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#2256262 - 04/03/14 09:15 AM About the Blues scale
noobpianist90 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 57
Loc: India
I was under the impression the the Blues scale in C is
C Eb F Gb G Bb

I recently bought this book:
Modern Jazz Piano: A Study in Harmony and Improvisation
by Brian Waite

According to this book,
"In essence the blues scale is a modified major scale. It is formed by flattening the third, fifth and seventh but retaining the major third and perfect fifth"

C D Eb E F Gb G A Bb

I tried playing this but it doesn't sound very bluesy. So what is the right blues scale? I'm a bit confused now.

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#2256276 - 04/03/14 09:48 AM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
Lilia Ahmetzyanova Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/14
Posts: 21
It should be played: C - E flat - F - G flat - G - B flat - C
That's it. Only 6 keys, I think.
Strange, but I thought that blues scale is naturally a minor scale... The nature of blues is minor and not major. Maybe I'm wrong... .

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#2256278 - 04/03/14 09:52 AM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
Kbeaumont Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/10
Posts: 242
Loc: Virginia, USA
Actually both! The common blues scale is your version. But the added notes can be used too mostly as passing notes. For example try this lick:

Eb - E - G

Alternate with Eb - E - A

to get a fast rolling sound play the Eb with your index finger and the E with your thumb.

Alternate the G & A use your ring finger & pinky respectively.

You should hear a lick that is easily recognizable, its used a lot!
The 2nd,3rd & 6th scale degrees are great to insert into licks for color, but when moving up & down the blues scale for runs it is usually much better to leave these out.

The scale with the 2nd, 3rd & 6th added is sometimes refered to as the 'extended' blues scale.


Edited by Kbeaumont (04/03/14 09:54 AM)
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#2256296 - 04/03/14 11:21 AM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
noobpianist90 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 57
Loc: India
I think you're correct Lilia, the common blues scale looks to be derived from the minor pentatonic scale adding the flatted 5th.

Thanks for the clarification, Kbeaumont.
Improvising on the extended blues scale doesn't sound as appealing as the common blues scale though. Perhaps its a matter of taste...

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#2256302 - 04/03/14 11:48 AM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Hi noobpianist90,
Your first impression was right. You should shelve that book because what's printed in that passage is confusing and wrong.
A much better book is Mark Levine's Jazz Piano Book (which is pretty much the jazz piano bible).

C blues is indeed derived from C minor pentatonic. C minor pentatonic is:
C Eb F G Bb (repeat 8va...)
C blues adds a flattened 5th and is therefore:
C Eb F Gb G Bb (repeat...)

What's cool is that you can re-purpose this formula to play licks in relative Major keys. Say you are in C major (doing a Boogie-Woogie piece in C Major). You can now employ the Major Blues scale (which is of course this time is derived from the Major pentatonic).

C Major pentatonic: C D E G A
C Major blues: C D Eb E G A

This time as you can see, you add a flattened 3rd to the mix. This will sound good over a C major chord, especially C7. Good players will mix the two. For example, use the minor blues scale the first time through the tune, and then the next time around the form, use Major blues - mix it up.

Let's do a minor blues scale in A:
A C D Eb E G
Wait a minute, those are the same notes as the C Major Blues, just starting on a different note! That's what I meant about re-using the same scale formula for relative minor-Major keys. So the above works for C Major as well as A minor. If they share the same key signature, you can re-purpose the same blues-scale for both. Buy one, get one free!

Good luck in your blues endeavors. smile
-Erich

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#2256325 - 04/03/14 12:34 PM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: erichlof]
noobpianist90 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 57
Loc: India
Thanks a lot erichlof,

I just began learning the blues recently, and I'm having a lot of fun with improvisation. You're explanation is very clear and I understand much better now. I'm gonna start experimenting with this laugh

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#2256337 - 04/03/14 01:08 PM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 332
Loc: California
There's two different kinds of blues scales:
There's the major blues: C D Eb E G A
There's the minor blues: C Eb F F# G Bb

For the application of these scales over different chord progression, I recommend a book by Dan Greenblatt called "Blues Scales: Essential Tools"


Edited by Michael Martinez (04/03/14 01:09 PM)
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#2258683 - 04/08/14 01:39 PM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
RonDrotos Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/13
Posts: 50
Loc: New York City
Yes, the major and minor blues scales given in some of the other replies are the norm these days.

I think the confusion comes from the fact that these scales evolved from a common practice that was actually not-so-common. Blues musicians played how they wanted, and things gradually got codified. In fact, the same process occurred with the 12-bar blues form itself.

I now look back and laugh at the time when I, as a teen in the 1970's, bought my first blues book (it was for guitar). I eagerly opened to the blues scale page, only to find that the author had included 11 out of the possible 12 chromatic tones. He explained that all these notes had been used by blues players, and therefore they should be included in the blues scale. This was worse than no help at all! smile
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rondrotos@keyboardimprov.com

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#2259145 - 04/09/14 01:42 PM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: RonDrotos]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 332
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: RonDrotos
as a teen in the 1970's, bought my first blues book (it was for guitar). I eagerly opened to the blues scale page, only to find that the author had included 11 out of the possible 12 chromatic tones. He explained that all these notes had been used by blues players, and therefore they should be included in the blues scale. This was worse than no help at all! smile


sometimes you see that on internet forums too. Someone asking for advice on how to improvise using scales or whatnot, and some joker saying "you can use all 12 notes to improvise."
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http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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#2259158 - 04/09/14 01:59 PM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: Michael Martinez]
RonDrotos Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/13
Posts: 50
Loc: New York City
I've seen that too. True, but useless advice (until you eventually figure out how to actually include all 12 notes, then it becomes obvious, right?)
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Ron Drotos
rondrotos@keyboardimprov.com

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#2262558 - 04/16/14 11:00 AM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
JamesPlaysPiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 104
We've arrived at an interesting "place" regarding the blues scale... On one extreme, you can play using only the six notes of the minor blues scale, and you get a very distinct, authentic sound. On the other extreme, you can add so much chromaticism that the scale itself seems only to be "underneath," at the "core" of a melody. Both are very cool, and very valid.

You might find these to be helpful, if you'd like to hear the scale being demonstrated, along with more explanation:

The Blues Scale for Beginners
The Blues Scale for Intermediate Players
The Blues Scale for Advanced Players

Good luck!

James
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#2263001 - 04/17/14 10:05 AM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
LarryShone Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/10
Posts: 653
Loc: Darlington, UK
Of course you can also play blues in a conventional major or minor scale. There are no hard amd fast rules.
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#2264584 - Today at 02:09 PM Re: About the Blues scale [Re: noobpianist90]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 905
Most improvisers don't just use one scale, which is why it ends up sounding like all 12 notes. Often though, you'll stick with one scale for a complete idea before switching to another. I'd suggest sticking to one scale at a time until you really know the sounds of each and can almost predict what a key will sound like before pressing it. Blues is based on pentatonic as others have mentioned, with a blue note added. So if you think of it from your key, the scales would be (blue note in parenthesis):

Major: 1 2 (b3) 3 5 6
Minor: 1 b3 4 (#4) 5 b7

1 and 5 will be the same in each one. Put on a blues backing track and play a while in each, getting a feel for their unique sounds. Eventually you'll be able to switch between them.

And for a little advanced practice, you can use a dorian scale to transition from major to minor and back again. A dorian scale has elements of both major and minor pentatonic and can be a good bridge.

Dorian: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
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