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Piano Fact

Week 15: The Blues Scale: How to Transpose It
If all you ever want to do is play piano blues in the key of C, you can conceivably get away with playing the Blues Scale exclusively in the key of C. But if you ever have occasion to play the blues in a different key OR YOU WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF USING THE BLUES SCALE IN OTHER SITUATIONS LIKE WE DISCUSSED LAST WEEK, you’ll have to learn to transpose it. Here’s how.

As you may remember, these are the notes of the Blues Scale.

C — E flat — F — G flat — G — B flat — C

To transpose this to any other key, we’re going to memorize a formula. Simply what we do is note the interval or distance between each successive pair of notes in this scale. For example, the distance between C and E flat is three half steps (minor third in music lingo). From E flat to F is two half steps (major second). From F to G flat is one half step (minor second). Likewise G flat to G is a minor second. G to B flat is three half steps (minor third). And from B flat to C is two half steps (major second).

Thus to restate the scale above in general terms, the sequence goes

Root — minor third — major second — minor second — minor second — minor third — major second (root)

Thus, start on any note of the keyboard and recreate the interval pattern above. You will then have a blues scale in the key based on the start note (root). Therefore, the F blues scale is

F — A flat — B flat — B — C — E flat — F

Try a few other keys on your own.

Hint: Keep a notebook of Blues Scales. As you figure out a new key, write it down. Use music notation if you can, or simply write it out as we did in this example. Now you can refer back to your notes whenever you need a blues scale to use.

Important: Always verify your accuracy by listening to the scale carefully. Make sure it sounds like a Blues Scale. If you’ve played the C Blues Scale with any regularity, you should know what it’s supposed to sound like by now. You probably will make some mistakes. Rely on your ear to correct them.

For more information on the blues styles see Deluxe Blues/Boogie-Woogie and the Blatantly Basic Blues video.

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