Blues Guitar Scales

Here are the basic scales for soloing with Blues tracks.
This is the fingerboard of a guitar with standard tuning. You might want to copy this picture and print out several blank fretboards so that you can mark out scales for different keys.

E minor Pentatonic - 3 patterns


A minor Pentatonic - 3 patterns

It can be seen that the patterns are the same for A and E scales, but the A scale is played 5 frets higher up the fingerboard. So if you learn to play the basic patterns you'll only have to shift up or down the fingerboard to play the Pentatonic scale in any key. It soon becomes easy to slide between the patterns - so the whole fingerboard can be used.

Blues (Passing) Notes

Adding Blues notes gives the distinctive sound of the Blues. In the E minor pentatonic scale the 'blue' note is A#.
Blues notes can be played in passing, i.e. between two notes from the standard scale. Including them can add variety to runs and arpeggios but if you emphasize these notes they could ruin your solo.
The picture shows an E minor Pentatonic sliding pattern.

It can take quite a bit of practice to get quick and smooth in playing these scales so don't be put off if it seems difficult at first. For variety in your practice you might start to try some methods to enhance your playing on the next page.

The Minor Scale

This scale can work well with the blues. With 12 bar blues it is often effective to drop into the minor scale for the last 4 bars.

Here are 2 patterns for the E minor scale, if the same patterns are played 5 frets higher they become the A minor scale.

A word about Picks.

A common misconception is that a thin pick will help you play faster. If it does - that's fine. For most guitarists a thicker pick is the best choice for fast soloing, and thinner picks are better for strumming. Try out different types, you might be surprised at how much difference it makes.

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