What is the Minor Blues Scale?
The minor blues scale is a very common scale used in blues, rock, jazz and funk. Although this scale has its origins in the blues, that’s not the only place you’ll encounter it. It’s often used for rock riffs, funk grooves, bass fills and solos. Of the beginning scales I teach to students, this is always a favorite due to its distinct sound.
The minor blues scale is a six-note scale (not counting the octave). If you’ve studied the minor pentatonic scale, you will see the minor blues scale is the same scale with only one added note the flatted 5th.
Whole-Step/Half-Step Construction of the Minor Blues Scale
The construction of the minor blues scale is very unique. It contains half-steps, whole-steps and step-and-a-half intervals. Few scales do that.
From any root note the minor blues scale is built: 1-1/2 W H H 1-1/2 W
Intervallic Construction of the Minor Blues Scale
The intervals for the minor blues scale are: Root, m3, P4, D5, P5, m7, and P8.
Again, notice you are only adding a note in-between the 4th and the 5th. You would call this note the “flat 5th” or, less-commonly, the “sharp 4th.” The interval between the root and the flat 5th is called a diminished 5th.
The minor blues scale’s bluesy sound comes from the blue notes it contains. The flat 3rd, flat 5th and flat 7th notes are referred to as blue notes. When played over major chords, these blue notes clash in a pleasing way creating the distinct blues sound.
One Octave Minor Blues Scale Fingering
A common and easy fingering for the minor blues scale starts on your first finger. Play:
Root 1st finger
Flat 3rd 4th finger
4th 1st finger
Flat 5th 2nd finger
5th 3rd finger
Flat 7th 1st finger
Octave 3rd finger
Applying the Minor Blues Scale
Use of the minor blues scale is, not surprisingly, very common to the blues style. Some blues tunes may revolve around a minor blues scale-based riff where everyone plays the same riff. This isn’t that common, but does happen. What happens more often is the blues scale is used on and off throughout a blues song usually by a soloist or singer and less often by the bassist.
In typical blues basslines you rarely use the minor blues scale for extended periods of time. Instead, you’ll most likely use a blue note here and there while emphasizing the major-type chords found in the standard blues chord progression.
Emphasizing the major-sounding aspects of the chord progression in your blues bassline is important. When other players apply the blues scale, they need that major sound foundation there to help create the clashing sound of the blue notes.
In the blues you’ll probably use the scale lightly in a blues bassline, in bass fills or more heavily in a bass solo.
In other styles like rock and funk, you’ll use this scale much like you might in the blues, but you’ll also encounter a lot of riffs applying this scale. The minor blues scale’s darker sound works really well for heavy sounding riffs. With more syncopated rhythms the minor blues scale can create some great funk grooves.
Minor Blues Scale Example Usage
|Minor Blues Scale Details
|1-1/2 W H H 1-1/2 W
|Root, m3, P4, D5, P5, m7, P8
|C minor blues scale spelling:
|C, Eb, F, Gb, G, Bb, C