Bing Hodneland logo



List Bestselling Books


List Bestselling DVDs


Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
In Association with

All the information on this site is free. But if it is of value to you, I appreciate a tip.

Previous page:


Next page:
Previous page: Basic Blues Next page: Lesson 3: BLUE NOTES AND PASSING TONES, BENDING

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Style: Blues, theory

Level: Intermediate

Instructor: Olav Torvund

Those who want to play blues, should know the blues scale. Guitar players should know how to finger blues scales all the way up the neck in the so called "box position". But let us start with some peculiarities of blues tonality.

If you start from the root note and play a scale, a major scale is like this: (A major scale is often called a diatonic scale.)

I + II + III - IV + V + VI + VII - I


In the most favored blues-guitar keys, it will be (startingin C- this time):


If there is a + between two notes, it indicates a whole step (two frets), and - means a half step (one fret). The interval between notes I and III determines if it is major or minor scale: A major third, consisting of two whole steps (four frets) between the I and III notes gives major, and a minor third with one whole and one half step (three frets) between notes I and III gives minor.

The blues scale is like this:

I + - IIIb + IV + V + - VIIb + I.

In the five keys, it will be:


It consists of 5 notes, compared to the 7 notes in the major scale. Notice that there is no II or VI notes, and the III and VII notes are lowered one half step.

If we write a major and a blues scale in parallel, they look like this:

Major: I + II + III - IV + V + VI + VII - I
Blues: I + - IIIb + IV + V + - VIIb + I

The interval I + - IIIb is a minor third, that should indicate a minor scale. But a blues melody is usually played over major chords. And a major chord consists of the notes I + III + V. So we will often play a melody based on a scale with a minor third over chords with a major third. For that reason, blues does not have a very well established tonality, and that is part of the blues-sound.

You should also note the VIIb in the blues scale, compared to the VII in the major scale. If you read my lesson about the 12-bar blues form, you will remember that I stressed the dominant-7 to tonika [tonic - ed] relationship, and I stressed the effect of the intervals built on the VII note: First of all the minor fifth interval from the VII note to the IV note, but also the minor third interval from the VII note to the II note. Now you can notice that both the VII note and the II note are omitted from the blues scale, but are still part of the blues- harmony.

Let us then introduce the "box positions":

Box 1

. GL-2-3

The numbers refer to the numbers in the scale. I will refer to the fret marked with a double line as the position. If you play it in 5th position, you will be in the key of A, 8th position will give you C, and note that both the 12th and the 0th (open) positions give you the key of E.

Box 2:


7th pos -> A,
10th pos -> C,
12th pos and open -> D,
2nd (and 14th) -> E.

Box 3:


9th pos -> A,
12th pos and open -> C,
2nd pos - > D,
4th pos - > E.

Box 4:


12th pos and open - > A,
3rd (and 15th) pos -> C,
5th pos -> D
and 7th pos -> E.



Box 5:


2nd pos - > A,
5th pos -> C,
9th pos -> E,
12th pos and open -> G.

Class Assignment:

Have someone play a 12-bar blues accompaniment or play along with a tape. Practice those 5 boxes in the 5 keys mentioned. Listen carefully how the scale works over different chords.

After a while you will realize that it is boring to play the scale up and down. You must play melodies, and you have to utilize notes outside the blues-scale as "spices" in your playing. But we will cover that in a later lesson, where we will look at some blues-licks.

Olav Torvund
University of Oslo

Some Pentatonic/Blues Scales - books

Top Seller

More >>
Pentatonic Scales for Guitar
This book provides the pentatonic scale fingerings, diagrams, lessons and licks that every guitarist needs to know.
RefNr: HL695699
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books

More >>
Guitar Clues
Operation Pentatonic. oin renowned guitar master Greg Koch as he clues you in to a wide variety of fun and valuable pentatonic scale applications.
RefNr: HL695827
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Gig Savers - Rock Scales--A Basic Guide
This book gives aspiring rock guitarists a working knowledge of the most basic scales that are commonly used improvise solos and write melodies in rock and roll.
RefNr: MB20025
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Practical Pentatonics: Compact Reference Library
An introduction to pentatonic patterns, theory and usage. Dozens of creative examples, plus valuable tips on developing your own pentatonic licks.
RefNr: AM931326
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Pentatonic Soloing Strategies for Guitar
Modern Ideas for All Styles. Pentatonic Soloing Strategies for Guitar takes the most common improvisational tool, the pentatonic scale, and shows you its almost limitless possibilities. It begins with standard major and minor pentatonic scales in the five basic positions and quickly moves into challenging pentatonic variations for string skipping and sweep picking. The book culminates with a series of substitution scales, including the rootless 9th, the half-diminished, and the whole-tone augmented pentatonic scales. A CD demonstrating all the examples in the book is included.
RefNr: AP35302
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Go here for full list of Pentatonic/Blues Scales books

Pentatonic/Blues Scales - videos

More >>
Getting Started with the Pentatonic Scale Guitar DVD. Learn Patterns, Technique, Songs, Application
The Pentatonic Scale is one of the most common scales in all of popular music. It's used to play melodies, riffs, lead guitar solos and bass lines. In this video program you will learn the five pentatonic patterns plus how to use the scales, application, improvisation and technique.
RefNr: B000MVT6AM
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
The Dorian Mode (Carlos Santana)
Learn to improvise, compose and recognize modal music. Also includes a guitar jam track and licks in the style of Santana. Lessons by Danny Gill. The modes of the major scale have been used for centuries as a compositional tool and as a source for improvisation.
RefNr: RDR0387
Order From:

More >>
Ultimate Guitar Techniques - Power Pentatonics
Join Jamie Humphries as he explains the uses of the pentatonic scale, from its basic applications and shape to pentatonic substitution.
RefNr: RDR0135
Order From:

Go here for full list of Pentatonic/Blues Scales videos

Previous page: Previous page: Basic BluesNext page: Lesson 3: BLUE NOTES AND PASSING TONES, BENDING Next page:

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Basic Blues Next page: Lesson 3: BLUE NOTES AND PASSING TONES, BENDING