"Extra! Extra! Blues Scale Turns
Amateur Pianist Into Pianoholic!"

First experience with the Blues Scale? You're about to become instantly addicted. Seriously, this scale has a certain "personality" all its own and, once you learn it and start feeling comfortable with it, you'll be bluesin' past your bedtime.

The Blues Scale is so widely used in different genres, from the Blues itself to Rock to Jazz to Gospel. It's got a sound that is so easily identifiable. We all know that "bluesy" sound when we hear it. It's quite a different thing when you get yourself into the act and start playing those blues lines yourself. There's something about it - you just don't want to stop.

Okay, let's get right to it, since you're here because you want the goods...

Are you familiar with the Major Scale? Please click here if you're not because it will put the blues scale in better perspective for you.

The Blues Scales can be thought of as being somewhat of a modification of the Major Scale. Let's look:

Here is the C Major Scale as we know it:


Take away the 2nd note and the 6th note and we are left with:


Now, let's take what's left and complete the picture in three steps:

1) Take the E and lower it one half step.

2) Take the Bb and lower it one half step.

3) Add the Gb between the F and G

Now we have C Eb F Gb G Bb C

This is the C Blues Scale!

Here is what this scale look like on the piano keyboard:

(Middle C is shaded just for the purposes of showing what area of the keyboard I'm focusing on, but you can play the scale in any range, of course)

Let's give a quick listen the Blues Scale being played ascending and descending. Here I'm playing it beginning on Middle C:

Now look at the Eb, Gb, and Bb. These three notes are considered to be blues notes. You see, a blues note is considered to be an alteration of a note in the major scale. We lowered the E, lowered the G, and lowered the B, each by one half step. When we altered the G, we simply kept the original G in our blues scale right beside it.

Let's look at the structure of this scale in terms of whole steps and half steps like we did with the Major Scale...

From C to Eb is 3 half steps (or one and a half whole steps)

From Eb to F is 1 whole step (two half steps)

From F to Gb is 1 half step

From Gb to G is 1 half step

From G to Bb is 3 half steps

From Bb to C is 1 whole step

There you have the formula for constructing any blues scale (there are 12 altogether)

If we are to think of this formula in all half steps, it might be easier:

3 half steps, 2 half steps, 1 half step, 1 half step, 3 half steps, 2 half steps

Here it is simplified (thinking in terms of half steps):

3 2 1 1 3 2

Of course I encourage you to explore other blues scales using this formula, but you can have a lot of fun just with that C Blues Scale starting now if you want to. I'm all for learning something and putting it to use right away. If you were to learn all the blues scales before playing around with any of them, well... you might get hungry for something different.

Firstly, you want to be able to play it easily, so using a good set of fingerings helps quite a bit. Here's a good fingering to use when playing the C Blues Scale...

With your right hand:

Play C with your thumb

Play Eb with your index finger (pointer finger)

Play F with your middle finger

Play Gb with your ring finger (between middle and pinkie)

Now CROSS your thumb under your ring finger and play G with your thumb

Play Bb with your index finger

Play C with your middle finger

You did it! Well, okay, if you just read that and didn't play it, you're going to do it!

Play this slowly, okay? Speed is not important (especially when playing the Blues!)

The scale is played descending (to the left) with the same fingerings in reverse:

Play the higher C with your middle finger where you left off

Play Bb with your index finger

Play G with your thumb

Now CROSS your ring finger over your thumb and play Gb with your ring finger

Play F with your middle finger

Play Eb with your index finger

Play C with your thumb

Here's a reasonable goal you might want to go for. As you play the scale, count about three seconds before playing the next key in the scale. For example:

Play C (count "one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand)

Play Eb (count "one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand)

Play F (etc.)

Even though this may seem slow, maintaining even space, in terms of waiting between each new played key will create confidence for you.

Again, play this ascending and descending. As you do this, listen, listen, listen.

Is this scale sounding familiar to you?

Here's something worth considering. Although I certainly encourage you to learn to play that blues scale ascending and descending as we discussed above, the truth is you can start having fun with this scale even before you've mastered that much. Here's how:


Take any two keys... let's say the first two, C and Eb. Play the C and then the Eb (using thumb followed by index finger).

Now, let's play that again with some attitude! Read the following sentence:

I love the blues.

Okay, for each word in that sentence, play one of those two keys. So there are four words. So, you could play:

C Eb Eb C

Play them one at a time slowly, perhaps playing one key per second.

You can play in any order you want and repeat either of the notes as you wish, but I'll stick to my example for our purposes of discussion. Here's our sentence with the corresponding notes:

I (C) love (Eb) the (Eb) blues (C)

Say the sentence out loud as you play each corresponding key; in other words, match the word with the appropriate key.

Great. Okay, now let's change how we say that sentence. Let's do it with some accentuation. Say it like this:

I love the blues. (Say "I" with more force)... as you play:

C Eb Eb C, placing more force on the first C.

Got it?

I love the blues (say the word "love" with more force)...

C Eb Eb C again with the same accentuation, playing the second Eb ("love") with more force.

Good job! Now change the accentuation again:

I love the blues. Say it out loud as you play C Eb Eb C


I love the blues... C Eb Eb C

Got the idea? Super!

Wow, you've not only learned the blues scale, but you've also started playing part of it in a very interesting way, and your playing what's coming out of your mouth! That's good beginning ear training.

Learn how to improvise!

I think you can take it upon yourself to be creative with changing the accentuation even further with this, right? Actually, you could make the sentence longer, and play a key for each syllable.

In addition, adding a third note in the blues scale is a terrific idea at this point. For example, C Eb and F...

Before we end this lesson, go ahead and experiment with that:

C Eb F... okay, the sentence is:

I'm just lovin' the blues!

Use your imagination. You've got six syllables here. Play the notes in any order you wish, repeating them as you wish, and modifying the accentuation of the sentence and playing what you are hearing!

I'm providing just a few examples below. Even slight variations in how you accent a note can change the "meaning" of a phrase. That's one of the points I'm trying to emphasize (accent!) here.

I thought it might be a nice idea to include a tiny sample of how this Blues Scale can be used once you get used to it. We'll get into discussing the chords, etc. and I'm not expecting this of you for this lesson. I thought it might serve as a bit of an incentive to you. It's just a very simple example of a 12 bar blues right hand improvisation on the piano using only the notes from the C Blues Scale above.

You're doing so well with this. Yes, there's so much more fun we can have with the blues, and we will. For starters, go here ... just remember, enjoy each and every step of the way. Play with curiosity and passion. This was a good introduction of the blues scale that can keep you and your imagination having a ball for quite a while... NOW, how about a nice way to pull all this together? You can have fun with those right hand blues scale ideas you'll be coming up with WHILE accompanying them with some really cool left hand blues chords. A beginner's video workshop that will get you doing this within minutes is here (this is on the fun side, so check it out).

One final important note: It will help you to be introduced to this now rather than later... once a beginner becomes acquainted with the blues scale and starts to feel confident with it, there is a tendency for some of those early blues improvisation to seem a bit redundant. This special blues scale video session has been created with this in mind. Before you know it, those simple blues improvisations will be turning heads in the room!

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