One of the origins of jazz music is the blues and you can clearly hear that influence in jazz today. In this lesson we'll have a look at the bluesy side of jazz.
Blues Scales & the Blue Note
The scales that are used the most in blues music are the Mixolydian scale and the pentatonic scale, both enhanced with blue notes. Blue Notes are a drop of pitch of the 3, 5 and 7 of a major scale. Most of the time when someone refers to the blues scale they mean the pentatonic minor scale with a b5 (blue note).
Most of the blues' harmony consists of dominant chords. Why is it that playing a minor scale over a dominant chord sounds so good? Because the b3 of the pentatonic scale is a blue note to the dominant chord and the tension of the b3 of the scale against the natural 3 of the chord creates the typical blues sound. You can use this tension in your solos by playing with the contrast between the blue note and the natural 3.
Some techniques to do this:
- Hammer on or slide from the b3 to the natural 3
- Mix the Mixolydian scale with the blues scale
To give you a head start with these two scales, here is an example of a G blues scale fingering:
Listen & Play:
Here is an example of a G Mixolydian Scale fingering:
Here's an example of mixing scales:
- The first part uses the C Mixolydian scale (with a natural 3).
- the second half of the second bar uses the C minor pentatonic scale (with a flat 3).
Here's another blues lick. It uses the blues scale in G:
For more examples of the blues scale, listen to recordings of blues guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan or BB King. For examples of the blues scale in jazz, check out jazz guitarists like George Benson or Kenny Burrell.
Here's another example of how to use the blues scale:
These are the first eight bars of a blues chord progression in F. The traditional way to use the blues scale would be using the F blues scale on the F7 chord, but instead I play the D blues scale on the F7 chord.
Below you can see a chart with the D Blues Scale played over F7.
You see there is both the blue note and the natural third in it.
|D Blues Scale||G#|
|Played over F7|
On the Bb7 I use the F blues scale. Look out for the b9, don't stop on that note, but resolve it into the 9 or the 1.
|F7 Blues Scale||Ab||Bb||Eb|
|Played over Bb7||b9|
Something similar happens in this lick:
- Bar 1 starts with an F arpeggio
- Followed by a Dm7 arpeggio in bar 2
- Note that the b7 of F7 is delayed until the last bar. Doing so creates variation and is a good technique to announce the chord change to Bb7.
More alternative uses of the pentatonic scale
Blues Chords & Chord Progressions
To help you practice these progressions, and any licks in this lesson, here is an F blues backing track to work with:
F Blues Backing Track:
The majority of blues chords are dominant 7 chords. Here is an example of an F blues with 7th chord shapes on the top 4 strings.
The foundation of chord progressions used in blues is the 12 bar blues with its many varieties. You can see a I IV V blues chord progression in F below for further study.
More about Blues Chord Progressions
Walking bass is a frequently used bass guitar technique in blues. Here is an example of an F blues bassline that you can study in the practice room:
Joe Pass Solo Over a Blues in G
To finish this introduction to jazz blues guitar, here's a Joe Pass style solo over a blues in G. Scales used are the G major and minor blues scales.