Using the Blues Scale Without Abandoning the Changes

The blues scale is an invaluable tool for any improvising soloist, especially over the twelve-bar blues. Some musicians have made both their careers and their mark on history using it almost exclusively in their solos. Think about B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Maceo Parker. All three of them are amazing musicians with outstanding solos. The problem, however, is that the blues scale can become a crutch. It is easy to get good at using the notes of the blues scale to put together a decent solo, and as a result of a decent-sounding solo, some soloists stop there and don't expand their melodic palette to anything beyond those 6 notes.

This exercise is designed to explore the potential of the blues scale without completely abandoning the form of the twelve-bar blues. It does this by alternating blues scale passages with guide tones passages. The goal is to demonstrate the versatility of the blues scale while still keeping to the form.

Minor Pentatonic Scale

G Minor Pentatonic Scale

Blues Scale

G Blues Scale
The blues scale uses all of the notes of the minor pentatonic scale and adds a 4 or 5 depending on the spelling of the scale and preference of the musician.

This exercise is designed to be played along with Jamey Aebersold's Vol. 42, Blues In All Keys (Book & CD Set). This Play-A-Long is a great tool for learning the changes and forms of the twelve-bar blues. Countless students and teachers swear by it for teaching improvisation to students of all skill levels. The most exhaustive approach is to get the Play-A-Long, memorize the exercise in all twelve keys, and move on to the next exercise. More importantly, though, make sure that you are having fun. If you get tired of a particular exercise or key, switch things up. The blues, improvisation, and music in general, for that matter, are about self expression, and there's only so much that anyone wants to express boredom. What's important is that you improve your improvisation skills while expanding your love for the music.

James Brown - Twenty All Time Greatest Hits

The limited melodic and harmonic content of compositions that rely too heavily on the blues scale contributes to the rise of riffs or other repeated patterns. No one was better at this than James Brown. Maceo Parker was a regular in his band, and the funk and soul that they produced together are astounding.

Bobby Blue Bland - Two Steps From The Blues

Similar to James Brown, Bobby "Blue" Bland recorded over multiple decades. He is considered a pivotal blues artist on par with the likes of B.B. King and Muddy Waters all of whom made use of the blues scale with an extremely high level of musicianship.

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