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Blues 7 - Soloing - Alternative Pentatonic Scales

 

As we've seen in Blues 4 - soloing - pentatonic minor, the pentatonic minor scale is used very often in blues guitar solos. What is less well-known, is that a great way to have more harmonic and melodic options in your solos is to use the pentatonic minor scale in different keys , when playing on a blues track!

 

That's right, you can just move the whole pentatonic shape to a different fret, giving you different notes that still work with the chords in the Blues. Let's see how that works...

 

Blues chords and the available notes

The Blues form with its 3 chords allows for a big part of the available 12 chromatic tones to be played over it.

In the context of a Blues in A, you can play:

the root,

2nd,

minor 3rd,

3rd,

4th,

5th,

6th, and the

minor 7th.

 

That's 8 out of 12 available tones! So why limit ourselves to just the 5 tones in the A pentatonic minor scale? As i'll demonstrate, there a more, alternative pentatonic minor scales fit to be played over a Blues in A.

 

Alternative pentatonic minor scales

The Blues in A has three chords: A7, D7 and E7. These pentatonic minor scales, in their different keys, work over all three chords, so over the whole 12-bar-Blues form:

- A pentatonic minor (index finger is on the 5th fret or on the 17th fret);

- B pentatonic minor (index finger is on the 7th fret or the 19th fret);

- E pentatonic minor (index finger on the 12th fret).

 

In addition, there is one pentatonic minor scale that works great over A7 and E7, but NOT over D7:

- F# pentatonic minor (index finger is on the 2nd fret or on the 14th fret).

 

That last scale, F# pentatonic minor can also be called A pentatonic major, as they both have the same 5 tones.

 

These four scales each use 5 different tones of the ones available that will work in the whole Blues in A. That's why they work great by themselves. Keep in mind that EACH SCALE HAS ITS OWN SOUND COLOR, resulating from the sum of the tones in that scale.

Blues - Alternative pentatonic minor scales on blues form

 

Possible pentatonic scales on the Blues in A form
In the image, i've written all the possible pentatonic scales over the chords and bars where they will work. This way, you can practice using the various scales and get a feel for what they sound like in the context of the traditional blues form.

 

It's a great way to spice up your playing and it gives you more options of WHAT to play. Try them over the backing track and listen carefully to what happens.

 

Bending: careful

While the tones in the pentatonic scales i've mentioned work great themselves in the Blues in A, the typical blues licks that use bends to go from one tone to the other, do not work so great in other keys than A.

This is because the so-called Blue notes are out of tune by nature and only sound good relative to the root of A, in the case of our Blues in A.

 

If you want to play your typical licks including bends, stick to A pentatonic minor or E pentatonic minor.

Sliding, hammer-ons and pull-offs on the other hand are no problem, as they do not introduce Blue notes.

 

That's it for now, practice these alternative scales over the backing track and you'll have a much wider range of melodies and licks available to your Blues soloing vocabulary in no time!!

 



blues guitar a minor pentatonic scale soloing