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Major Blues Scale & Minor Blues Scale ?

rhysonsax

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I have been exploring the sound and feel of different blues scales played against typical blues sequences in different keys. Now I need to understand a bit more about the theory......

What many people call "the blues scale" is called the "minor blues scale" by our own Pete Thomas (e.g. in Taming the Saxophone Vol. 3). I think of this as the minor pentatonic with an extra note which is the flat 5th. So the C min or blues would be C - Eb - F - Gb (or F#) - G - Bb.

A good blues tutor/playalong book I have (Blues Improvisiation Complete - Jeff Harrington) says that you can also play the blues scale of the 6th of the key tone, to get an effective but different blues sound. So in the key of C that would be the A minor blues scale which is A - C - D - Eb - E - G. You can see that this has got good notes against C, with both the 3 and b3 and also the 5, but no b7 or b5.

Harrington says: ... on any blues, we can use two blues scales: one based on the root and the other based on the sixth of the overall key. We can even mix them together. However, for now, we will look at each one separately.

Each scale has its own melodic and harmonic characteristics. The blues scale based on the root is darker, bluesier, and more dramatic. It contains more notes outside the key. The blues scale based on the sixth has a brighter and more major quality.


What I have just noticed (sorry for my slowness) is that the notes of the A minor blues scale are the same as those in the C major blues scale. So I think that means I only have to learn 12 rather than 24 blues scales.

On this webpage http://tamingthesaxophone.com/12-bar-blues-chords.html Pete Thomas notes that what he calls "the major blues scale" is commonly used in rhythm and blues. Maybe this is because of what Harrington describes as its "brighter and more major quality".

It maybe also explains why for one of the tunes I was jamming with (Shake, Rattle and Roll) it felt like I should be playing mainly in the major blues scale, but for the other (Let the Good Times Roll) I preferred the sound of the minor blues scale.

A couple of questions:
  • Where Pete talks about the major blues scale in example 12i of this http://tamingthesaxophone.com/12-bar-blues-chords.html I noticed that the b7 is included in the scale, but in "Taming the Saxophone" there is no b7. Why is that ?
  • Do you have any pointers for when the major blues scale will work better ?
  • Do you think about the major blues scale as a different scale on the same root note or the same scale on a different root note ?

Rhys
 
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rhysonsax

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Lots of ways of looking at this. If you know your major and minor pentatonics, then:
  • Major blues scale = major pentatonic with added b3
  • Minor blues scale = minor pentatonic with added b5
  • Major blues scale is the same (notes) as the minor blues scale for the relative minor

Rhys
 
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Pete C

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I think of it this way: there are 12 pentatonic scales 12356 of the major scale. There is a blues scale on the 6th (blues scale is a mode of the pentatonic plus an extra note) of each pentatonic, just add b3 of the pentatonic scale (=b5 of the blues scale). Play the blues scale on the root or 6th of the blues you are in. I don't see how thinking about major and minor blues scales adds any extra information. In my world there are just blues scales (R b3 4 b5 5 b7) and there are only 12. Simples

Pete
 

Pete Thomas

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I think of it this way: there are 12 pentatonic scales 12356 of the major scale. There is a blues scale on the 6th (blues scale is a mode of the pentatonic plus an extra note) of each pentatonic, just add b3 of the pentatonic scale (=b5 of the blues scale). Play the blues scale on the root or 6th of the blues you are in. I don't see how thinking about major and minor blues scales adds any extra information. In my world there are just blues scales (R b3 4 b5 5 b7) and there are only 12. Simples
This can work very well, however I've never got my brain around modes of blues scales, so although I understand that method and why people use it, it has never worked for me. I think there are different ways that peoples' brains work, one way suits some, another way suits others.

I like to think of the difference between minor and major, so I find that way simpler.
 

Pete Thomas

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Surely not !
So which version should we go with: with or without b7 ?
The major blues scale has a 6th. You can put a 7th there, because we often juxtapose both scales anyway as mentioned on that page.

Just to make clear for everyone (as I have now changed the page on the site)

Rhys is referring to my original image:



It should be this for the major blues scale:



Which is the correct one now on the page here. If you prefer to thing of that as a minor blues scale then that's fine, but I do find that approach a bit confusing as I like to know what key I am in or what the root of the chord is at any one time.

Sorry for the confusion, I used to sometimes do that to catch students out, well done Rhys!

(NB: For the same reason I prefer not to think of altered scales as a 7th mode of a melodic minor, too much for my brain)
 
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Pete Thomas

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I think you'll be wanting to add a crotchet rest at the end of the second bar ;} >:)

Incidentally Pete, which software are you using to generate your dots?
When I get round to it I'll make the last note a minim. I use Logic for notation.
 

rhysonsax

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The majopr blues scale has a 6th. You can put a 7th there, because we often juxtapose both scales anyway as mentioned on that page.

Just to make clear for everyone (as I have now changed the page on the site)

Rhys is referring to my original image:



It should be this for the major blues scale:



Which is the correct one now on the page here. If you prefer to thing of that as a minor blues scale then that's fine, but I do find that approach a bit confusing as I like to know what key I am in or what the root of the chord is at any one time.

Sorry for the confusion, I used to sometimes do that to catch students out, well done Rhys!
Now my head hurts !

Both images are identical and include the b7, as does the web-page.

Is this a cunning test or have I finally cracked up ?

Rhys
 
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Pete Thomas

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Both images are identical and include the b7, as does the web-page.
No, you just need to empty your cache.

Actually both files had the same name but were in different locations, they now have different names so should show correctly even without emptying cache.

You are not mad.
 

jbtsax

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(NB: For the same reason I prefer not to think of altered scales as a 7th mode of a melodic minor, too much for my brain)
This is where you and I think differently. As a teacher I like to focus on transferring what is already known or mastered to the new item to be taught.

To teach the melodic minor, I say take the major scale you already know and lower the 3rd by a half step.
To teach the altered (super locrian) scale I say take that major scale with a lowered 3rd and go from ti to ti.

It is the same as teaching how to form the relative natural minor from the major, and then how to form the harmonic and melodic minor from the natural minor. Using this learning "progression" one rarely has to teach a new concept from "scratch".
 

jbtsax

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Do you teach jazz improvisation then?
I used to when I taught high school jazz ensemble, but that has been several years ago. I have learned a great deal about jazz improvisation since then from my current instructor who studied with Dr. Ray Smith at BYU, one of the top jazz educators in the nation.
 
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