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Using the Blues Scale for Guitar

When playing a blues solo, the blues scale is treated interchangeably with the minor pentatonic scale. The scales are identical except for the addition of one note, the ‘b5’ in the blues scale.

The minor pentatonic scale has the formula

1 b3 4 5 b7

And the blues scale has the formula

1 b3 4 b5 5 b7

The addition of this one note makes quite a marked difference to the sound of our solos.

Here are the fretboard diagrams of both scales:

Minor Pentatonic Scale For Guitar

Blues Scale for Guitar

Take this line for example: A great way to hear how this one extra note can make a huge difference to your playing is to begin by altering some minor pentatonic licks that you already know.

Blues Scale Licks for Guitar

Example 6i:

Blues Scale for Guitar 6i


By adding in the ‘blues note’ we can give a line a very different sound:

Example 6j:

Blues Scale Licks for Guitar 6j


It is also very common to bend from the 4th (D) to the b5th (Eb) like this:

Example 6k:

Blues Scale Licks for Guitar 6k


The b5 is also useful when played in the lower octave:

Example 6l:

Blues Scale Licks for Guitar 6l

Example 6m:

 Blues Scale Licks for Guitar 6m


Try making up your own licks. Remember, once you have the scale memorised, always think rhythm and melody when you solo!

Have fun!

This lesson is an extract from The Complete Guide to Blues Guitar Book Three: Beyond Pentatonics.

There is no better, more detailed book to teach you the secrets of blues guitar soloing. 


Joseph Alexander, guitarist & guitar teacher - Fundamental Changes for guitar

Author - Joseph Alexander

Joseph Alexander has been a guitarist and expert music tutor for over 20 years. His tuition books are published in four languages and have sold over 200,000 copies to widespread critical acclaim. He is currently writing and publishing cutting edge-material that breaks down the barriers between learning and playing the guitar. As well as a…

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Since purchasing Joseph’s Book 1 of the Complete Guide to Playing Blues Guitar, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of the options available to me when playing the blues. He writes clearly and methodically, giving just enough information on each topic so that I can confidently integrate new techniques and expand my playing knowledge.

The book provides alternative approaches to each method to drive home the idea that you the player should experiment and find what works best in different situations based on your preference. Clear explanations of different chord voicings and rhythm options have really opened up the palette of sounds to choose from, and I look forward to continuing the series.

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