blues scale / 12 keys

The minor blues scale goes back quite a ways. My thinking is that it evolved from the minor pentatonic scale, which would have been a common scale / group of pitches / or melodic color to both the African American and Native American peoples during the early European colonization of the North American continent. To this minor pentatonic group of pitches we simply add the tritone interval from the European system of music and abracadabra, the blues scale emerges. The sound created by this color becomes one of the central threads within the weave of American music. As the years passed, what we know today perhaps as a three chord delta blues, based theoretically on the minor blues scale, evolved into Ragtime jass in the 1880's, which then evolved into Dixieland Jazz, then Chicago Jazz, then New York Jazz, then swing jazz, then bebop jazz, then post bop jazz, then hard bop jazz, then cool jazz, then rock jazz, then fusion jazz, then contemporary jazz and into smooth jazz today. At the time of the swing jazz era, some cats were for the most part sticking to the three chord format, creating a kind of "swing jump blues", which was and still is today a dancers delight. This very cool sound from the 40's evolved in the early fifties into rock and roll, at which point Elvis entered the building, the rest of course is history. 

After these early rockers went to Britain, it was basically all over for the jazzers and blues, "pop" or popular music became for the most part rock and roll. Blues based American rock and roll took the western world by storm, and when this bug bit four guys in Liverpool, on the urban island of Great Britain, things began to change rapidly. Overnight sensations, the Beatles were every marketing executive's dream come true. Too ( ? ) many groups modeled themselves after the "fab four", and by the time this rock meteor was burning itself out by the late 80's or so, the long slumbering and always smoldering blues and jazz worlds re-emerged in popularity with a freshness, clarity and simplicity that was readily embraced by a now more sophisticated, computer enhanced culture, perhaps looking for a bit of their musical roots. Today, country blues is big, straight ahead three chord blues is huge, swing blues dance music is huge, jazz blues is jazz blues, cool, sophisticated, hot and heavy, the pop, hip hop and rap music is huge and all of it is based on the blue musical color i.e., the blues scale, an original and purely American contribution to the musical world. So simple yet so cool. So, with this in mind, starting at an arbitrary top of the minor cycle of fourths, moving by the root motion of the perfect fourth. Suggestions for tunes written in a particular key or potential uses for each key are included with each of the 12 entries.

Example 1, A minor blues. "Statesboro Blue" by Duanne Allman is a smokin blues in A. Check out "Live At The Fillmore." Favorite key for guitar players globally.

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Example 2, D minor blues. Duke's "In A Sentimental Mood", a slow bluesy ballad would be a cool tune to learn.

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Example 3, G minor blues. Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" is a sad, bluesy folk tune in G.

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Example 4, C minor blues. "Suger" by Stanley Turrentine is a classic "double blues" in C minor.

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Example 5, F minor blues. Blues in F is a common jazz players key. F concert puts the Bb horn players in G, alto's in D. Using the minor color over the major / dominant seventh chord changes is very common, I like to call it the blues magic.

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Example 6, Bb minor blues. Try creating melodic ideas from this color over straight ahead Bb major blues changes, very common substitution.

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Example 7, Eb minor blues. Eb major is the common key to many important jazz standards. Try tagging one of your solo's on a standard with a blues lick or two.

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Example 8, Ab minor blues. Move an idea up or down by half step and your back in two very common blues keys. Ever think chromatically?

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Example 9, Db minor blues. Just a half step away from perhaps the most common key of all. The half step lead in is probably the simplest and coolest trick in the book. In this case the pitches get a bit out there but the half step motion is vital to a jazz and blues players palette. Harmonic motion by half step, from either above or below is very common, cool, and really gives the groove a push in terms of it's forward motion. The half step lead in is also indispensable in getting things to swing. Melodically, it's tricky at first, but being able to create a melodic idea the modulate that idea up or down chromatically is a goal worth pursuing. As the tempos get faster and faster, the lines and ideas get closer and closer together. Anyway, Db minor blues scale, check it out.

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Example 10, Gb minor blues.

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Example 11, B minor blues. Minor dominant of the key of E major / minor, a very common blues key.

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Example 12, blues in E, a Delta guitar player's dream come true.

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The major blue scale simply slips in an "extra" pitch in comparison to the minor blues scale. This extra pitch is simply a major third above the root, helping to create a major triad for the harmony as well as the cool half step between the "two thirds" contained in this one group of pitches. This half step interval we now add to the other half steps in this group, created by the pitches Four to sharp Four to Five, creating some interesting possibilities for the creative artist. Starting at the arbitrary top of the cycle of fourths at C, moving by the root motion of the perfect fourth. Suggested song titles for each key are included.

Example 1, C major blues. Check out Duke Ellington's cool and easy "C Jam Blues."

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Example 2, F major blues. Popular key among jazz players, check out Thelonius Monk's "Straight No Chaser."

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Example 3, Bb major blues. "Tenor Madness" by Sonny Rollins is a cool blues in Bb.

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Example 4, Eb major blues. Important component of the non blues "A Night In Tunisia" by Dizzy Gillespie.

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Example 5, Ab major blues. Perhaps used in approaching the more common key of G blues from a half step above.

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Example 6, Db major blues. Perhaps try a touch of this color in Bill Strayhorn's classic "Lush Life."

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Example 7, Gb major blues. Perhaps try this color as a half step lead in to the more common tonal center of F major. 

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Example 8, B major blues. Perhaps leading into the more common key of C major / C blues from a 1 / 2 step below.

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Example 9, E major blues. Favorite key of Delta blues players globally. Jimi Hendrix's popular "Foxy Lady" is a classic rock / blues the stretches out the basic 1, 4, 5 harmony all driven to extremes in the key of E.

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Example 10, A major blues. Lots of country / rock / southern rock tunes in A.

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Example 11, D major blues.

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Example 12, G major blues. T. Bone Walker's essential "Stormy Monday" sums it up.

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Where to next?
review new ideas
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Man's mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes