The Blues Scales

The Blues Scales Explained

I am always getting asked by piano players, guitarists and solo instrumentalists to show them the blues scale. They think that learning the “blues scale” will help them to write and perform blues style music – and they are correct!
However, there are actually 4 different “blues scales” that can be used when you are improvising/composing blues style music.

The 4 Blues Scales

Below are the 4 main blues scales.
I have given you the set intervals for each scale (important point: flattened = note is lowered a semitone, sharpened = note is raised a semitone).
I have also given you an example for each scale starting on A.

The 5 note scale (minor pentatonic)

blues pentatonic scale

Play Blues Pentatonic Scale

Pattern = 1st – Flattened 3rd – 4th – 5th – Flattened 7th

The 6 note scale (hexatonic)

blues hexatonic scale

Play Blues Hexatonic Scale

Pattern = 1st – Flattened 3rd – 4th – Flattened 5th/5th – Flattened 7th

The 7 note scale (heptatonic)

blues heptatonic scale

Play Blues Heptatonic Scale

Pattern = 1st – 2nd – Flattened 3rd – 4th – Flattened 5th – 6th – Flattened 7th

The 9 note scale

blues nine note scale

Play Blues Nine Note Scale

Pattern = 1st – 2nd – Flattened 3rd – 3rd – 4th – 5th – 6th – Flattened 7th – 7th

Using the Blues Scales

The best way to get used to playing the blues is to have a go at improvising over the top of a 12 bar blues chord progression. Try using each of the 4 different scales in turn picking out different notes each time. And most importantly, have fun doing so!!

In the next lesson we are going to look at the Circle of Fifths.