What is the Minor Blues Scale?
The Minor Blues Scale Bass Lesson –> In the previous lesson we covered the Minor Pentatonic scale. Recall that the minor pentatonic is comprised of the roots, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th of the minor scale. Below is a C minor pentatatonic:
The Minor Blues scale is the same as the minor pentatonic with one more note – the Flat 5th. So the minor blues scale consist of the the roots, 3rd, 4th, 5th, flat5, and 7th of the minor scale. Below is a C minor blues scale:
Minor Blues Scale Fingering
The scale can be played using a 4-fret span pattern. This pattern can be applied anywhere on the fretboard except when playing with open strings, or when playing more than one note on a string (see Intervals section below). To play this pattern, use the following fingering:
- High Root – 1 finger (index)
- Flat 3rd – 4 finger (pinkie)
- 4th – 1 finger (index)
- Flat 5th – 2 finger (middle)
- 5th – 3 finger (ring)
- Flat 7th – 1 finger (index)
- Low Root– 3 finger (ring)
Minor Blues Scale Steps
The minor blues scale is constructed with these steps (intervals) between notes: Whole 1/2, Whole, Half, Half, Whole 1/2, Whole. Below is the C minor blues scale showing the steps between each note – W1/2=Whole and One Half Step, W=Whole Step, H=Half:
Knowing the intervals can help when you don’t use the 4-fret span fingering – playing on open strings, playing more than one note on same string, etc.
Why Is It Blue?
This scale is called a blues scale because it contains the “blue notes” of the major scale. The blue notes of major scale include the flat 3rd, flat 5th, and flat 7th. Below is a C major scale with the blue notes in blue:
When the blue notes are played as part of the major scale or within major chords they create that distinctive “bluesy” sound.
This is pointed out because a lot of times the blue notes are not used as the main bassline throughout a song. Instead they are more often played as part of a major scale bassline to add a bluesy sound to a song.
Applying the Minor Blues Scale
The minor blues scale is of course used when playing blues style music. You will most commonly hear it played throughout segments of blues songs – instead of using it throughout the entire song. Often the blues scale is played to emphasize major chords played with a blues chord progression. Often the blue notes are played as part of a major scale bassline to add a bluesy sound to a song.
The scale is also used extensively in rock, funk, and R&B styles of music. You will hear a lot of riffs in rock and funk that are using the minor blues scale. As with other minor scales and chords, the blues scale creates a darker sound that works well with heavier sounding riffs. Again, the blue notes are often played to clash with major chords to create a distinctive blues sound.
Songs That Use the Minor Blues Scale
“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King. Here is a classic blues song with a minor blues scale bass line. The bassist plays the scale in B and E throughout.
“Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin – John Paul Jones uses the minor pentatonic and minor blues scale extensively within a number of Led Zeppelin songs. Here in “Heartbreaker” the A and B blues scale is played throughout. The coda is played using the A minor blues scale.
“Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. Another iconic bass line that uses the minor blues. A G minor blues scale is played throughout the song.
Minor Blues Scale Bass Lesson