !
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 3 May 2017 5:16 pm     Reply with quote

Usually the blues in that context is simply a phrase or two, then a resolution back to the harmony of the tune. Any more than that and it loses its effect. Listen to the great soul singers, it's the way they do it.

When you are trying to get a Bluesy feeling in your playing over a standard type of non-blues progression, you are going to play a phrase that highlights the tonic, but the notes of the phrase will be more like a minor pentatonic. If the key is C, you would play something like C Bb G Gb F Eb C, which is pentatonic with a passing tone added, making it a hexatonic I guess. The trick is to never land square on the minor 3rd and stay there--you "bend" the note up and down closer to the major 3rd.

I hope I'm being clear.
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Keith Hilton


From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post Posted 3 May 2017 8:07 pm     Reply with quote

Stuart said:
"The Major Blues Scale (if you are just using the one scale) will work through the chord cycle because lacking a major or minor 7 it doesn't define it's self to a dominant or major chord."
Help me understand this concept. Explain the above in more detail for me.
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Stuart Legg


Post Posted 4 May 2017 12:51 am     Reply with quote

Best I can tell you is just try it for yourself!

Just play (noodle around) within those 3 potions of the G Major Blues Scale over the whole song and you will begin to feel it. You can see that the scale works well over a lot of chords abd this is not really a blues song! It's a good adlib scale if you don't have a clue about the song and you have to take a ride.
click here


Last edited by Stuart Legg on 4 May 2017 1:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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Frederick Krubel


From:
Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 4 May 2017 1:30 am     Reply with quote

Paul Franklin's course "rock and pop steel" has a large part dedicated to major pentatonic phrases, using distortion, and minor pentatonic. Blues scale actually means a hexatonic scale that adds the flatted fifth to the minor pentonic, and it also means a style of phrasing...Some folks call the minor pentatonic, the blues scale, as a misnomer. On a 6 string guitar in standard tuning, the player quickly learns to visualize the minor penatonic as a source of melodies based around a tonic or root. "Blue Notes" are actually notes that you actually need to bend to between the half steps distance of one fret. Try simply playing in E at the 12th fret and do this lick that I taught a classically trained violinist who couldn't play blues licks. Play 11th fret on 6 and slide up to the 12th fret, then play 8 at the 12 fret and add vibrato. Use this lick over any E root chord. Experiment with only sliding partially between the 11th and 12th frets and note the change in the effect. You're learning to hear the flatted third, a bent flatted third, and a major third before returning to the root.
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Steven Welborn


From:
Ojai,CA USA
Post Posted 4 May 2017 8:52 am     Reply with quote

IMO most trdititional country doesn't call for much of the blues mode from a steel guitar. But there are times when the major mode is just wrong. I know a local steel player who only knows the major mode and forces it in areas where it's just plain WRONG. I feel it's important to know how to play the blues pentatonic when appropriate (that is to say when the major is NOT). Or mixing the two in some way. A tune that comes to mind where I would mix the two (blues pentatonic and Dom 7 modes) would be a song like 'Oh Atlanta' Alison Krauss. But that's me. It's all personal taste and feel I guess.
A guitarist doesn't know a major scale??
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Keith Hilton


From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post Posted 4 May 2017 9:12 am     Reply with quote

Wonder if anyone has ever tried to tune their guitar to the blues scale? Then experimented with what would be the best pedal and knee changes to put on the guitar?
Many standard guitar players claim the blues scale is more important to them than the major scale. So why hasn't some steel player put the blues scale tuning on their guitar?
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Steven Welborn


From:
Ojai,CA USA
Post Posted 4 May 2017 10:03 am     Reply with quote

Keith Hilton wrote:
Wonder if anyone has ever tried to tune their guitar to the blues scale? Then experimented with what would be the best pedal and knee changes to put on the guitar?
Many standard guitar players claim the blues scale is more important to them than the major scale. So why hasn't some steel player put the blues scale tuning on their guitar?

It's not necessary. It's all there. Move the major pentatonic or the major scale up a step and 1/2.
Also, in the key of A for example, play A+B pedals down position a whole step below (3rd fret) as if playing in C.
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ajm


From:
Los Angeles
Post Posted 4 May 2017 10:25 am     Reply with quote

"Many standard guitar players claim the blues scale is more important to them than the major scale."

To them, they are probably right, especially if they are rock or blues players. But also, they may not have made the connection between the pentatonic/blues/rock scale and the major/country scale yet.

Many good tips and theory in this thread.

One that I will suggest is to experiment with these scales with other music in the background. It could be a simple recording of someone just playing an A (or whatever) chord on six string or piano or whatever, droning away. For me, THAT is when I really start to make the connections, when I can hear how one scale fits within the total picture.

You could also do it the other way around. Make a recording of the major scale from top to bottom and have it play non stop. Then, play each harmonized chord of the major scale against that and listen to how one fits against the other. I read one time that doing this will give you the various modes, but I don't remember what they are.

To close, I believe that Mickey Adams has a YT video or two on this very subject (blues scales on the E9).
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Roger Rettig


From:
An Englishman in Naples, FL
Post Posted 4 May 2017 10:34 am     Reply with quote

I was always struck by the fact that the early '60s 'Bakersfield' sound and the styles of Roy Nichols, James Burton and Ralph Mooney made great use of a bluesy approach to country music. It was actually this flavour that first drew me into enjoying country music - I used to say: "I don't like country!", then someone played me some Haggard and Owens sides and I said: "But I like that!"

Lots of b3rds, b7s, and passing flat 5s - check out the melody of Skaggs' 'Can't You Hear Me Calling?' - there's a very fine line between bluegrass and the blues and it's just the feel that changes.
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Chris Reesor


From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post Posted 4 May 2017 10:38 am     Reply with quote

Keith, the sacred steel guys' E7 based tunings are great for the blues, but their superiority lies mostly in the rhythm aspects, in my view.
E9 will do it all the single note stuff easily.
Learning to feel and express the blues? Not quite so easy.
The blues lives in those microtones between the minor and major thirds, between the fourth and the flatted fifth, and between the flatted seventh and the root. I think those sounds are best played with bar movement rather than pedal/lever moves. Think slide guitar; you already have Duane Allman's open E, except the lowest string right there.
If you lower string 2 to D and hit your B pedal, the whole tuning is now a B minor pentatonic scale. b5's are one fret up on strings 1 & 7, major thirds one fret up on 2 & 9. Put on a blues tune, explore and have some fun.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 4 May 2017 11:09 am     Reply with quote

Roger Rettig wrote:
I was always struck by the fact that the early '60s 'Bakersfield' sound and the styles of Roy Nichols, James Burton and Ralph Mooney made great use of a bluesy approach to country music. It was actually this flavour that first drew me into enjoying country music - I used to say: "I don't like country!", then someone played me some Haggard and Owens sides and I said: "But I like that!"

Lots of b3rds, b7s, and passing flat 5s - check out the melody of Skaggs' 'Can't You Hear Me Calling?' - there's a very fine line between bluegrass and the blues and it's just the feel that changes.


Good post, Roger. That's exactly right.
Listen to Leo Leblanc--he's another good example.
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Roger Rettig


From:
An Englishman in Naples, FL
Post Posted 4 May 2017 11:13 am     Reply with quote

Smile
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RR
Emmons LG3 D-10, JCH SD-10, Zum Encore


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Last edited by Roger Rettig on 4 May 2017 11:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 4 May 2017 11:32 am     Reply with quote

Many years ago I heard a Berklee grad say,,,"all music, to one degree or another, is blues. I always applied that to,,,Delta blues is the greater degree, Bach is the lesser degree,,,but maybe it is all in how we hear it.

Keith, have you ever heard of Jeff Newman's OBAIL scale? And Reece had a similar concept of it.
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Earnest Bovine


From:
Los Angeles CA USA
Post Posted 4 May 2017 12:18 pm     Re: Using the Blues Scale. Reply with quote

Keith Hilton wrote:
His playing was based off of the blues scale. It became obvious to me the new guitar player learned his craft from a "different" school. The new guitar player could not play a "major" scale. Playing a C major scale: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C was totally foreign to him.

What does he do when somebody requests "Happy Birthday To You"?
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Steven Welborn


From:
Ojai,CA USA
Post Posted 4 May 2017 12:29 pm     Reply with quote

if nobody came to the party, do it Albert King style
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John Billings


From:
Ohio, USA
Post Posted 4 May 2017 1:56 pm     Reply with quote

Here's kind of a curve ball, but,,,Earl Scruggs on 5 string is a very Bluesy player. Tuning is G. Listen to his fills.
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Roger Rettig


From:
An Englishman in Naples, FL
Post Posted 4 May 2017 2:06 pm     Reply with quote

Very much so, John. As I said earlier, bluegrass and the blues are barely separated sometimes. Bobby Thompson's fills were even more bluesy than Earl Scruggs'.
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