GUITARU.com Super Lesson-The Major Blues Scale

Theory Practice

Use the chart below with your music writing note book as you copy and memorize the spelling and formula for a C Major Blues Scale.

C Maj. Pentatonic
C
D
E
G
A
C Maj. Blues
C
D
E
Eb
G
A
Formula
1
2
3
b3
5
6

The Major Pentatonic Scale has a beautiful sister; it’s called the Major Blues Scale and is simply a Major Pentatonic Scale with the addition of a flat 3rd. The addition of the flat 3rd, a Blue Note, is an unusual and even surprising addition since the flat 3rd is the minor third, it would seem out of place in a Major Pentatonic Scale, but it is precisely the contrast provided by bluesy and emotional sounding flat third blue note that makes the Major Blues Scale an absolute knockout.

Below are two exercises designed to teach you the Major Blues Scale and make it easy for you to get the knack of a scale many students find tricky. The use of a flat 3rd (minor 3rd) and a natural 3rd (Major 3rd) in the same scale may make it sound, at first, slightly ‘out’ or wrong to the ears. Studies of Blues and Rock lead guitar tell us that the blending of these two seemingly opposing notes, the flat or minor 3rd and the natural or Major 3rd, in the same musical idea lies somewhere near the heart of most modern lead styles. Use the two diagrams below to get a good visual image of the scales, the accompanying play along recordings will get you use to the feeling and sound of playing through the scales in a musical setting. Each example is played twice, use your ear to practice and listen closely until you can comfortably synchronize your guitar with the guitar found in the two recordings below.

Major Blues Scale Applications.

In the case concerning the use and application of these highly unusual and adaptive Major Blues Scales the presence of the natural or Major 3rd makes them unacceptable to songs in a minor key or vamps using a minor chord:

  • If a song, vamp or chord progression is based on a Major Chord, then the Major Blues Scale of that key can be an interesting and acceptable choice for creating riffs, licks and also for soloing.
  • If a song, vamp or chord progression is based on a Dominant Chord, then the Major Blues Scale of that key can be interesting and acceptable choice for creating riffs, licks and also for soloing.
  • If a song, vamp or chord progression is based on a Minor Chord, then the Major Blues Scale of that key IS THE WRONG CHOICE for creating riffs, licks and also for soloing. The natural or Major 3rd is simply too dissonant for the Minor Tonality.

Major Blues Scale Solos

Soloing Example 1.) Pop/ Rock Style.

Below you see a simple vamp which is obviously in the Key of C Major. The solo is there to highlight and teach the use of the beautiful and sophisticated Major Blues Scale. Listen to the smoothness and decidedly Major sound of the solo with some funkiness, grit and character being introduced by the Major Blues Scale. Practice and learn the solo well enough to play in perfect unison with the recording. The solo was recorded using the Root 5 Major Blues Scale pictured just above.

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Soloing Example 2.) Country Rock Style.

Most guitarists become interested with Country style playing because of the amazing licks and the skill level required to play the style. If Country style playing isn’t your exact musical direction you should still investigate the style from a guitarists viewpoint, you’ll be glad you did and rewarded many times over. Country style players are some of the most inventive and accomplished guitarists to be found. The guitar part below, certainly reveals the scales character by contrasting the flat (minor third) and the natural or Major 3rd but also uses a series of note skips, or leaps to avoid the bland and unimaginative reciting of scales. Learn the solo using the Root 5 Major Blues .

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Soloing Example 3.) Electric Blues Style.

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The third and final example for this study is a traditional 12 bar Electric or Chicago Blues. Uncharacteristically, you’ll be using the Root 6 Major Blues Scale pictured to the right. Again, my solo uses the contrast between the flat (or minor) 3rd and the natural or Major 3rd to great effect. There are a few well-placed melodic leaps to break up the monotony of playing up and down scales during the solo. The habitual running of scales makes the soloing more like a student practicing than a guitarist playing music. The repetitious nature of the lead part is very characteristic to Blues phrasing and the style in general.

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Play Along Tracks.

To conclude your study in the usage and application of the beautiful, interesting and often overlooked Major Blues Scale, use the backing tracks from the lesson above to practice; running the Major Blues Scale in a musical situation. Vary and improvise on the recorded solos from this study. Take short riffs and melodic devices out of those recorded solos to compose your own original lead lines.

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