For lot's and lot's and lot's of players of American music, the blues grouping of pitches is the center of their musical universe, without which things just would not be the same. Organically created from the minor pentatonic scale color, we simply add in the blue fourth or tritone pitch and create the blues scale. Here is a look at the intervalic configuration of the minor blues scale. Example 1.
|scale degree||root / 1||b3||4||#4||5||b7||8 / octave|
|interval||minor 3rd||whole step||half step||half step||minor 3rd||whole step|
|C minor pentatonic scale||C||Eb||F||G||Bb||C|
|C blues scale||C||Eb||F||F#||G||Bb||C|
Written out in standard notation, here is an ascending stepwise blues scale using the pitches of the above chart followed by sequential idea created from the blues scale group of pitches in the minor tonality. Example 1a.
Same melodic idea, now in the major tonality. Example 1b.
Got these pitches under your fingers? Here is a chart spelling out this minor blues group of pitches from each of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. Example 1c.
|scale degree / interval||root||3rd / minor 3rd||4th / perfect 4th||tritone #4 / b5||5th / perfect 5th||b7 / minor 7th||octave|
|C blues||C||Eb||F||F# / Gb||G||Bb||C|
Cool with the idea of projecting a scale group from each of the pitches of the chromatic scale? So, why do we need 12 of the same thing you might ask? Tis a good question. Most "pure" blues players I know personally rarely venture from the essential guitar keys, probably the first melody / chordal instrument to accompany the blues singers. These keys are based on the open chords and are basically E, A and G blues. So, why the other 8 keys? Well vocal range is an issue, and with a capo or the movable bar chords, no key is safe from the blues artist. Same ideas with the rockers as the blues players? Yeh, pretty much, they probably modulate pitch more with a wammy bar and bending than worrying out 12 different scales, and rightly so. So, is it the jazz artist who needs all 12? Yep. Why? Well, basically in that the jazz artist is more likely to borrow bits of one key to color another, play with tonal gravity and obscure the tonal intent and direction of the line. The jazz artist might play tunes in different keys just for the fun of it, for a new challenge or as part of an arrangement etc. Cool with this?
A subtle but potentially important addition to the above group of pitches is simply to add in a major third above the root. Here is a chart outlining the pitches and intervals. Example 2.
|scale degree||root / 1||b3||3||4||#4||5||b7||8 / octave|
|interval||minor 3rd||half step||half step||half step||half step||minor 3rd||whole step|
|C blues major scale||C||
Here is the sound of the above pitches in the major tonality. Example 2a.
Same idea over the minor tonality. Example 2b.
A bit off eh? Not surprising with the major 3rd over the minor chord. But the minor 3rd is cool over the major? Seems to be, perhaps a bit of the blues magic? Here are a few related topics discussing various theoretical aspects of this scale.
|blues lines||basic ways to create blues melodies|
|the tritone||splitting the octave|
|blue notes||essential blues spices|
|theoretical blues conflict||music theory versus common practice|
|minor pentatonic scale||ancient 5 note scale|
|minor blues scale / 12 keys||grist for the mill|
|major blues scale / 12 keys||more grist for the mill|
"I always thought that blues and rock and roll were just about a beat apart." Waylon Jennings