major blues scale

A major key blues scale? As opposed to minor blues? Yep. Is this for real? Well, in this text it is. The major key blues scale is simply a slightly altered variation from the traditional blues scale, we simply add a major 3rd and major 6th to the minor blues scale, creating a cool group of pitches to create blues flavored lines in the major tonality. Is this the group of pitches that the "rockabilly" players abuse ...? Tis is indeed. So, we can adapt our original blues scale to a major blues scale by adding the major third and major sixth scale degrees from the major scale, Ionian mode group of pitches? Yep. Nothing heavy here, just gradually expanding our melodic resource by the simple addition of two pitches to our core blues scale. Cool with this? So, using our initial blues group as the starting point, lets examine the C blues scale. Example 1.

  minor 3rd whole step half step half step minor third whole step
C Eb F F# G Bb C

Here is its sound. Example 1a.

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Lets extract the major third and major sixth from the C major scale. Example 2.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C D E F G A B C

Any guesses as to the letter name of the major third degree of the C major scale? Right, E natural. The major 6th? Right, A. Here is our new major blues group of pitches adding these pitches. Example 2a.

C Eb E F F# G A Bb C

Here is the sound comparing the minor blues with the major blues scale. Example 2b.

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Here the distinction? Nice chromatic section within the group eh? The important theoretical ability acquired here is in being able to diatonically create a tonic, major triad as the One chord in the music we create. The minor triad spelt ( C Eb G ) can now become a major triad ( C E G ). Example 4, compare the quality of 3rds in the minor and major triads. Example 3.

   minor  major minor major

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Hear this distinction? If not, try again. So why is this important? Well, although the original group of blues pitches is in essence a minor color, common practice among players is to work this minor scale over major triads. The addition of the major third into the scale grouping helps create the tonic major chord and expands our lines to allow for the alternation between the minor and major third. The following idea alternates the major to minor third over major triads. This alternation between major and minor third is very common in blues and jazz music. Example 4.

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Hear how the minor 3rd is used over the Four chord? The Eb is dimply the blue 7th of the F 7 chord, the Four chord in the key of C. Cool with the numbers? Jam along with the above 12 bar blues experimenting with the major and minor third. Once comfortable with the colors under your fingers, jam along with the following practice loop comprised of the above blues chords. Check out the 12 bar blues tune "Tenor Madness" by jazz legend Sonny Rollins for a cool blues using the above alternating major and minor third. Thelonius Monk's, "Blue Monk" takes advantage of the chromatic motion within the scale, check it out when time permits.

Here is the major blues scale spelled out from each of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale, using the cycle of fourths as an organizer. Example 5.

  min 3rd 1/2 step 1/2 step 1/2 step 1/2 step whole step 1/2 step whole step
C Eb E F F# G A Bb C
F Ab A Bb B C D Eb F
Bb Db D Eb E F G Ab Bb
Eb Gb G Ab A Bb C Db Eb
Ab Cb C Db D Eb F Gb Ab
Db Fb F Gb G Ab Bb Cb Db
F# A A# B B# C# D# E F#
B D D# E F F# G# A B
E G G# A Bb B C# D E
A C C# D Eb E F# G A
D F F# G Ab A B C D
G Bb B C C# D E F G

Here is the major blues scale created from each of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. Using the cycle of fourths to arrange the 12 scales, jam along with the music to help get these under your fingers, for any of the blues colors are rarely out of place in any of the styles of American music. Example 6.

C major blues

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F major blues

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Bb major blues

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Eb major blues

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Ab major blues

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Db major blues

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F# major blues

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B major blues

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E major blues

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A major blues

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D major blues

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G major blues

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Application of this group of pitches? Just about anywhere really, except maybe in tunes in the minor tonality. The theory of the blues music, using the minor third over the major triad, and here adding the major third into the scale, is really all about what a player is hearing. The traditional blues color, with it's minor third is so steeped in the music that the tonal discrepancies are an integral part of the music. So, whatever works for you is best eh? Ready for the blues challenge?

Where to next?
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A person is not idle because they are absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. Victor Hugo