Pentatonic scales

Blues scales


Responding to the comments I have been given from my students and the Father of Blues, I have decided to complete the Pentatonic scales section with a significant part.


I usually push my beginner students to learn and get along with the blues scales improvisation, in case they did not have the motivation. I find it necessary to expand the set of notes in a pentatonic scale, particularly the first degree, with a couple of others, the ones that actually make a pentatonic scale a blues scale. The mirror images below show the blues scales in E and A.


However, like I said, any note can be incorporated in a pentatonic or blues scale with adequate timing and style.  Thus others might indicate different or more notes when referring to blues scales.


I indicated the notes of the original pentatonic scale with black, the 'blues notes' with red. The colors also show that the black notes remain superior, meaning the black notes are still of higher importance, while the red notes are complementary notes.


My experience is that these instructions are enough for a beginner to start exploring the blues pentatonic scales.


Blues pentatonic scales in E, 1st degree


Blues pentatonic scales in A, 1st degree


These scales are essential when improvising to blues music, plus other genres where pentatonics are considered important, such as:


  • early jazz

  • jazz blues

  • funky and soul

  • shuffle

  • 70's rock music

  • etc., but virtually all genres originated from the US

Now let's pick a bunch of notes from an E pentatonic scale, like that:



B.B. King, one of the greatest blues guitarists, calls this bunch of notes a box. I would rather call them patterns; they are ready-made just for you to get the improvisation started as easily as you can. All you have to do is stay within a box.


In the long run, it is up to you to find the correlations of the scale degrees, that is the boxes, or patterns if you like. Generally speaking, it only depends on one's imagination and technical skills. I like patterns with huge intervals myself, because I have long and fast fingers. A guitar player with shorter fingers would probably go for other patterns. So here comes you motto:


Create your own patterns, boxes!


That's the kind of philosophy you can get to notice when watching the improvisational videos in Introduction with music section. Here is one of the videos:


Hendrix blues style backing - improvisation 2



I stay in H pentatonics all the way in the video. The first part I stick with the first degree of the scale and then I change degrees and boxes spontaneously. - Pentatonic scales - Blues scales