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The Minor Blues Scale

The diagram below shows the A minor blues scale. The circles on the diagram below show where to put your fingers on the fretboard. The numbers inside the circles indicate which fingers to use to press down on the strings. The minor blues scale is a variation of the minor pentatonic scale with an added flat fifth. The flat fifth is commonly referred to as the “blue note.” The blue circles on the diagram below show the “blue notes” that are found in the first position of the minor blues scale. These two notes have the same note name (Eb) but are separated by an octave. An octave is the distance between two notes that have the same letter name. The red circles show the root notes. Every scale has a root note, which is the note the scale is named after and built from. In this case, the root note is A, because the scale starts on an A note. Memorize where the root notes are because they serve as helpful reference points.

The A Minor Blues Scale


Practice ascending the minor blues scale by plucking each note with a downstroke (   ). The numbers to the left of each note written in standard notation indicate the fingering for the scale. Your first finger (index) plays notes on the fifth fret, your second finger (middle) plays notes on the sixth fret, your third finger (ring) plays notes on the seventh fret and your fourth finger (pinky) plays notes on the eighth fret.


Downstrokes - Ascending

2. Downstokes - Ascending.png

Practice descending the minor blues scale using downstrokes. Use the same fingering as the previous example.

Downstrokes - Descending

3. Downstrokes - Descending.png

Alternate picking is a guitar technique that involves alternating down and upstrokes in a continuous fashion. Each      above the TAB indicates a downstroke and each     indicates an upstroke. The numbers to the left of the notes written in standard notation indicate the left-hand fingering for the scale. Ascend the minor blues scale using alternate picking.

Upstroke Symbol.png

Alternate Picking - Ascending

4. Alternate Picking - Ascending.png

Starting with a downstroke, descend the minor blues scale using alternate picking.

Alternate Picking - Descending

5. Alternate Picking - Descending.png

This lick is a classic blues phrase. Start by alternate picking each note. The squiggly line over the last note tells you to use vibrato. On guitar, vibrato is when you slowly shake the string up and down with small motions to create a wavering effect. Proper vibrato will make your guitar playing sound more expressive.

Lick 1 - Alternate Picking

6. Lick 1.png

This lick is the same as the previous lick, but it is transposed one octave higher. Notice that this lick uses a different left-hand fingering.

Lick 2 - Alternate Picking

8. Lick 1 - Legato.png

Once you can play these licks using alternate picking, practice them with hammer-ons and pull-offs. When you play using hammer-ons and pull-offs, you are using the legato technique. “Legato” is an Italian word that directly translates to “tied up.” When notes are played legato, they are played in a smooth-flowing manner, without breaks between notes. The Legato technique reduces strain on the picking hand, making it easier to play faster.

Lick 1 - Legato

8. Lick 1 - Legato.png

You may find it harder to use the legato technique for this example because you need to use your third (ring) and fourth (pinky) fingers to execute the hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Lick 2 - Legato

9. Lick 2 - Legato.png


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