The Blues Scale: How to Use It In Your Music

Last Updated on December 7th, 2019 at 11:34 pm

Despite what you may have heard, the blues scale is not your grandfather’s scale.

Whether you shred on guitar in a metal outfit or compose jazzy electronic pop from your bedroom, the blues scale is a strong tool you could use to make with.

Making music could be hard once you do not understand how or where to start, however, fortunately, musical staples like blues scales are here to help.

From catchy pentatonic blues scales to attention-grabbing blues notes, blues scales have the power to create music more memorable and engaging.

In this post, we are breaking down the world of blues scales. We will show you what they’re and how to use them to liven up your music.

What’s the blues scale?

A blues scale is a six-note scale depend on the major or minor pentatonic with added chromatic “blue” notes. The blue notes are ♯ 4/♭5 in the minor blues scale and ♭3 on the major blues scale. The more common minor blues scale has the semitone pattern 1-2-♭3-4-♭5-♭7, and the major blues scale has the pattern 1-2-♭3-3-5-6.

I will go through and unpack that to clarify exactly how blues scales work—and how to utilize them in your music.

Major and minor scales have concrete, well-defined characters, however, blues scales make entirely new characters by melding both major and minor sounds together into memorable scales.

Such as all chords and scales, blues scales are fixed patterns of notes.

This means a blues scale on guitar is built with the same notes as the blues scale on bass or piano.

Blues notes and scales gave birth to an entire musical genre in the early 20th century, however, blues scales are now used in basically every musical genre and style you could consider.

Pentatonic scales

Different blues scales could be built on both major and minor scales, however, all blues scales are constructed with notes taken from simple 5-note pentatonic scales.

When you are unfamiliar with how to play blues scales, beginning by memorizing pentatonic scales first is your best bet.

On the keyboard, a major pentatonic scale could easily be played and recognized as the black keys beginning with the F# note:

F sharp major pentatonic

Blue notes

Blues notes are what transforms major and minor pentatonic scales into pentatonic blues scales (or just blues scales for short).

For instance, let’s look at a basic E minor pentatonic scale:

e minor pentatonic

By including a single blues note we could change the tone and feel of this E minor pentatonic scale into something more compelling and memorable:

e minor blues scale

Now, let’s build an E major blues scale beginning with the E major pentatonic notes:

How you select to play blues scales will entirely depend on your instrument and the important thing that you are playing in. Singing or playing the blues scale on an instrument is as easy as incorporating blues notes into what you are performing.

How to use blues scales

Asking how to use blues scales in music is kind of like asking a chef how to cook an egg.

From making vocal melodies more fascinating to unlocking new musical characters in any genre, blues scales have lots of great uses.


Blues scales are great jumping-off points for musical improvisation.

Despite only being six notes long, major and minor blues scales pack loads of character and endless musical possibilities.

By playing blues scales over repeating 12-bar blues chord progressions, you will have access to more musical directions and ideas than you could shake a stick at.

Writing melodies

An easy blues note has the power to transform an otherwise bland melody into something compelling and unforgettable.

Musicians could make vocal and instrumental melodies by experimenting with blues scales.

Utilizing the 12-bar blues chord progression is a good way to improvise with blues scales, however, do not stop there.

You could write blues melodies over any combination of chords, however, to make something that works will take experimentation.

Exercises to build muscle memory and theory knowledge

Blues scales are good tools for building technical skills and music theory chops.

Memorizing major and minor blues scales vocally or on our instruments helps you utilize them later on in songwriting or during improvisation. For singers, it is a large asset in terms of writing vocal melodies.

Keyboard, bass, and guitar players have a simpler time writing new music and performing other artist’s songs once they take the time to memorize blues scales in different keys.

Learn the blues scale

Musicians thrive once they give themselves the resources they need to succeed.

Time, space for working in, and tools like blues scales could give you access to powerful new directions in music you may not have been able to find otherwise.

Basics like scales and chords may seem like boring music theory knowledge, however, they are actually huge advantages in terms of creating music.

It doesn’t matter what your goals are in music, memorizing and utilizing blues scales will be a big help.

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