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Week 12: The Blues Scale
Several weeks ago we discussed the 12 Bar Blues Form and its universality in pop music. Now let’s look at another feature of the blues genre, the Blues Scale. The Blues Scale is a six-note non-diatonic scale consisting of the root, minor third, fourth, minor fifth, fifth, and minor seventh degrees of the major scale. In the key of C the blues scale consists of the notes C, E flat, F, G flat, G, B flat, and C (again). Go ahead and play this scale on the keyboard, and you should find the sound to be quite familiar. In a sense what you are hearing is the harmonic basis of all blues music.

This blues scale is quite versatile, and we’ll keep covering it in greater detail in future installments. But in the meantime you would do well to learn this scale in this fashion:

  1. Memorize the notes of the scale.
  2. Practice playing it in the RIGHT HAND until it feels comfortable.
  3. Get used to playing it in several octaves and in both directions, up and down.
  4. Learn to change directions at random. Don’t assume the Blues Scale always has to start on C. Don’t assume you have to play every note in succession.
  5. Ultimately try playing the Blues Scale with the right hand while playing the 12 Bar Blues Progression with the left. (Click below for Past Facts of the Week, and refer to weeks three, four, and five.)

Notice how the one blues scale seems to fit all three of the chords in the 12 Bar Form. Keep practicing and experimenting.

The symmetrical nature of this scale (consistent alternation of white and black keys) makes for a simple right hand fingering pattern. For the time being, simply use your thumb on all the white keys and your third finger on all the black keys. Thus, the fingering pattern is 1-3-1-3-1-3-1-3-1-3-1-3-1-3-1-3, etc, etc, etc.

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

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