Guitar Blues Scale: 4 Things You Need to Know

Improvise to a backing track

Once you feel comfortable with the scale, immediately try and improvise with it!

As the scale is fresh inside your head, it’s a good a exercise to try and improvise with it straight away.

As well as this, it gives you a greater understanding of how the scale works.

Here are a few things you can do when improvising over a backing track:

  • Find a backing track which is in a key that you’re comfortable in.

So for example, if you’ve been practicing your blues scale in the key of A, for this scale to sound good, you need to find a A blues backing track.

  • Try and improvise with this scale over the backing track.

At first you may find improvising difficult, however if you persevere it will soon come!

Here’s a blues backing track in the key of A, have a go at jamming over this!

Creating blues melodies and riffs

Let’s say you wanted to create a melody or riff which had a bluesy feel.

A really good place to start would be with the blues scale.

We know that if we play the blues scale, It’s instantly going to give us a bluesy sound!

Here are a few things you can do to help you create a bluesy melody or riff:

  • Learn your blues scale.
  • Try picking 3 -4 notes out of the blues scale which sound good to use.
  • Try to create a melody or riff which sounds awesome to you! You want your riff or melody to be exciting and memorable.

If you’re stuck for ideas or inspiration, sometimes sourcing a blues artist can kick start your creativity!

Here’s a list of the 30 best blues musicians by The Telegraph.

30 key blues musicians in pictures

Maybe you’ll find someone in here who truly inspires your musical journey!

blues guitar

When could I use the blues scale?

There are a lot of scenarios where you could use the blues scale. One of the most common times that you’ll be using a blues scale is when you’re improvising.

However, you may be thinking, I know my blues scale, I can improvise with it and it sounds awesome! But when can I use it?

When can I unleash the blues monster inside of me?

The secret to knowing when you can use your blues scale is to know what the chord progression to a song is, and what the key of a song is.

This information gives you the answers to when you could use the blues scale!

Let’s find out more..

What’s a musical key?

A musical key is a group of notes and chords which work well together! That’s all there is to it.

We like to think of the musical key as a ‘home’.

And that scales and chords are the ‘walls’ and ‘building frames’ which work together to construct the key!

A musical key relies solely on musical notes and chords.

How do I find out what the ‘key’ of a song is?

If we have three major chords in a chord progression, usually two of those chords will be alphabetically next to each other.

The chord that tells us the key is ‘the other one’. The one that is on its own.

Let’s try it out!

This progression is a 12 bar blues:

Blues - Simple-A

If you’d like to know more about 12 bar blues progressions, go here: Blues Guitar – 6 Awesome Tips

Which two chords are alphabetically next to each other?

Yep, it’s D7 and E7!

So what’s the one chord that’s on its own?

Yep, it’s A7!

This means that this chord progression is in the key of…..*drum roll please*.

Yep, you guessed it, A!

How does this help me know what scale to use?

Well, put simply, the chord sequence is in A, and it’s a blues, so we need the A blues scale.

The clue that this is a blues sequence and not just a ‘normal’ sequence is that each major chord is played as a ‘7’.

Similarly, if we ever encounter a chord sequence in G made up of ‘7’ chords (G7, C7 and D7), then we need the G blues scale.

blues scale

What if this weren’t a blues sequence?

This method works for the same for different types of chords and keys too.

For example, if the chords are simply A, D and E rather than A7, D7 and E7, then we have a non-bluesy sequence in the key of A, so we would use an:

  • A major scale

Can you see how the musical key determines the scale you play?

To learn about musical keys and scales, go here:

How To Play Lead Guitar

blues icon           

Blues Scale – 3 Killer Licks

One quick fire way to sound like a blues god, is to learn some awesome licks! While we could always find a tab and learn a specific blues song, the best thing about playing blues guitar is being able to jam.

Here are 3 of our all time favourite blues licks.

All of the licks we’re going to learn are in the key of A, so this means that you could use these awesome blues licks over a blues in the key of A.

Blues Scale – Lick #1

This lick will sound AWESOME if you kick start your solo with it!

Here’s the tab:



Here’s what it sounds like:

You may have noticed that this lick actually descends down the blues scale.

So to help you to play this lick quickly, make sure that you’ve practiced the blues scale before hand!

Blues Scale – Lick #2

The second blues lick is a great way to exercise those blues notes.

This also works great as a separate riff.

It would sound great played through a cranked up amp!

If you want to get the most out of this lick, play it with power and authority.

But most importantly, make sure that you’re amp is cranked up to 11!

Here’s the tab:

blues scale


Here’s what it sounds like:

Blues Scale – Lick #3

This lick is a fantastic descending lick. For this blues lick, we actually step outside of the blues scale. This can sound a little weird to begin with, but once you’re comfortable with the riff, it sounds awesome!

This riff would work perfectly at the end of a blues progression, or at the end of your solo.

Here’s the tab:

awesome blues scale

Here’s what it sounds like:

If you’d like to learn more blues tips and tricks, this article is perfect for you: Blues Guitar Lessons For Beginners: 4 Ways To Sound Awesome Quickly

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